Note about my militant atheist students

Fairy 1I would like to point out, in a manner that does not originate with me, that being very against and even very mad at some entity that you have decided does not exist is perverse. In fact, to carry on an agonistic attitude to God, it is necessary for Him to show up in order to be insulted and rejected. Attacking empty air is the behavior of a madman. If God does not present Himself, but instead retreats in the manner of Russians before Napoleon and the Germans, then the militant atheist is in the equally odd position of actively pursuing his hated one across the icy steppes, braving starvation and chill weather to catch a glimpse of his beloved, um, I mean, enemy. In the Fall semester, I had one student ask me what percentage of the course was going to mention God so he could decide whether to continue with the class or not, in a manner that suggested that he had a God allergy, and thus needed “accommodating,” another who wanted me to simply remove religious references from an ethics course – so much for Plato, Aristotle, Kant, and Berdyaev, critiques of attempts to create naturalistic foundations for ethics, and most of the other articles – and two more, in another class, started posting rude and derogatory comments about the readings and, by extension, me in “discussion” submissions – one even claiming that bringing up God in an article defending the notion that life is worth living was “shameful.” My rather satisfying response to the students turned trolls was to ban one of them, since he had been warned, from further comments and for me to apologize on their behalf to the rest of the class for exposing them to such gross behavior. Continue reading

Article of Possible Interest

Farewell Faculty 01

The James Martin Center has published Part II of my article, Leaving the Blight of Higher Education.  Part I dedicated itself to a discussion of how the liberal regime that controls the institutions of higher education in our former republic has, through massive and continuous indoctrination, transformed the student body from a cohort of young people that was at least willing to learn into a mob-minded mass whose primary function is to monitor and denounce any infraction of the racialist totalitarian regime of political correctness on campus.  I gave an account of the havoc that the anti-morality of denunciation works on any attempt to impart a genuine higher education.  Once the slogans take over, thinking stops.  I wrote how this conversion of the student-body into a quasi-police force increasingly disgusted my wife and me and led, in part, to our decision to retire from teaching – a task to which we had dedicated our lives.  Part II, “Farewell, Faculty,” turns its attention to the instructor-side of the equation.  My wife and I taught at what I call Upstate Consolation University for twenty years.  The faculty committees that hired us in our respective departments (Foreign Languages in her case and English in mine) were firmly liberal in their political convictions but not politicized in the totalitarian way of the contemporary Left.  This, too, would undergo a transformation.  As older faculty members retired and newly graduated holders of the doctorate – most of them from state universities – replaced them, the character of the department changed.  The intellectual level dropped, lower and lower, until the difference, in this regard, between the teachers and the students became minimal.  The character of the two groups also merged.  And at this point the urge to police, to betray, and to punish made any exercise of curiosity about the human condition or openness to knowledge impossible.  An adolescent narcissism made itself universal in students and faculty alike as the behavior of undergraduates became the behavior of the faculty.

I draw an excerpt from Part II, which I preface here with a back-reference to a passage in Part I that acknowledged, with an allusion to the American philosopher George Santayana, the wide general knowledge of the “Old Guard” of professors, so as to contrast them with the “New Guard.” –

As the Old Guard went into retirement a cohort of new assistant professors filled up the department’s allotted tenure-track lines.  The new phase of aggressive Affirmative-Action recruitment insured that this replacement-generation of instructors, overwhelmingly female, differed starkly in character from its precursor-generation.  The new hires came to the institution from the politically radicalized graduate programs of the state universities.  Whereas the Old Guard corresponded to a literary-generalist or dilettante model – terms that I use in a wholly positive way – the arrivistes brought with them only their narrow specialisms, as encrusted in their conformist political dogmas.  Mention Santayana to the Old Guard and chances were good that any given one of them would be familiar with the drift, at least, of the philosopher’s work.  Mentioning Santayana to an arriviste produces a blank stare.
Richard Weaver’s notion of “Presentism” makes itself relevant to the discussion.  By “Presentism” Weaver intends a mental restriction that has steadily eroded the modern, liberal view of reality.  This mental restriction, as he puts it in his Visions of Order (1964), manifests itself primarily in a “decay of memory.”  Weaver writes, “Wherever we look in the ‘progressive’ world we find encouragements not to remember.”  Today it is not an “encouragement,” but rather a demand not to remember, as the profligate monument-defacement and statue-toppling of the times so savagely demonstrate.  The anti-historical dementia has fully infiltrated graduate studies and through them has colonized the literary branches of higher education.  The unending pageant of neologisms and slogans that now makes up “literary studies” illustrates this anti-developmental development.

“But what should we do?”

If you spend much time on weblogs like this one, you’ll run into comments that go like this. “There’s too much talk on the dissident Right, not enough action. When are we going to start resisting? What do you propose to do? How do we fight back?”

One could reply by saying that this reverses means and ends. The impatient assume that the point of theorizing is to motivate and guide action–“not to understand the world but to change it”. We traditionalists think contemplation of God and appreciation of our inheritance are ends in themselves, some of the highest ends. However, there’s a more cogent reply, that the question is itself a retreat into fantasy and a refusal to confront the practical work that is actually before us.

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On the conservative quarrel with reason

Left-liberalism is the ideology of the elite, and the inculcation of its doctrines is what is regarded as education, so of course liberals are on average smarter, better behaved, richer, more industrious, fitter, and more sexually attractive than conservatives. Failure to conform is almost always a sign of defect; almost never a sign of being more perceptive than one’s host society. However, when liberals say that conservatives are hostile to reason, they are making a more interesting claim, one about the role of public reason in our system compared to theirs.

Unfortunately, there have been few first-rate conservative epistemologists, and some, like Burke and Maistre, have spoken rather too sweepingly on this matter, so liberals cannot be blamed for any inaccurate conclusions on our attitude toward reason. We should admit that, while reason has a role in conservative governance, it is more subordinate than in liberal governance. We really do have a lower estimation of man’s ability to deduce principles of social justice from a priori reasoning. In this sense, conservatism is anti-reason in the same way that empirical science is anti-reason. Just as scientific reasoning begins from observations about the world and may not appeal to a priori reasoning to demand the data be different, so conservative moral reasoning begins with inherited practices and may not appeal to a priori reasoning to demand an overthrow of tradition.

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Toward a pious reception of Fratelli Tutti

On a first reading, Pope Francis’ new encyclical is a disgrace, an incoherent mess of cliches, undefined terms, libelous mischaracterization of political opponents, and apparent contradictions.  Naturally, as a loyal son of the Church, I wish for everyone to receive the words of the Holy Father with gratitude and docility, so I would entreat everyone when reading this statement of the Vicar of Christ to be mindful of the pope’s distinctive mode of communication.

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The liberals’ dilemma

At Quillette, Yoram Hazony concludes an excellent article with

Marxists will not be appeased because what they’re after is the conquest of liberalism itself—already happening as they persuade liberals to abandon their traditional two-party conception of political legitimacy, and with it their commitment to a democratic regime. The collapse of the bonds of mutual legitimacy that have tied liberals to conservatives in a democratic system of government will not make the liberals in question Marxists quite yet. But it will make them the supine lackeys of these Marxists, without the power to resist anything that “Progressives” and “Anti-Racists” designate as being important. And it will get them accustomed to the coming one-party regime, in which liberals will have a splendid role to play—if they are willing to give up their liberalism.

I know that many liberals are confused, and that they still suppose there are various alternatives before them. But it isn’t true. At this point, most of the alternatives that existed a few years ago are gone. Liberals will have to choose between two alternatives: either they will submit to the Marxists, and help them bring democracy in America to an end. Or they will assemble a pro-democracy alliance with conservatives. There aren’t any other choices.

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The Great Problem of Power

“It is far more powerful than I ever dared to think at first, so powerful that in the end it would utterly overcome anyone of mortal race who possessed it. It would possess him.”

J. R. R. Tolkein, The Fellowship of the Ring (1954)

So Gandalf says of the Great Ring of Power when he explains its dire potency to Frodo.  Anyone who believes that he possesses the Ring will be in time possessed by the Ring.  Anyone who employs the Ring to do his bidding will in time do the bidding of the Ring.  And good and well-meaning mortals will not escape enslavement by the Ring of Power, because “neither strength nor good purpose will last—sooner or later the dark power will devour him.” Continue reading

Does the Concept of Metaphysical Freedom Make Sense?

Does the Concept of Metaphysical Freedom Make Sense?

1“Michael” writes: “Freedom and determinism are empty categories; they cannot be employed to distinguish any sequence of events from any other.”

Logically, this could be because all events are free or because all events are determined. It seems likely that the writer thinks all events are causally determined.

Presumably by “events” the writer includes “actions.” However, without the concept of freedom there are no actions per se. Actions are performed by an actor, an agent who is a center of decision-making. In determinism, there are no agents. There is only a series of “sequences of events” – a constant stream beginning when time began and ending when the physical universe ceases to exist. Each event is the result of a prior event in mechanical fashion, and each event will cause some future event. Continue reading

The New Priestcraft

“Let the people shake off the shackles with which they are bound by the existing priestcraft . . . and they would soon find teachers enough.” (Editor’s Preface, The Theological Works of Thomas Paine (1830)).

Indeed, wherever Christianity has been abandoned, new teachers have been found, and with these new teachers has come a new and more sinister priestcraft.  From the time of Lucretius, the doctrine of priestcraft has stated that religion is mere hocus pocus, a stupendous fabric of lies and thaumaturgy whereby conniving priests have frightened the peasants and ended each day with a good meal, a soft bed, and a grateful smile from their king.  Thomas Jefferson was a disciple of this doctrine, which he neatly epitomized in this line: Continue reading

Students ‘deeply hurt’ by criticism of liberal intolerance

I merely borrow my headline, which is not original to me, from an article (here) at the Campus Reform website.  I urge Orthosphereans to read the article. Meanwhile, so as to quell embarrassment, the CEO of the college has sent out this message:

I am writing to reinforce our deep and abiding commitment to free speech and open expression of ideas at SUNY Oswego. First Amendment rights are foundational to learning and critical thought. Be assured they are honored and respected here.
In the past few days, an interaction and email exchange between a student speaker at “Open Mic” on April 26, 2018 and a staff member has been reported on in Campus Reform (Campus Reform is a project of Leadership Institute. On its website, Leadership Institute says it teaches conservatives of all ages how to succeed in politics, government, and the media). Several other media outlets across the country have published the same account.
We have looked into this matter for several days now. We see that misunderstandings and miscommunications might have been avoided. And, while our staff member acknowledged the speaker’s free speech rights and did not literally issue a reprimand, sanction or prohibition, the words used were of a nature that likely led to misinterpretation. For that we sincerely apologize.
I met with the student and had a full discussion of the matter.  I commended her on voicing her opinions and seriously explored her impressions of the campus, especially relative to safety.  I was heartened to know she is proud she could speak out, feels safe, and has many friends and supporters at SUNY Oswego. She also expressed her love for SUNY Oswego.
But please know, we will not let our guard down; we will continue to encourage all members of our campus community to embrace diversity in all its forms — diversity of people, thought and expression. And, we will remain vigilant about safety, encouraging anyone who feels unsafe or threatened to let us know.
We will remain steadfast in educating all students, faculty and staff that while some ideas are different from and may even be anathema to what we think, it is important that we allow them to be expressed.  If we take the opportunity to listen and civilly engage with each other, we might more easily build bridges across our divides, reflect more clearly on our own beliefs and hopefully, acquire greater knowledge. That is who we are at SUNY Oswego.