In poetic justice, when we find a punishment fitting the crime with uncanny perfection, we are apt to sense the hand of Divine Providence. So it is with the ongoing destruction of America and her World War II allies. To be clear, while the evil of the Allies included physical atrocities–deliberate targeting of civilian populations, political terrorization, rape, and forced dislocation of defeated peoples–those things are, alas, unexceptional in human history. One could fairly point out that the Axis powers did things of this sort too. (I make no claim that because the Allies were flawed, the Axis were “the good guys”. “Good guys” and “bad guys” exist in comic books, not real history. But it is the moral corruption of the Allies, not that of the Axis, that has done the spiritual damage to the Allied countries.) I don’t judge the essence of a people’s character by what they will countenance when they think they’re in a life-and-death struggle. No, the distinctive evil of America and her allies is of a spiritual nature, and twofold.Continue reading
One ideal of rationality, to which people used to appeal, is to refuse to accept anything on trust or authority, to evaluate any claim strictly on the supplied data and arguments. Only thusly can one practice the intellectual responsibility of science. Unfortunately, this is such an impractical ideal that even practicing scientists don’t live up to it. No one has the time, resources, and intelligence to verify all his beliefs; he must fall back on trust. More recently, a new ideal has emerged: the rational man practices perfect credulity and docility to credentialed experts. I have found two types of justifications for this.Continue reading
[Part I, which lays out basic Christian teaching, is here.]
Christianity is not like any other thing you can join.
You join other things because they are enjoyable, or beneficial, or their cause is important to you. Otherwise, you have no reason to join.
Granted that it can be enjoyable, beneficial, or an important cause, Christianity is not like other things you can join. When it comes to ultimate issues, the criteria for joining a thing are different.
There are two basic reasons why you should join Christianity. One, unless your sins are forgiven you face eternity in hell, and forgiveness of sins comes only through Jesus of Nazareth. All humans live forever, but some live forever in a bad place.
The other reason is this: The completely true description of what reality is and how it operates comes only from Christianity, because God revealed this knowledge in the Bible. When a society rejects Christianity (as ours is doing) it cannot function correctly (as ours increasingly does not.)
A non-Christian society can sometimes function adequately, based on its partial understanding of reality that man can attain because he is made in the image of God and is therefore capable of grasping many truths. But America lacks even this pagan common sense. Our rulers are anti-reality, not just non-reality, in their basic orientation. We need the sanity (to say nothing of the wisdom) that comes only from Christianity. Continue reading
You are no doubt familiar with this pithy apothegm from Joseph de Maistre:
“In my life I have seen Frenchmen, Italians, Russians, and so on. I even know, thanks to Montesquieu, that one can be Persian. But as for man, I declare I’ve never encountered him.” *
I will adapt this to the moral panic of the moment and say,
“In my life I have seen Chinamen, Indians, Afghanis, and so on. I even know, without needing to have read Montesquieu, that one can be Persian. But as for an Asian, I declare I’ve never encountered him.”
I 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
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.
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.Continue reading
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.