In the course of last night’s presidential debate, one of the candidates casually mentioned that our government needs to “take out” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the sanguinary leader of ISIS. She did not descend into the shady argot of the mobster and speak of a “hit,” or say that he must be “rubbed out,” but neither did she ascend into the empyrean clarity of non-idiomatic English, and say that the government should “assassinate” this pest. We are curiously reluctant to use the A-word, presumably because an employer of hit-men is “not who we are.” Or at least it is not who we like to think we are. I once attended an interesting lecture by a former CIA agent, who was a budget of droll and gripping tales of the cloak-but-not-dagger sort. He assured us that the USA was “different” than other countries because our intelligence agencies were staffed entirely by former Eagle Scouts, and therefore distained to employ both assassins and prostitutes. I wonder if we are still crippled by this prejudice against sex workers who wish only to serve their country.
You may have seen the video from the recent Charlotte riots, in which two Persons of God were attempting, without success, to quell the rioters’ avaricious furor. One was a portly black man, the other a confused white woman. Both were decked out in stoles, the woman’s being of a colorful and ornate variety. Both faced the onrushing surge of the avid rioters yelling, “stop,” the effect being like unto that of William F. Buckley’s otiose conservative. With their arms raised and their sacerdotal stoles flapping, these POGs resembled swaying trees. The flood of surging rioters passing through their arms and under their stoles resembled a river after a rain, which will likewise worry the trees along its bank, and will likewise press inexorably ahead. Oh the sadness of a portly POG amidst an avid and inexorable people.
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 Wordsworth’s 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.
Analytic philosophers either accept or regard as perfectly reasonable two philosophical contentions that violate logic and common sense: determinism and the denial of consciousness. Arguing for determinism implies free will and in denying the existence of consciousness the philosopher is using the very thing he says does not exist. In this article published by the Sydney Traditionalist Forum, I argue that this is a result of certain interesting psychological and emotional deficits, a commitment to materialism and atheism, the “philosophy as the handmaiden of science” notion and the very methods and approach used by analytic philosophers. These methods include conceptual analysis and arguments considered as words on a page or monitor – looking at internal coherence and validity – but overlooking the reflexive implications for the person doing the analysis.
This results in risible performative contradictions; a notion absent from the logical toolbox of analytic philosophers as far as I know.
“Oh no! Oh no! Oh no!” I could tell from the tone of my wife’s voice that no one was yet in mortal danger. But something was dreadfully wrong.
Introduction. The movement called Romanticism belongs chronologically to the last two decades of the Eighteenth and the first five decades of the Nineteenth Centuries although it has antecedents going back to the late-medieval period and sequels that bring it, or its influence, right down to the present day. (I write late in 2016.) Historically, and in simple, Romanticism is the view-of-things that succeeds and corrects its precursor among the serial views-of-things that have defined the eras of the Western European mentality by constituting a dominant worldview – and that precursor would be what historians of ideas call Classicism, which they identify as the worldview of the Enlightenment. A good definition of Classicism is: The exclusive devotion to prescriptive orderliness for its own sake in all departments of life; the submission of all things to measure, decorum, and, using the word metaphorically, the geometric ideal; implying disdain for or suppression of anything deemed not in conformance with these criteria. Classicism implies the conviction that reason, narrowly delimited, is the highest faculty, and indeed almost the sole faculty worth developing. The Classicist believes that life can be perfected by rationalization.
Certainly this is how the Romantics saw Classicism, but it is also in broad terms how the Classicists saw themselves. According to its own dichotomy, Romanticism would be a view of existence consisting of tenets diametrically opposed to those of Classicism. And so largely it was or is, as Romanticism is by no means a dead issue. As the Romantic sees it, imposed or conventional order tends to distort or obliterate the natural order; and by “natural order” the Romantics would have understood not only the order of nature, considered as Creation, although not necessarily in Christian terms, but the order present in social adaptation to nature, as when agriculturalists follow the cycle of the seasons and attune their lives with the life of the soil or when builders of monuments and temples go to great effort to align them astronomically. In addition, the Romantic believes that a bit of disorder might stimulate and enliven life, preventing it from becoming stiff and ossified; that the quirky and unexpected, in other words, can exert a benevolent influence. The Romantic also values emotion and intuition as much as he values reason, which he by no means disdains although he defines it more broadly than the Classicist. The Romantics explicitly rejected the utilitarian arguments of the Classicists. Romanticism prefigures and is the likely source of what in the second half of the Twentieth Century came to be known as Traditionalism.
Of possible interest to Orthosphereans, my essay concerning Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars has appeared at Angel Millar’s invariably edifying People of Shambhala website. The essay concerns independent Minnesota-based filmmaker Christopher Mihm, whose Saint Euphoria Studios has found a niche – and an audience – in the production of low-budget black-and-white retro-pastiches resembling the B-grade science fiction and horror movies of the 1950s. I argue in Sex, Movies & Traditionalism on Mars that Mihm’s Cave Women on Mars (2008) is a cryptically non-politically correct film that employs a studied rhythm of low-comic japes and serious storytelling to argue for sexual dimorphism, with all its attendant and historically understood differences, as the basis of social life, expressing itself most essentially in the formation of the customary family, with its aim of bringing procreation under morality.
The essay also explores the question whether, in a politically correct environment, it might nowadays only be possible to articulate traditional insights, in public, by indirection. Mihm’s film-festival audiences are undoubtedly liberal, and it appears that he has found a formula for making his dissentient points subliminally and covertly.
In this morning’s e-mail there was a message reminding me that Constitution Week will soon be upon us, informing me that the University will honor this week with “a list of activities,” and encouraging me to include in my classes “a brief discussion of the United States Constitution, especially as it relates to [my] discipline.” It was added that a survey conducted by the scrupulously impartial National Constitution Center has made the public’s “lack of knowledge about the Constitution . . . quite apparent.” Continue reading
Believe it or not, I only this evening realized that, while my post of the 26th and JM Smith’s post of the 23rd were quite different, both concerned Babylon. I suppose his post must have played a role in my intuition – in an email correspondence with Tom Bertonneau a few days later – that “Babel” might be a suitable name for our Enemy in his current corporeal instantiation. In retrospect, it seems as though it could hardly have been otherwise. But at the time, I had no conscious recollection of Dr. Smith’s excellent essay. None whatsoever. Had you asked me about it, I would have been able to reel off a précis of the piece. But at no point in the writing of my post a few days later did it occur to my recollection.
In this event, at least two things are of interest to me.