“A great deal of nonsense has been written of late about what is rather absurdly termed ‘sex mania.’ Some benevolent persons who take an interest in literature appear to think a solemn duty has been imposed on them to protect the young, the innocent, and even the respectable middle-aged from the moral ravages of ‘the new fiction’ . . .”
D. F. Hannigan, “Sex in Fiction,” The Westminster Review (1895)
“Drag storytellers, and the libraries and schools that support them, are advancing a love of diversity, personal expression, and literacy that is core to what our city embraces.”
Eric Adams, Mayor of New York City, Tweet (June 16, 2022)
“You know what’s not a problem for kids who are seeking a good education? Drag queens . . . . I say this. A drag queen for every school!”
Dana Nessel, Attorney General of Michigan, The Detroit News (June 15, 2022)
There is no slope more slippery than the slippery slope of sexual entertainment. There is no history more replete with scoffing at slippery slopes than the history of sexual entertainment. The author of my first epigraph, D. F. Hannigan, was the translator of Flaubert’s Temptations of St. Anthony (1874), a prose poem that tells of a desert night during which St. Anthony teetered on the brink of several very slippery slopes. What follows is a suggestive passage from Hannigan’s translation of St. Anthony’s temptation by the Queen of Sheba, which took place atop the slippery slope of sexual entertainment. Continue reading →
“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places”
In a comment on my latest post, Bruce Charlton says that “secular / non-religious explanations” are a partial, and therefore duping, explanations of the great conspiracy. They enter but do not reach the bottom of “the rabbit hole.” I agree and cite St. Paul’s memorable line from Ephesians. Here I will venture some remarks upon its meaning. Continue reading →
“I have said, and said it calmly, that this is the curiousest world I ever see in my life. And I shan’t take it back. I hain’t one to whiffle round and dispute myself. I made the statement cool and firm, and shall stand by it.”
Marietta Holly, My Wayward Pardner (1880)
“It was ordained that an age, a dupe to the frantic rage of impiety substituted to reason, a dupe to the oaths of hatred and the wish of crushing all religion, mistaken for toleration . . . to ignorance for science, to depravity for virtue, a dupe in short to all the intrigues and plots of the most profound wickedness mistaken for the proceedings and means of wisdom; it was ordained, I say, that this Age of Philosophy should also be a dupe to the plots of the rebellious Sophisters, mistaken for the love of society and the basis of public happiness.”
Abbé Barruel, Memoirs Illustrating the History of Jacobinism (1799)
Readers of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland know that those who go “down a rabbit hole” find the familiar world growing “curiouser and curiouser.” Indeed, the farther they venture into the rabbit hole, the more likely they begin to say, and say it in a way from which they can never after “whiffle round” and dispute, “that this is the curiousest world I ever see in my life.” Continue reading →
As with The Republic, in The Gorgias Plato is trying to defend the idea that it is worth it to try to be a good person even when it does not seem to be in your interests to do so. That is a surprisingly hard position to defend when dealing with cynics, especially those with psychopathic tendencies and ambitions like Polus and Callicles. This gives Socrates very little common ground to act as a basis for discussion. Given their narcissistic tendencies, Socrates has to try to appeal to their self-interest to persuade them.
It is worth knowing that Socrates was in fact put to death partly due to his unwillingness to lie and flatter in the manner of rhetoricians. When asked what he thought his punishment should be for corrupting the youth, he replied, “Free meals for life,” the traditional reward for successful Olympic athletes. He was tried in the Assembly which consists of 500 citizens acting as a giant jury. Whoever is most convincing to the jury “wins.” The same tricks used to win over a jury could be used to push for political goals, such as military campaigns, when the Assembly was functioning in its legislative function. In court, it was necessary to provide one’s own defense while someone else acts as the prosecutor. Rhetoricians are basically lawyers trained in manipulating jury members, not in the truth that a good philosopher seeks.
Plato considered Socrates to be the best of man. So, these debates between Socrates and types who had him killed have an enormous pathos hanging over them. The victim strikes back. In real life, Socrates lost and they won. However, he only lost his life. He died with dignity and his memory lives on thousands of years later. When Callicles says the bad man has total control of the life of the good man this is a threat that was in fact carried out. Socrates would rather die a good man than switch sides to join Callicles.
A student writes: “I genuinely believe that if Plato hadn’t existed in his era but existed today, releasing Gorgias as a modernized philosophy, keeping the same structure and characters, this work would have been laughed out of any serious discussions.” Continue reading →
The culture wars are grown of late so acute that it seems we shall all, on both sides, be soon forced to an outwardly testified decision for one side or the other, at cost of our lives. Perhaps I exaggerate; perhaps this shall all blow over yet again, for a while, so that we of our sort may skate by without undue cost.
Or, perhaps it shall not. Perhaps this moment is for us like all the others of our lives under the orbit of the Moon, in which we must make this very same choice.
Come what may in the wider world, we must all choose for ourselves before we die and can no longer choose. So – given the near approach of death for us all – the choice looms at every moment urgent.
L’s the loquacious variety Who is found in all sorts of society. He drinks in the sound Of his own voice till drown’d In a species of self-inebreity.
Oliver Herford, A Little Book of Bores (1906)
It is often said that a man has fallen in love with the sound of his own voice, but this charge strictly applies only to those men who are content to soliloquize in the wilderness, or to preach, like St. Francis, to the birds. What a man falls in love with is, more often, the conceit that others love the sound of his voice even more than he loves it himself. I have read, and have no difficulty believing, that a man is especially attracted to a woman who is slightly hard of hearing because he mistakes her straining after his words for a keen interest in what he has to say. I know from a long and intimate connection with the trade of professoring, that a captive audience is bliss, but that a captive and apparently captivated audience is very heaven. Continue reading →
Article by Gary Furnell, secretary/treasurer of the Australian Chesterton Society. This is not by permission or arrangement, but simply a link to the original article. The argument connects to the topic of Edward Bernays’ “the engineering of consent,” and the way the BBC conspired to make mass immigration seem to be supported by English “public opinion” mentioned in The Populist Delusion. Part of Furnell’s argument is that the news, being about the unusual and the bad, can undermine one’s faith in the goodness of Creation.
The Maximality Test simply asks which of any two notions of God are greater, along some many dimensions of excellence. It turns out that in practice, the Test straightly demolishes the great Christological and Trinitarian heresies so prevalent in the early Church from AD 33 through AD 2022.
An essay at American Affairstells the story of when New Left celebrity anti-capitalist Catholic priest Ivan Illich came to give a lecture to a crowd of feminists at Berkeley in 1982. Illich spoke on his research on the social construction of gender roles, which might have been expected to go over well. However, it turned out that Illich’s take was that the damned greedy capitalists had spoiled everything by eliminating distinct men’s and women’s economic and social roles. This was not what the feminists wanted to hear, and Illich’s standing on the Left cratered.
(By the way, the dying man in Tolstoy’s short story is Ivan Ilyich, in case you are as tempted to mix up the two as I was.)
Had Illich turned reactionary, as his opponents said? In fact, much of his late 20th century radical anti-capitalist critique was the same as the early 20th century anti-liberal critique common among anti-modernist Catholics. Illich’s attacks on public schools and the authority of the medical establishment sound particularly right-wing today. There was a window of time when anti-modern Catholics could repackage themselves as counterculture gurus–Marshall McLuhan being probably the best-known case. Alasdair MacIntyre arguably played a similar role in philosophy in those years. A recent article in Church Life Journal on MacIntyre notes this paradoxical anti-modernist ecumenism.
Revolutionaries often reversed the politics of their reactionary progenitors, while preserving their hatred of the bourgeois, of liberalism, or of the West, and their refusal to accept and adapt to the present. Sometimes chronological turning points sketch intellectual boundaries. Very often, the reactionaries of 1910 were the forefathers of the revolutionaries of 1945. The condemnation of liberalism by the Syllabus of 1864 paradoxically favored Marxism. Before Marx, Maurras was considered the champion of the “Christian recovery.” The “red” Dominicans of the 1950s and 1960s had as their masters the Royalist and reactionary Dominicans from the early twentieth century. The worker priests were raised in the school of Action française.The postwar Christian Marxists were grateful to the communists for their hostility to representative democracy. Had they not, as good monarchists, learned to hate it?
Intellectual life in the 1970s was childish, vulgar, and stupid compared to pre-WWII intellectual life, but compared to what we have now, it seems wonderful.
Based on a book by Jeff VanderMeer, the movie Annihilation is a fairly straightforward presentation of the ideas of René Girard. The book is more nuanced and less Girardian, which actually makes it more aesthetically rewarding. It is better that a work of art not be too much a simple application of theory. Even a seeming communist propagandist and partisan like Bertolt Brecht wrote The Good Woman of Setzuan in such a way that it is capable of more than one interpretation. Encyclopedia Britannica states:
“The play is set in China between World War I and World War II. The title character, Shen Te, is a poor but warmhearted prostitute. Because she alone was willing to shelter three gods, they have favoured her with a gift of money. She purchases a tobacco shop but finds that her kinsfolk and other customers take advantage of her kindness. To save her business, Shen Te adopts an alter ego; dressing as a man and acting the role of her tough, pragmatic cousin Shui Ta, she is able to exact just payment. She is forced to assume this role so often that, as Shui Ta, she is accused of murdering Shen Te. In the climactic trial scene, Shui Ta reveals that he and Shen Te are the same person.”Continue reading →