“Let a fellow sing o’ the little things he cares about, If a fellow fights for the little things he cares about With the weight of a single blow!”
Rudyard Kipling, “The Native Born” (1894)
Last night an old friend expressed a wish that is, I daresay, familiar to many who have staggered into the oasis of the Orthosphere, parched by the desert and panting for refreshment. He said that he wished there was someone on his side. My friend is, like me, a white, Christian, cishet male, without fortune, connections, or compromising tapes of powerful individuals. In other words, he is a man marked by the stigma of that dwindling class of Americans who are not, today, a protected species. Anyone is at perfect liberty to mock him and “the little things he cares about,” and if their mockery is sufficiently witty, they may well find themselves employed by the New York Times. Continue reading →
Several loyal orthosphereans have written me privily in recent days, to inquire politely after my health and well-being. This, due to my recent absence from this and every other online forum.
I write now therefore to assure any others who have been likewise worried that everything is fine with me personally, except in one enormously important respect: my wife and I have been for the last few months entirely, and indeed more than entirely, engaged in moving houses (and buying, and selling, too). Moving is irksome and distracting even for a college kid with nothing more than a backpack of clothes and a shelf or two of books. We however have been engaged in a move more massive by several orders of magnitude: downsizing after a career of raising kids in a large house with (we now realize) really ridiculously grand amounts of storage.
Administration Building of Upstate Consolation University
Baakko N’Telle, Upstate Consolation University’s Ngombian-born Special Assistant Dean for Sensitivity Issues, has introduced a plan to equip all classrooms with “sensitivity airbags.” According to N’Telle, although UCU’s classrooms have been “smart” for almost a decade (according to an in-house survey, they are the “smartest” classrooms by far in the state system) they have not been “sensitivity smart.” Should N’Telle get his way, as it appears he will, this is about to change. What is a “sensitivity smart” classroom? The dean describes it this way: “A ‘sensitivity smart’ classroom is a digitally ‘woke’ classroom. Tiny ‘open microphones’ and video cameras installed all around the classroom or lecture hall are connected to a voice-and-body-language-recognition computer. The computer’s algorithms, which have been offered gratis to UCU by a Silicon Valley software firm eager to gather data from a field evaluation, can detect microaggressions, hate-speech, male toxicity, white privilege, cultural appropriation, lacrosse-affinity, the Pro-Trump mentality, and all skeptical attitudes towards transgenderism and intersectionality. The voice-and-body-language-recognition computer interfaces with a router that communicates with ‘sensitivity airbag’ canisters attached to the backs of the seats in the classroom or lecture-hall space. At any time during the lecture-period, should anyone say or do anything that triggers the algorithm, the computer will tell the router to actuate the airbags, which work as they do in an automobile.” The system qualifies as sustainable and eco-friendly, its computer, dubbed the M5 by the manufacturer, being powered by rechargeable dimbranium-chloride batteries. Dimbranium refers to a rare metallic element of the Woketinide series found mainly in Ngombia, in neighboring West Mumbambu – where N’Telle incidentally received his education degree – and in the bedrock deep under offices of the Department of Motor Vehicles in coastal North American Cities.
Late Sixth-Century Boeotian Black-Glaze Kantharos with Inscription
Beginning in the mid-1990s and for about ten years I published a number of articles about the dismal state of the humanities and one of its causes: The savage war against literacy being waged in the public schools by the state-university departments of education that set curricula for K-12. My Modern Age article from 2003, “Orality, Literacy, and the Tradition,” synthesizes several of my argumentative strands at the time and suggests the dire state of American literacy already nearly twenty years ago. (Click on the emboldened link to go to a PDF of the article, which may be read online or downloaded.) Things have not improved and they are getting worse all the time.
I find myself prompted to call attention to “Orality, Literacy, and the Tradition” by the appearance at The American Thinker recently of an article by Bruce Dietrick Price under the title “K-12: History of a Conspiracy against Reading,” which I strongly recommend. (Again, click on the emboldened link to go to the article.)
The decline into a post-literate condition, in which there is no intact oral tradition to which the deprived parties might repair, belongs to the general subscendence of our age.
I believe that “Orality, Literacy, and the Tradition” does a fairly good job of summarizing the findings of three important scholars of literacy: Walter J. Ong, whose Orality and Literacy (1981) is indispensable; Eric Havelock, who wrote on the early phases of alphabetic literacy in Greece (see his Preface to Plato, 1963); and Barry Powell, whose Homer and the Origin of the Greek Alphabet (1991), is bold and monumental.
In The Master and His Emissary, Iain McGilchrist writes that a creature like a bird needs two types of consciousness simultaneously. It needs to be able to focus on something specific, such as pecking at food, while it also needs to keep an eye out for predators which requires a more general awareness of environment.
These are quite different activities. The Left Hemisphere (LH) is adapted for a narrow focus. The Right Hemisphere (RH) for the broad. The brains of human beings have the same division of function.
The LH governs the right side of the body, the RH, the left side. With birds, the left eye (RH) looks for predators, the right eye (LH) focuses on food and specifics. Since danger can take many forms and is unpredictable, the RH has to be very open-minded. Continue reading →
Bruce Charlton comments on the “brittleness” of the Catholic Church.
I feel that with the RCC it is all or nothing – to be viable it needs to be authoritarian, heavy-handed, and anti-individual; and any attempt to reform the undesirable aspects will just smash it.
I agree, although I used the word “fragility” instead.
I do think we should be careful in deciding what is and is not “desirable”. Vulnerability is per se bad, of course. Then again, falsifiability is a virtue in a belief system; we don’t want our theories to be “flexible”. That the Catholic Church can hypothetically lose or sabotage its credibility is a testament to its current clarity.
A Catholic apologist could say that Christ wants the Church to have one particular teaching and to operate in one particular way and that He arranged things so that the Church will fall apart if either is modified. An institution with more social capital, more sociological attractiveness, could presumably turn that capital to other purposes and still function. I’ve said before that it is a credit to Christianity that it dies so quickly when it is liberalized. That the universities have–at least on the surface–prospered so well under political correctness says something uncomplimentary about academia’s real driving force, or that of we its denizens.
Lastly, we could entertain the possibility that the truth is not what we humans would prefer it to be, that popular belief systems have been “optimized” to human wishes to such a point that the truth, whose attractiveness is constrained in ways falsehoods’ are not, is quite unpalatable to modern men given the alternatives, and can only be imposed as dogma during our impressionable years. Not that an authoritarian religion is particularly likely to be true, but rather that only an authoritarian religion might be true. After all, Catholicism is predestination without assurance of salvation, moral rigor without the compensating pleasures of self-righteousness, being “deep in history” but always on the losing side, and who wants that?
Kurt Gödel was a Platonist, logician and mathematician who developed the intention of making a profound and lasting impact on philosophical mathematics. His next task was to think of something! Amazingly, at the age of twenty five, he achieved his goal, publishing his incompleteness theorem.
Kurt Gödel and Einstein
A good friend of Albert Einstein’s, Einstein once said that late in life when his own work was not amounting to much, the only reason he bothered going to his office at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton was for the pleasure of walking home with Gödel.
John von Neumann wrote: “Kurt Gödel’s achievement in modern logic is singular and monumental – indeed it is more than a monument, it is a landmark which will remain visible far in space and time. … The subject of logic has certainly completely changed its nature and possibilities with Gödel’s achievement.”
While at university, Gödel attended a seminar run by David Hilbert who posed the problem of completeness: Are the axioms of a formal system sufficient to derive every statement that is true in all models of the system? Continue reading →
Kurt Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorem was inspired by David Hilbert’s question “Are the axioms of a formal system sufficient to derive every statement that is true in all models of the system?” Hilbert played the same role regarding Alan Turing’s proof of the halting problem. Hilbert had asked: “Is there some mechanical procedure [an algorithm] for answering all mathematical problems, belonging to some broad, but well-defined class?” In German this is called Entscheidungsproblem – the decision problem.
Turing found that he could answer this question by framing it in terms of a Turing machine – could there be a program that could determine whether any other arbitrary computer program and input would eventually stop or just loop forever? This was called the halting problem.
“Alan Turing proved in 1936 that a general algorithm to solve the halting problem for all possible program-input pairs cannot exist.”
The modern anti-modern critique of modernity is by no means a recent phenomenon; it begins rather with the responders to Jean-Jacques Rousseau and his Jacobin followers in the late Eighteenth Century. It is sufficient in this regard to mention the names of Edmund Burke (1729 – 1797) and Joseph de Maistre (1753 – 1821) and of their successors, S. T. Coleridge (1772 – 1834) and François-René de Chateaubriand (1768 – 1848), to suggest the range and richness of immediately post-revolutionary conservative-reactionary discourse. In the Twentieth Century, José Ortega y Gassett (1883 – 1955), Oswald Spengler (1886 – 1936), and T. S. Eliot (1888 – 1965), among others, continued in the line established by French réactionisme.In Ortega’s case and in Spengler’s this continuation entailed incorporating the iconoclastic skepticism of Friedrich Nietzsche into the discourse, with numerous qualifications. In Eliot’s case, it meant rejecting Nietzsche’s atheism and taking up from Chateaubriand and Coleridge the apology for Christian revelation and for a theological, as opposed to a secular, view of existence. René Guénon (1886 – 1951) belongs by his dates with the generation of Ortega, Spengler, and Eliot; like Eliot, Guénon is a theist, but despite his favorable treatment of Catholicism he is less identifiable as a Christian than Eliot. Guénon, who late in life converted to a Sufi-like sect of Islam, sees Catholicism as the vessel of Tradition in the West, but elsewhere Tradition has other forms that are valid in their own contexts. Spengler’s Decline of the West undoubtedly made an impression on Guénon, much as it did on Guenon’s younger contemporary Julius Evola (1898 – 1974). Guénon and Evola knew one another and mutually influenced one other. Both Guénon and Evola together exemplify a branch of modern critical anti-modernism affiliated much more than casually with the Twentieth Century occult revival.
Guénon at one time, in the 1920s, edited the chief French-language occult periodical, La Gnose or “Gnosis.” Yet Guénon, a fierce un-masker of religious mountebanks, can hardly be accused of employing mystic obscurantism to push a doctrinaire agenda. Guénon’s interest in occult topics, even more than Evola’s, strikes one as rigorous and objective. As for Guénon’s awareness of ideological deformations of reality, it ran to the acute. The driving force of deformation, in Guénon’s analysis as in Evola’s, is the stultifying massiveness of modern society, with its conformism on an unprecedented scale, and its receptivity to oratorical manipulation.
My task today is to compose a panegyric to the globalist world order. Not here in this post, but in the manuscript I have just now pushed aside, feeling the need for some fresh air. The panegyric is part of an application for the certification of certain geography courses as satisfying certain requirements in the education of a global citizen. This education touches on the origin and operation of the globalist world order, but really dwells on what I would call personal devotion to that order. Continue reading →