All of us here agree that speech should be regulated. However, there remain some secondary points that I hope to clarify.
My professional organization has been pleased to issue the “AAG Statement on Charlottesville Tragedy and White Supremacy”—this in spite of the fact that no one has shown the least interest in ascertaining the opinion of the AAG. It is, if you were wondering, exactly the opinion you would expect. But what I’d like to talk about here is not the “heartfelt sympathy” they ostentatiously express for “the victims of the Charlottesville tragedy and their loved ones,” but their abuse of this word tragedy.
As Aristotle explained, there are no “tragedies” in life, there are only “misfortunes.” A man is bumping along in a state of prosperity (which means as he wishes), and then for one reason or another is plunged into adversity (which means opposition to his wishes). Things do not go as he envisioned or according to his plan, for as Crosus explained to Solon, “oftentimes God gives men a gleam of happiness, and then plunges them into ruin” (Herodotus, History, 1.32). Continue reading
During a solar eclipse, light from the sun is not only diminished by the occulting transit of the moon, but that same light is also temporarily polarized. The polarization shows things fleetingly in a new and revelatory way, as long as one is looking. (It helps to be looking, as it were, out of the corner of one’s eye.) Rather than photographing the eclipse itself, as it passed over my city, and as many people were doing, I photographed the city. The shots in this post document what I saw.
Thomas Sowell in “Intellectuals and Race” has now been published by the Sydney Traditionalist Forum. I do no more, really, than summarize Sowell’s main arguments and conclusions. If you have read “Intellectuals and Race” this article can serve as a refresher regarding some of the main points. If you have not read “Intellectuals and Race,” the book is not simply a philosophical argument, but presents copious empirical evidence that the causes of problems that many black Americans face have been misdiagnosed and thus the offered solutions are also often misguided.
If the aim is to help actual concrete people, rather than to play ideological games and identity politics, this book should be regarded as a must read.
Let us begin with two questions – what is literary criticism and who or what is a literary critic? The true answers to these questions might surprise someone who attends college and who associates literature almost solely with what is called academic or scholarly interest. Very possibly, only a few academicians or scholars are today genuinely deserving of the title literary critic. The humanities departments, having become all at once thoroughly and fanatically political and thoroughly and fanatically bureaucratic, what passes in them for literary criticism is largely the imposition of predetermined and stereotyped ideological matrices on novels, plays, poems, and stories such that, in the main, the novels, plays, poems, and stories disappear and all that remains is the ideological matrix. Practices still calling themselves literary and critical will work themselves out as though they were self-actuating algorithms (“apps” in contemporary parlance), in the functioning of which, no human intervention is necessary. The sole interests are hierarchy, which everyone knows to be “bad” and which everyone therefore loves to denounce, and the somatic attribute, conceived in the narrowest way, and assumed to distribute itself according to a moral hierarchy. * Such a practice can only issue in a debilitating self-contradiction, which is exactly what happens. Missing in the “deconstructive,” “postmodern,” “feminist,” “classist,” and related English-Department discourses concerning novels, plays, poems, and stories is any scintilla of Eros – that is to say of passion, desire, or love – and any sense that the critic might be far less significant than the object of his interest. We have, of course, not yet answered the two questions, but clearing away certain misconceptions is a necessary prequel to furnishing those answers.
Literary criticism – to tackle the first question – is best grasped as a subject’s passion, desire, or love for novels, plays, poems, and stories. The passion, desire, or love is so great that the subject, gradually forming himself into a critic, relinquishes his ego entirely to his transcendent project of understanding the object as itself, in its beauty, its meaning, and, as entailed by those, in the total organic relation of its parts to its whole. More than that, literary criticism, nourishing itself on individual items that inflame its ego-dissolving passion, develops an interest in the generic relation of one item to another, thus also in the distinctions of the genres, and in the history of those genres. The ultimate object of literary criticism would be literature in itself, or the essence of the literary, but the ultimate object would not be identical to the ultimate aim, the telos, of literary-critical vitality. The ultimate aim or telos of that activity would constitute itself in the transformation of the subject – his raising of himself to a higher level of conscious awareness. There is an old saying that intelligent readers never, in fact read books; rather, intelligent readers let the books read them. No serious person who reads a serious book should expect to be the same person afterwards. Reading, supposed by college students on the basis of their secondary school experience to be a tedious obligation, has been understood by bibliophiles since the Fourth Century BC to resemble mystic initiation, a rite de passage, one of many such in the unwinding journey between birth and death. We must return to these themes, Eros and so forth, reading as a rite de passage, but let us first tackle the second of the two questions, who or what is a literary critic.
Free speech is an ideal and a good. It is the nature of ideals and goods that they run up against other ideals and goods compromising their expression.
Plato’s Republic centers on the ideal of justice. By making justice the overriding emphasis of his hypothetical polis, Plato completely removes the ideals and goods of romantic love and familial love. Successful warriors are to be given their choice of mates and children are to be brought up in anonymous nurseries because parents tend to want the best for their children even when their children do not really deserve it.
The Republic is thus a reductio ad absurdum argument. Readers of Plato know that Plato considered love to be very important and love features extensively in The Symposium and The Phaedrus. Plato should not, therefore, be read as actually espousing his utopian city. He is engaged in a philosophical exercise; showing what it would take to have relatively perfect justice on earth while warning of taking the virtue to an excess.
Political correctness is an instrument of oppression and scapegoating most prominently used by academic and political elites and enforced by mainstream news outlets. It is tyrannical, conformist and puritanical. Most egregiously, it is anti-thought. In On Liberty John Stuart Mill writes “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think…”
An analogy can be made with other forms of despotism. Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, once he had executed 250,000 people at the beginning of his tyranny, proceeded to be a fairly benevolent dictator. This is no argument in favor of this form of government however because the fact of his benevolence was merely happenstance. There was no mechanism by which he might be removed should his actions become intolerable.
Likewise, counterfactually supposing political correctness had some beneficial effects, there is no mechanism of correction. Political correctness countenances lies and censorship if they be in what is considered a good cause. As many have noted, when it comes to political correctness, the truth is no defense. This means errors cannot be challenged, even in principle, by appeals to facts. Instead, insisting on pointing out inconvenient truths is an excellent way to find oneself being morally condemned.
No new insigniae are needed to indicate the loyalties and intentions of the proper Right of the West (and of Christendom more generally). The unbroken Cross of the Tradition will do, whereas no other could. In no other sign could we ultimately, truly conquer; in every other sign we should certainly, finally suffer defeat. So nor should any others than the Cross or its many variations be deployed as our banners. Two in particular signify and muster and urge the Church Militant:
In theory, the modern university operates under the quodlibet principle that it is free to discuss and inquire into what (quod) it pleases (libet). Within its ivied walls, it would have us believe, there are no sacred cows and everything is fair game. In reality, however, the motto of every modern university is vir prudens non contra ventum mingit, which is the erudite way to say that a wise man does not piss into the wind. Continue reading