Via Rod Dreher: ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’-Selfhood Tribalism And The Same Old Human Nature?

Via Rod Dreher, ‘Rednecks And The Two Randys’

‘That’s how I felt listening to Terry Gross and the other NPR show after listening to Jackie talk briefly about the Squad. Our media elites will fall all over themselves to defend and celebrate people like Ilhan Omar and Randy Rainbow, but guys like the middle-aged man who came down from my attic today dripping sweat, and who can’t bear people like Ilhan Omar — in the eyes of our liberal elites, they’re what’s wrong with this country.’

I’d rather not have to choose between ‘Jackie’ and ‘Randy Rainbow, ‘ personally.

Unfortunately, however, choices can be very real when it comes to people, coalitions and politics.  Often these choices boil down to the lesser of evils, or certainly, compromises and more compromises.  When a lot of change overwhelms our instititutions, at a time when those institutions are arguably seriously over-built and over-leveraged, well, arguably, here we are.

Where did I put that hobby horse? Beneath the appeal to experts (some ‘studies’ professors, some social scientists, and some scientists) is a constant showcasing of activist concerns at NPR (the assumption of moral rightness and truthfulness of activist causes, mostly, the vague moral suspicion of religious belief, conservation of established traditions, corporations etc).

I find myself disagreeing often, despite the high production value.

As I choose to see the world, when it comes to politics, much activist logic is, well, radical and revolutionary, the truths activists have to tell coming with destabilizing dangers and deadly serious risks (they can be important truths).  Not only change but maybe even violent change.  Certainly liberatory.

If I go looking for ignorance, in-group/out-group dynamics, a desire to believe, I can look no further than myself, frankly.  Such urges never really go away, though they can be channeled better; mediated and expressed through love, family, friendships, work and some attention and care with one’s own mind through deeper reasoning and ‘big ideas.’

Looking for and working hard to get at the truth really matters.

What I’m pretty sure of:  Such impulses certainly can’t be directed towards what I see as modern Selfhood tribalism (from tattoos to Romantic Primitivism to political idealism and identity coalition-building) without consequences for everyone.

What is true of religious organizations, traditions and corporations, of course, is also true of political orgs and missionary secular humanists.

Also from the American Conservative, ‘Wendell Berry Goes To Indiana:’

Wendell Berry, on “tolerance and multiculturalism,” from his essay “The Joy of Sales Resistance”:

‘Quit talking bad about women, homosexuals, and preferred social minorities, and you can say anything you want about people who haven’t been to college, manual workers, country people, peasants, religious people, unmodern people, old people, and so on.’

Addition:  The search for religious purity through a relationship with God, purity of the spoken word, and purity of of the perfectibility of Man and the Human could have some serious overlap, here, folks.

Repost-Roger Scruton At The New Atlantis: ‘Scientism In The Arts & Humanities’

Full piece here (link may not last).

Scruton:

‘It is true that the theory of the meme does not deny the role of culture, nor does it undermine the nineteenth-century view that culture properly understood is as much an activity of the rational mind as is science. But the concept of the meme belongs with other subversive concepts — Marx’s “ideology,” Freud’s unconscious, Foucault’s “discourse” — in being aimed at discrediting common prejudice. It seeks to expose illusions and to explain away our dreams. But the meme is itself a dream, a piece of ideology, accepted not for its truth but for the illusory power that it confers on the one who conjures with it. It has produced some striking arguments, not least those given by Daniel Dennett in Breaking the Spell, in which he explains away religion as a particularly successful but dangerous meme.’

Those concepts according to Scruton, are not science, but rather scientism.

And he focuses back-in on judgment, or the capacity for judgment attached to ‘I,’ and an ‘I’ which looks towards transcendence:

‘Surely human beings can do better than this — by the pursuit of genuine scientific explanation on the one hand, and by the study of high culture on the other. A culture does not comprise works of art only, nor is it directed solely to aesthetic interests. It is the sphere of intrinsically interesting artifacts, linked by the faculty of judgment to our aspirations and ideals. We appreciate works of art, arguments, works of history and literature, manners, dress, jokes, and forms of behavior. And all these things are shaped through judgment. But what kind of judgment, and to what does that judgment lead?

Interesting quote by Scruton in a debate about Islam, at min 6:35 of video 4/4:

‘Universal values only make sense in a very specific context…the attempt to universalize them, or project or impose them…just leads to their appropriation by sinister forces.”

Worth a read.

-Steven Pinker, Harvard experimental psychologist and cognitive scientist wrote a piece in the New Republic, entitled: ‘Science Is Not Your Enemy

-Leon Wieseltier, literary editor of the New Republic since the 60′s, responded at The New Republic:  ‘No, Science Doesn’t Have All The Answers.

-Ross Douthat, conservative Catholic columnist at the Times jumped in the fray: ‘The Scientism Of Steve Pinker’ 

-Jerry Coyne, evolutionary biologist, responded to Douthat.

-Wieseltier jumped back in with: ‘Crimes Against Humanities: Now science wants to invade the humanities.  Don’t let it happen.

-Now Daniel Dennett, philosopher, cognitive scientist, one of the New Atheists and Boston-based secularist responds to Wieseltier:

‘Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or “problematics” to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds.’

So, how do you teach the arts and tilt the culture? Camille Paglia has some ideas, including the idea that George Lucas has taken root in more 20th-century minds than anyone else with his space opera:

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Related On This Site: Repost-Adam Kirsch At The New Republic: ‘Art Over Biology’…From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Evolutionary psychology and moral thinking: Franz De Waal At The NY Times 10/17/10: ‘Morals Without God?’From The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy: Charles Sanders Peirce

Larry Arnhart At Darwinian Conservatism Reviews E.O. Wilson’s ‘The Social Conquest Of Earth’Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

From Nigel Warburton’s Site: A Definition of Humanism?…A Debate: Would We Better Off Without Religion?…Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?From YouTube: Roger Scruton On Religious Freedom, Islam & Atheism

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’

Growing Pains, The Same Old Aches-Harrisburg & Portland-A Few Links

Assuming that corruption is a natural state in human affairs, exacerbated by politics-as-profession and long-standing economic blight, often gets you closer to the truth. Hello, depressive realism, my old friend.

Many major U.S. City Halls are notoriously corrupt (NYC, Chicago), but let’s face it, many smaller cities and towns can play dirty, too.

Via the City Journal: ‘Insult To Injury In The Rust Belt

‘In Harrisburg, a state audit found that the school district wasted millions on salaries, contracts, and benefits. This follows a two-year probation period served by six-term mayor Stephen Reed, who pleaded guilty in 2017 to stealing artifacts from the capital city’s museum.’

As posted: From The City Journal: ‘The Lessons Of Harrisburg

‘A Pennsylvania newspaper once described Reed as a mayor who “never met a bond deal he didn’t like.” Give a politician the chance to pile up debt on favored projects without answering directly to voters, and no one should be surprised if he takes advantage of it. That’s why the history of state and local finance is filled with reform moments.’

Much of this transcends party politics and goes more to political power, bad management and collective fiddling…

Full post here.

‘The Harrisburg School District, so impoverished that the state is helping it dig out of its financial and academic woes, has hit a mother lode of tax dollars, evidently due to several years of financial ineptitude.

In early October the district discovered it had nearly $12 million it didn’t know it had until someone started looking closely at the books.’

Perhaps that money will be put to better use than the incinerator and the Wild West museum boondoggle. Perhaps not.

Under new management again, Harrisburg might have a chance to not be as poorly run as Detroit.

Walter Russell Mead took a look at similarly bankrupt Jefferson County, Alabama, where Birmingham is located:

‘Will the market still lend to cities after they’ve gone bankrupt?’

Promises made for public employees simply cannot be met in many cases.

Reason used Harrisburg as a model for fiscal failure.

It doesn’t look much like progress to me, if, many mentally-ill, desperate for purpose, communists, socialists, anarchists and the black bloc anti-fascists run roughshod over your city.

If you don’t properly account for human nature, the bad and good in everyone, your model isn’t working.  The people running these cities, without lots of growth and trade, would likely run them into the ground with such utopian ideas.

Time to grow up a bit, Portland:

Addition:  As a reader points out, I don’t mean to be glib.  Violence is serious, especially if it’s happening to you as the police stand-down, but if you’re expecting contrition from folks who are wedded to radical ideology, you can keep expecting.

Don’t Worry, Man, This Will All Work Out-Update & Repost-Kay Hymowitz In The City Journal: Child-Man In The Promised Land?

Full article here.  (Originally posted eleven years ago now, and I suspect more people are paying attention to the problems raised).

The basic idea:  Many young and young(ish) American men are free of the social obligations to commit to women, get married, have kids, and thus languish in a suspended state of man-childishness.

How did they get here?  By the radical and excessive cultural changes the last 40 years have brought about:  I’m assuming the excesses of feminism, the excesses of equality, which form a solid part of majority pop culture opinion and have often been institutionalized.

Young men especially need a culture that can help them define worthy aspirations. Adults don’t emerge. They’re made.”

Hymowitz is arguing that the culture is failing young men in an important way, and it’s doing so by abandoning certain cultural values and the depth and wisdom those values sustain.

Do you find the argument persuasive?

Addition:  Emily Yoffee at Slate picks up on the same idea: adandoning the institution of marriage does have consequences for all of us.

See Also:  Kay Hymowitz In The The City Journal: Love In The Time Of Darwinism

From Will Wilkinson-A Response To Kay Hymowitz: ‘The “Menaissance” and Its Dickscontents’Kay Hymowitz In The The City Journal: Love In The Time Of DarwinismKay Hymowitz In The City Journal: Child-Man In The Promised Land?Kay Hymowitz At The City Journal: ‘How Brooklyn Got Its Groove Back’

From The Chronicle Of Higher Ed Via A & L Daily: Christina Hoff Sommers “Persistent Myths In Feminist Scholarship”Wendy Kaminer At The Atlantic: ‘Sexual Harassment And The Loneliness Of The Civil Libertarian Feminist’

Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?

Philip Brand Reviews Kay Hymowitz At Real Clear Books: ‘Women on Top, Men at the Bottom’.

Man-children? A war against men? The products of feminism? An erosion of religious values?:

‘The thrust of Manning Up is different. In her new book, Hymowitz puts economic conditions first — along with the increasing professional accomplishments of women. Preadulthood, she says, is “an adjustment to huge shifts in the economy, one that makes a college education essential to achieving or maintaining a middle-class life.”

That’s preadulthood for men:

‘Preadulthood — most common among men in their twenties, though it can easily extend to one’s thirties and beyond — is a consequence of two related economic trends that are reshaping the coming-of-age experience for young Americans, both men and women. The first trend is the extended period of training — college and beyond — deemed necessary to succeed in the modern economy. The second trend is women’s participation and flourishing in the new economy.’

There have been many changes going on in American society, which include getting women into the workforce and into college. I suspect this has partially required the erosion of traditional and religious familial hierarchies and the institutions growing out of them as a model for civil society.

There’s also the ideological radicalism and excesses of a lot of feminist doctrine, and many emerging new rules of behavior between the sexes, often enforced ad hoc, which further erode authority and claims to authority.

Naturally, social and religious conservatives are less happy with this state of affairs, and there is legitimate criticism that the State will fill the role the family they once held as a model for civil society, especially among lower income folks.

Obviously, we’re not going back to 1962, but men are not just born, they’re made, and now that the culture and institutions that made them is receding, what is taking their place?

Some will see these developments as a steps towards a better world, others as clear steps towards a worse one.  I’m just trying to step back for a moment.

In response to Megan McArdle’s post “America’s New Mandarins,” it might be worth revisiting Charles Murray’s Coming Apart. Murray got there first:

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Helen Smith, wife of Instapundit’s Glenn Reynolds, had a then new book out entitled ‘Men On Strike, Why Men Are Boycotting Marriage, Fatherhood, and the American Dream-and Why It Matters‘ which suggests the old incentives combined with the new culture is incentivizing men to sit on the sidelines:

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Jordan Peterson is pushing back against claims of equality of outcome.  Freedom, responsibility and moral behavior are not tied directly back to the Bible, but through an attention to psychological/social science research data and schools of thought which have emerged and developed during the last one hundred and fifty years.  This, including his own experience as a clinical psychologist.

He’s still persona non-grata amongst many commited to gender equality and group identity:

Via a reader: Heather Heying, evolutionary biologist, and wife of Bret Weinstein, offers reasonable insight.

The sexes obviously can work together collaboratively, but I’m guessing neither a vast majority of women, nor some plurality of men, desire a return to previous traditional and religiously conservative sex roles, especially in the workplace.

Repost-From The New Criterion: ‘What’s So Public About Public Art?’

Full piece here.

A favorite theme on this blog:

‘But what’s so public about public art? Is it “public” simply because it’s stuck in public places? And who asks for it? In a recent interview with Manner of Man Magazine, Alexander Stoddart, Sculptor in Ordinary to Her Majesty the Queen in Scotland, hits the nail on the head.’

Click through for some good quotes. Why is public art often so bad? What happens when art gets attached with money, and yes, also money through grants?

Is it better just to have a contest?

Are you truly moved by a public art piece? If so, which one?

As paired with this previous post:

Full piece here.

‘But step back a moment. Would ending federal, i.e., taxpayer, i.e., your, money on entities like the NEA, the NEH, and the CPB be a bad thing?’

Here are two good reasons in favor of ending Federal funding:

  1. You will likely aid in making better art. Universities, museums and institutions don’t necessarily get along with the creative genius, nor in making something new. In fact, such institutions can stifle creativity by rewarding and amplifying current tastes and entrenching public sentiment into reefs, creating additional hurdles for talent to get where it’s going. State money, furthermore, is not a necessary condition of good art. In fact, it may be a necessary condition of bad art [addition: we can probably say that bad art is everywhere, but there’s rarely great art coming out of Federally funded programs].
  2. Incentives matter: The self-interested, ideologically driven and less-talented will have incentives to control the Federal bureaucracy and politicize the arts. They’re out there, and if you reward them with cash and status, you’ll get more of them (bad artists, ideologues, politicians and bureaucrats in an unholy cycle of Badness).

No one can speak for all the public, not even the artistic genius. Art-curators, docents, specialists and critics can do good [for art], but sometimes they can do bad. Individual talent, tradition, hard-work, groups of people, ideas, money and opportunities all matter, but how much exactly, is anyone’s guess.

Richard Serra was commissioned to put a piece in Federal Plaza, paid for the public, and some people didn’t like it.

It was removed. Serra felt railroaded. There was a lot of press and drama.

Pretty relevant, I’d say:

Also, this Vincent Gallo interview is funny as hell:

He takes the critics on while wearing an awesome USA track-suit:

Related On This Site: Repost-From Poemshape: ‘Let Poetry Die’

They’ve got to keep up with the times:A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

Ken Burns makes a good documentary, but he’s also arguing he absolutely needs your tax dollars in service of what he assumes to be a shared definition of the “common good” as he pursues that art. The market just can’t support it otherwise. Repost-From ReasonTV Via Youtube: ‘Ken Burns on PBS Funding, Being a “Yellow-Dog Democrat,” & Missing Walter Cronkite’From NPR: Grants To The NEA To Stimulate The Economy?…We’re already mixing art and politics, so…
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Here’s a suggestion to keep aesthetic and political judgements apart-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: Farewell To Judgment

From 2 Blowhards-We Need The Arts: A Sob Story…A museum industrial complex…more complexes…who are the people museums should be serving? James Panero At The New Criterion: ‘Time to Free NY’s Museums: The Met Responds’

Godzilla-Fearing Lizard People Collectively Working Towards Human Goals

I don’t want to overlook the actual freedoms, innovation, tolerance, and open-mindedness West Coast cities can offer, but, boy, there sure are a lot of fruits, nuts, flakes and dreamers out here.  Across the nation, one wonders about character formation and institutional stability under what I’ll call doctrines of Liberatory Self-Help, and all the ways it can go wrong:

In the meantime, I’ve joined a great new group:  We can be pretty aggressive about recruitment goals, but we’re making progress:

Around Seattle, I’ve heard talk of the Ramtha School Of Enlightenment:

‘Ramtha’s School of Enlightenment (RSE) is an American spiritual sect near the rural town of Yelm, Washington. The school was established in 1988 by JZ Knight, who claims to channel a 35,000-year-old being called Ramtha the Enlightened One.’

Let’s just say if you don’t believe there are lizard-people out there, waiting to remorselessly devour tasty human flesh after the impending and catastrophic eruption of Mt.Rainier, well, buddy, you’re the one with problems.

This stuff is funny until you’re on your own, wandering an unknown road at dusk, just trying to find a source of warmth to regulate your body-temparature for the night:

Dear Reader, this means I may have to leave The Human Pagoda.  Please click through to read about our spiritual and material Leader, raised in the ducts of the United Nations.

By all means, please skeptically assess the level of your own skepticism, admitting new knowledge and experience, but with the ol’ bullshit detector constantly running:

Yoram Hozany at The American Mind: ‘Conservative Rationalism Has Failed:

‘In recent decades, American and European elites have devoted themselves to the project of rethinking society from scratch.

What were once linchpin concepts such as family and nation, man and woman, God and Scripture, the honorable and the sacred, have been found wanting and severely damaged, if not overthrown. The resulting void has been filled by new doctrines, until now mostly neo-Marxist or libertarian in character. But a racialist “white identity” politics in a Darwinian key is gathering momentum as well.’

This blog has found much truth in the Oakeshottian critique of rationalism, the Straussian critique of post-Nietzschean modernity, and the post-Kantian, Friesian critique of Left illiberalism.

What the hell is going on here, anyways?  What is a ‘flower crime-scene?’:

If we are coming apart, who’s putting us back together? : Via Youtube: ‘Are We Really Coming Apart?’ Charles Murray and Robert Putnam Discuss…Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Related On This Site: Once you take apart the old structure, you have to criticize the meritocracy you’ve helped create: David Brooks At The NY Times: ‘Why Our Elites Stink’

The anti-intellectual’s intellectual: Repost-Via Youtube: Eric Hoffer-’The Passionate State Of Mind’

Leo Strauss:From Darwinian Conservatism By Larry Arnhart: “Surfing Strauss’s Third Wave of Modernity”

A deeper look at what education “ought” to be, which is remarkably like it is now: A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.

How dare he?: Repost-Revisting Larry Summers: What Did He Say Again?From The Harvard Educational Review-

Still reliving the 60′s?: A Few Thoughts On Robert Bork’s “Slouching Towards Gomorrah”

The classical liberal tradition…looking for classical liberals in the postmodern wilderness: Isaiah Berlin’s negative liberty: A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”From George Monbiot: ‘How Freedom Became Tyranny’…Looking to supplant religion as moral source for the laws: From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum.New liberty away from Hobbes?: From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’…Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism, but wasn’t exactly classically liberal: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”Via Bloggingheads-Helen Andrews On Meritocracy

The Silence Ain’t So Golden-Andy Ngo Attacked In Portland

Andy Ngo is physically attacked in Portland, from milkshakes to fists which’ve caused potentially worse injuries. He contributes to the WSJ. Fund here.

Thanks for taking hits for the rest of us, while merely trying to document the continually occuring and continually violent anti-fascist protests there.

So, why the broader media silence (you know, from journalists)?

Why do the Portland authorities tolerate such violent lawlessness, while selectively enforcing the law?

My map is pretty simple: Once individuals and institutions acquiesce or commit to the claims of activist logic, the adoption of radical principles or radical chic (fashionable signaling), the game is afoot.  Sympathy for collectivist ideological framing of truths (not the actual truths, per se) can unite strange bedfellows.

If you don’t explicitly condemn violence, nor limit violence through a statement of principles, you will drift into the radicalism of those who wish to tear it all down.  Weaponized resentment can easily consume civil discourse.

Of course, some on the Left (laregly what’s become the ‘IDW’) openly condemn such violence and these particular bad actors, while continually arguing for what amounts to radical institutional change.

Openly condemning violence is always welcome:

 

The view from here:

I think the Arts & Sciences need better stewardship.

But, Chris, you might find yourself thinking, while I appreciate your rakish good looks I happen to disagree.  You’ve been reasonably up front about your biases (Northeastern Democrats in the family, Irish Catholic roots and many conservative views, libertarian leanings, a passion for the arts and some work and appreciation in/for the sciences….aiming for live and let live, mostly).

What do you even stand for, anyways?

Hopefully, I’m standing for better stewardship of the institutions of our fine Republic.  I’m acting as though there will be rules, and people enforcing those rules, and institutional authority.  I’m acting as though there will be politics, regardless of many of the current failures of our political, academic and media folks.  I’m respecting religious belief, tolerance, and the consent of the governed.

***Also, I am currently accepting sums in excess of $1 million dollars to the email below.  No small-time players, please.  I aim to provide, for me and my loved ones, a series of vacation villas from which I can shake my fists at passing clouds, above life’s thousand, cutting indignities.

Problems Of The Minority-Cross Your Heart

Via Althouse on a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision.

‘That’s the line up in American Legion v. American Humanist Association, the case about the 32-foot cross on public land that honors soldiers who died in WWI. The American Legion won — the case is reversed and remanded. It will take me a little time to find my way through those opinions. The precedents in this area of the Establishment Clause have been very confused, and (as someone who taught those cases for many years) I want to know how the Court puzzled through them this time.’

As posted many years ago now:

Strausberg Observers post here

Sometimes a cross isn’t just a cross, as Stanley Fish notes.  All parties involved didn’t think it’s a good idea to strip the cross from it’s religious meaning in law.

Aside from an interesting comparison on a specific legal question, perhaps there are underlying currents as well.

Full post here.

‘The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered by 15:2 in Lautsi v Italy (App. No.: 30814/06) on the 18th March 2011 that it is justifiable for public funded schools in Italy to continue displaying crucifixes on the classroom walls.’

Here’s a quote from The Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy:

“The philosophy of human rights addresses questions about the existence, content, nature, universality, justification, and legal status of human rights. The strong claims made on behalf of human rights (for example, that they are universal, or that they exist independently of legal enactment as justified moral norms) frequently provoke skeptical doubts and countering philosophical defences.”

And further on down the line, some humanists are pretty ‘aspirational’ as well as having a logo and a revised manifesto.

Martha Nussbaum argues profoundly for more equality but also removing religion as a source for the laws:  From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum

…Sometimes a cross isn’t just a cross, as Stanley Fish notesFrom Law At The End Of The Day: ‘Torn Between Religion And Law In Spain’

Low European Birth Rates In The NY Times: No Babies?

I’ll repost the below again because, in America,  I believe we’ve likely tipped from a majority religious civic fabric and culture to something more like a majority secular culture.   This likely brings a lot of European problems over (people searching for meaning, membership, group belonging).  We’ve got less frontier and more hierarchy and more reactions to inequality and the same old socialism gaining deeper representation in our politics.

Ack, mutter, so much German theory and deep, metaphysical maps:

I’m sure some will be eager to note that this took place in Budapest, Hungary, a country currently under politically right leadership, out from under tradition and institution-destroying Communist bureaucracy, in the news these days for refusing many Middle-Eastern refugees.

I recommend the video, as Scruton spent many years behind the Iron Curtain, working with folks to help chart a course out of Communist rule.

Moral Relativism is actually quite hard to define:

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A quote that stuck out:

‘There’s an attempt to produce a universal, objective morality, but without any conception of where it comes from.’

Where does the moral legitimacy come from to decide what a ‘human right’ is? A majority of ‘right-thinking’ people? A political majority? Some transcendent source?

As this blog has often noted, such secular idealism can lead to an ever-expanding list of human-rights, demands, and obligations; these in turn leading to rather sclerotic, over-promising, under-delivering, deeply indebted European states and poorly functional international institutions. It can also produce a kind of liberal bien-pensant worldview, which can catch a radical cold every now and again, but which generally supports political leaders claiming such ideals and causes. Oh yes, most folks nowadays believe we’re progressing, but where was that we were progressing to, exactly? How do you know this to be true?

Many Christians in the West tend to see such secular idealism and humanism as being birthed from Christianity, and as being unmoored from the duties and obligations that come with religious belief in a transcendent God. People haven’t changed that much, after all, nor has human nature, they often subtly argue, pointing out the many consequences such secular humanist claims have in the world by placing all kinds of laws, duties, and obligations upon us all.

Ross Douthat made similar arguments some years ago while promoting his book ‘Bad Religion:

‘…what is the idea of universal human rights if not a metaphysical principle? Can you find universal human rights under a microscope?

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As previously posted:

Part 10 of a discussion between Douthat and Will Saletan here.

Natural law, Christian theology and metaphysics meet liberalism, gay rights, and a more rights-based definitions of liberty. Saletan and Douthat are discussing Douthat’s new book Bad Religion and having a back and forth.

Douthat puts forth the following:

‘Indeed, it’s completely obvious that absent the Christian faith, there would be no liberalism at all. No ideal of universal human rights without Jesus’ radical upending of social hierarchies (including his death alongside common criminals on the cross). No separation of church and state without the gospels’ “render unto Caesar” and St. Augustine’s two cities. No liberal confidence about the march of historical progress without the Judeo-Christian interpretation of history as an unfolding story rather than an endlessly repeating wheel’

Perhaps modern American liberalism can claim other roots for itself. Here’s a quote from Leo Strauss, who has influenced American conservative thought heavily:

“Strauss taught that liberalism in its modern form contained within it an intrinsic tendency towards extreme relativism, which in turn led to two types of nihilism. The first was a “brutal” nihilism, expressed in Nazi and Marxist regimes. In On Tyranny, he wrote that these ideologies, both descendants of Enlightenment thought, tried to destroy all traditions, history, ethics, and moral standards and replace them by force under which nature and mankind are subjugated and conquered. The second type – the “gentle” nihilism expressed in Western liberal democracies – was a kind of value-free aimlessness and a hedonistic”permissive egalitarianism”, which he saw as permeating the fabric of contemporary American society.”

And another quote on Strauss, which seems more compelling to me:

“As Strauss understood it, the principle of liberal democracy in the natural freedom and equality of all human beings, and the bond of liberal society is a universal morality that links human beings regardless of religion. Liberalism understands religion to be a primary source of divisiveness in society, but it also regards liberty of religious worship to be a fundamental expression of the autonomy of the individual. To safeguard religion and to safeguard society from conflicts over religion, liberalism pushes religion to the private sphere where it is protected by law. The liberal state also strictly prohibits public laws that discriminate on the basis of religion. What the liberal state cannot do without ceasing to be liberal is to use the law to root out and entirely eliminate discrimination, religious and otherwise, on the part of private individuals and groups.”

I’m more interested in the many people who are claiming that more freedom is necessary to reach a liberal ideal as they go about extending it to another group of people. They aren’t just asking for a little more freedom, for as we humans do, they are striving to make their ideal the highest thing around, as well as a source for the laws, and a way to organize people and a path to political power and influence. That seems to be part of the deal, but rarely discussed and I think should be open for debate a la Strauss. Christianity certainly has a lot of experience in that realm.

Related On This Site: While politically Left, Slate used to be a bit edgy, thoughtful, occasionally more of a haven for artists, writers, creative thinkers and iconoclasts (Christopher Hitchens was a good example). At least Saletan thinks pretty deeply From Slate: William Saletan’s ‘White Men Can’t Jump’

Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Nussbaum argues that relgion shouldn’t be a source for the moral laws From The Reason Archives: ‘Discussing Disgust’ Julian Sanchez Interviews Martha Nussbaum…More on Strauss as I’m skeptical of his hermeticism and his strong reaction to Nietzsche and some things he may have missed about the Anglo tradition: From Philosophy And Polity: ‘Historicism In German Political Theory’From The Selected Writings By And About George Anastaplo: ‘Reason and Revelation: On Leo Strauss’

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?

Some Same-Old Quotes & Tweets Around A Theme

Lots of divisions these days:

Wasn’t judge Napolitano a Catholic libertarian?: Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

This blog seems to be drifting along deeper currents, leaving many issues unresolved:

There’s something almost religious about the way some people go about pursuing their non-religious ideas.

Ken Minogue framed it thusly (as posted so often these days):

‘Olympianism is the characteristic belief system of today’s secularist, and it has itself many of the features of a religion. For one thing, the fusion of political conviction and moral superiority into a single package resembles the way in which religions (outside liberal states) constitute comprehensive ways of life supplying all that is necessary (in the eyes of believers) for salvation. Again, the religions with which we are familiar are monotheistic and refer everything to a single center. In traditional religions, this is usually God; with Olympianism, it is society, understood ultimately as including the whole of humanity. And Olympianism, like many religions, is keen to proselytize. Its characteristic mode of missionary activity is journalism and the media.’

And:

‘Progress, Communism, and Olympianism: these are three versions of the grand Western project. The first rumbles along in the background of our thought, the second is obviously a complete failure, but Olympianism is not only alive but a positively vibrant force in the way we think now. Above all, it determines the Western moral posture towards the rest of the world. It affirms democracy as an ideal, but carefully manipulates attitudes in a nervous attempt to control opinions hostile to Olympianism, such as beliefs in capital or corporal punishment, racial, and other forms of prejudice, national self-assertion—and indeed, religion

I once became mildly practiced at writing prose, but the writing was always clunky and ambitious at best, making large intellectual leaps.  It’s probably worse these days given all the other things that matter.  The people who pay in having opinions always want many other things, besides.

Thanks for stopping by, and to everyone that has.  Sorry that I may not respond quickly, nor as often as I probably should.

From Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On Kant

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Because You Didn’t Ask-Some Links & Thoughts On The NY Times & Liberal Skepticism

Perhaps the NY Times is loping, mid-transformation, towards the clearing where The Guardian can be found, baying at the moon:  Not exactly whom you can trust to commit to facts, but some facts right will be gotten right along the path towards equality, social justice, and the coming global worker’s paradise.

It’s true that all institutions have bias, current members tending to signal ‘here’s what matters around here‘, prospective members signaling back ‘of course it matters to me too‘ in hopes of gaining a foot in the door.  The less objective and performance-based the core activities of the institutions, the more group loyalty and politics seem to matter.

Unsurprising then, that the latest politico-moral movements should hold sway as they do.  Everyone’s a captive until they take a stance:

As for the NY Times, I think this ‘The Hunt’ piece from the Real Estate section sums up my expectations nicely:

‘As conservationists, they decorated almost exclusively with secondhand furniture. The large closets — “the biggest I’ve had in my life,” Ms. Sinclair said — have enough storage space for the craft materials she uses for her feminist tableware line, Oddtitties.us.’

This blog is tired, and dated, but thanks for stopping by:

-Fred Siegel on that feud between Tom Wolfe and Dwight MacDonald (Dwight who?)

The below is one of the most popular posts on this blog, because, I think, what was once live-and-let-live-liberal is now very often interested in controlling which words you’d use, which thoughts you’d have, and which party you’d vote for.

Correspondence here.

Link sent in by a reader.

Without a stronger moral core, will liberalism necessarily corrode into the soft tyranny of an ever-expanding State?

Since the 60’s, and with a lot of postmodern nihilism making advances in our society, is a liberal politics of consent possible given the dangers of cultivating a kind of majoritarian politics: Dirty, easily corrupt, with everyone fighting for a piece of the pie?

As an example, Civil Rights activists showed moral courage and high idealism, to be sure, but we’ve also seen a devolution of the Civil Rights crowd into squabbling factions, many of whom seem more interested in money, self-promotion, influence, and political power.

The 60’s protest model, too, washed over our universities, demanding freedom against injustice, but it has since devolved into a kind of politically correct farce, with comically illiberal and intolerant people claiming they seek liberty and tolerance for all in the name of similar ideals.

Who are they to decide what’s best for everyone?  How ‘liberal’ were they ever, really?

Kelley Ross responds to a correspondent on Isaiah Berlin’s value pluralism, while discussing John Gray as well:

‘Now, I do not regard Berlin’s value pluralism as objectionable or even as wrong, except to the extend that it is irrelevant to the MORAL issue and so proves nothing for or against liberalism. Liberalism will indeed recommend itself if one wishes to have a regime that will respect, within limits, a value pluralism. I have no doubt that respecting a considerable value pluralism in society is a good thing and that a nomocratic regime that, mostly, leaves people alone is morally superior to a teleocratic regime that specifies and engineers the kinds of values that people should have. However, the project of showing that such a regime IS a good thing and IS morally superior is precisely the kind of thing that Gray decided was a failure.

Thus, I believe Gray himself sees clearly enough that a thoroughgoing “value pluralism” would mean that the regime of the Ayatollah Khomeini is just as morally justified as the regime of Thomas Jefferson. Gray prefers liberalism (or its wreckage) for the very same reason that the deconstructionist philosopher Richard Rorty prefers his leftism: it is “ours” and “we” like it better. Why Gray, or Rorty, should think that they speak for the rest of “us” is a good question. ‘

and about providing a core to liberalism:

‘Why should the state need a “sufficient rational justificaton” to impose a certain set of values? The whole project of “rational justification” is what Gray, and earlier philosophers like Hume, gave up on as hopeless. All the state need do, which it has often done, is claim that its values are favored by the majority, by the General Will, by the Blood of the Volk, or by God, and it is in business.’

And that business can quickly lead to ever-greater intrusion into our lives:

‘J.S. Mill, etc., continue to be better philosophers than Berlin or Gray because they understand that there must be an absolute moral claim in the end to fundamental rights and negative liberty, however it is thought, or not thought, to be justified. Surrendering the rational case does not even mean accepting the overall “value pluralism” thesis, since Hume himself did not do so. ‘

Are libertarians the true classical liberals?  Much closer to our founding fathers?

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Related On This Site:  From The NY Times Book Review-Thomas Nagel On John Gray’s New ‘Silence Of Animals’From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘The Evolution of Mind and Mathematics: Dehaene Versus Plantinga and Nagel’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?’