Catholicism

A Link And Some Thoughts: Phillip Blond At First Things-Politics After Liberalism

Blond reviews this book by John Milbank & Adrian Pabst: ‘The Politics Of Virtue: Post-Liberalism And The Human Future‘ (PDF here).

Is it necessary to reclaim secular idealism from many secular idealists?  Or at least, might it be necessary to provide an alternative to much unthinking liberal idealism which has come to govern many of our institutions?

Blond has ideas for conservatism in Great Britain, anyways:

‘Among the ideas that compete to determine the world’s future, one can count Catholicism, Islam, and (until recently) Marxism. But only one is dominant, hegemonic, and all-pervasive—liberalism.’

Blond’s apparent challenge to this form of liberalism is a return to the Catholic Church (if it ain’t exactly a neoclassical return to Platonic idealism):

Hmmmm….:

‘The Catholic Church must reenter the political fray, not as a chaplain to left or right but as the herald of a new order.’

As an American, let me offer a brief family anecdote:  I was raised by lapsed Catholics (Irish-Catholics mostly, thoroughly American, a little cynical, often skeptical and suspicious of authority).  In that spirit, perhaps the below offers some insight into why many Boomers might have drifted away from the Catholic Church if not always towards secular humanist ideals:

There’s a Catholic girls’ high-school weekend retreat with the nuns, and the girls and the nuns are having a decent time of it.  One of the girls is epileptic and starts to have seizures.  The situation gets pretty serious, and, unfortunately, the nuns don’t handle it too well.  In the telling, there’s much fear and diddling-around.  Confusion sets-in.  Time passes.  The girl with epilepsy is halfway-abandoned for a bit.  Although the poor girl eventually recovers, there’s a deeper suspicion of medical advancements lurking somewhere in the background.  The nuns manage to impress a parochial mediocrity; a lack of calm, actionable knowledge and understanding.

Frankly, many people are happy to hit young girls in the knuckles in order to reinforce metaphysical ideas and correct behavior, the truth or falsehood of the ideas long ago internalized and no longer questioned.  As long as many people get some kind of standing, purpose and security in the world, they’re happy to pay it forward.

As for me, I can’t say I don’t see a lot of parochial mediocrity and a lack of calm and knowledge in many federal bureaucracies these days (people with real power and authority over our lives, supposedly well-meaning).  This is to say nothing of corporate HR departments and amongst many academics and the media. Pay insufficient tribute to the latest moral idea, and become a member of a clear minority.   Refuse to gather around the high ideals and the increasingly complex rules that come with them (climate change, multiculturalism, diversity, human rights etc.) and be seen as morally suspect.

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This is why I tend to welcome critiques of liberalism, but also continued satire when it comes to the Catholic Church, too (it’d sure be nice to have equal application and some backbone when it comes to Islam, especially when cartoonists get murdered for cartoons).

That’s what satire is for.

It doesn’t seem like much has changed regarding human nature, either, least of all within the Church (nor the increasingly predictable, increasingly pathetic Boomer vilification of the Church).  Perhaps ‘love’ isn’t all you need.

Imagine critizing the radical discontents of the Left, which often drive the latest moral ideas within high-liberal thought; standing-up to some obviously contradictory and true-believing rightesousness?

***Beyond ‘strategic’ politics and philosophy, there are plenty of reasons like the rapid technological advancements and change going-on in our lives (genuine progress and a lot of choice in matters we haven’t always had).  There are many downward pressures from global marketplaces, supply chains and mobile labor, too.  Perhaps it’s harder to be local these days, and decent and derive the meaning one needs from friends, neighbors, and the kinds of constraints and rewards one has while living in the same place.

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Possibly related on this site:

Ken Minogue framed it thusly, and he believes there’s going to be some authority in your life, but you’ve got be particularly careful about which kind, and which rules govern that relationship with authority:

Full piece here:

‘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.‘

From Fellini’s ‘Roma.’  Fellini presents a kind of sinister and surreal Papal fashion show.

At least it isn’t a ‘bunga-bunga‘ party (maybe don’t leave models of governance to modern Italy?).

David Brooks here.

On Blond:

“Blond argues that over the past generation we have witnessed two revolutions, both of which liberated the individual and decimated local associations. First, there was a revolution from the left: a cultural revolution that displaced traditional manners and mores; a legal revolution that emphasized individual rights instead of responsibilities; a welfare revolution in which social workers displaced mutual aid societies and self-organized associations.

Then there was the market revolution from the right. In the age of deregulation, giant chains like Wal-Mart decimated local shop owners. Global financial markets took over small banks, so that the local knowledge of a town banker was replaced by a manic herd of traders thousands of miles away. Unions withered.”

Are we really in a Platonic decline, the kind of which required The Republic?:  Are you a gold, silver or bronze medalist?

That’s a little scary.

A Podcast From Britain: E30 | Dreaming The Future | Natalie Bennett, Phillip Blond, Roger Scruton

Quote found here——Kraut, Richard.  The Cambridge Companion to Plato. New York, NY:  Cambridge University Press, 1992.

“The Peloponennisian War created the sorts of tension in Athens that would appear to support Thucydides’ analysis.  Obligations to the community required greater sacrifice and presented a clearer conflict with the self-seeking “Homeric” pursuit of one’s status, power and pleasure.  In political terms, people had to decide whether or not to plot against the democracy to bring off an Olgarchic coup.  In moral terms they had to decide whether or not to ignore the demands of the community, summed up in the requirements of “justice,” in favor of their own honor, status, power, and in general their perceived interest.  Plato was familiar with people who preferred self-interest over other-regarding obligation; his own relatives, Critias and Charmides, made these choices when they joined the Thirty Tyrants.

Arguments from natural philosophy did not restrain people like Critias and Charmides.  Democritus argues unconvincingly that the requirements of justice and the demands of nature, as understood by Atomism, can be expected to coincide. Protogoras rejects the view that moral beliefs are true and well grounded only if they correspond to some reality independent of believers; admittedly they are matters of convention, but so are all other beliefs about the world.  This line or argument removes any ground for preferring nature over convention, but at the same time seems to remove any rational ground for preferring one convention over another.”

Related On This Site:  Can you maintain the virtues of religion without the church…?:  From The City Journal: Roger Scruton On “Forgiveness And Irony”…Are we going soft and “European”… do we need to protect our religious idealism enshrined in the Constitution….with the social sciences?…Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People

Is there a causal connection between a move away from religion and the moral structure it provides….and a bigger state?From Wikipedia’s Page On Leo Strauss: A Few Quotes:  From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?

Some Anti-modernism:  From The American Interest Online: Francis Fukuyama On Samuel Huntington

 

From Edward Feser: ‘Liberty, Equality, Fraternity?’

Full post here.

“Surely you’re not against liberty, equality, and fraternity?!” you ask.  Well, no, not necessarily – depending on what you mean by those terms.  The trouble is that though some of the ideas that commonly go under those labels are good, others are very bad.’

Hmmm…:

‘Modern egalitarianism makes essentially this mistake.  In the name of equal concern for all, it resists or even rejects the idea that different members of society have different roles, aptitudes, and needs.  Hence socialism’s hostility to the very existence of different classes.  Hence feminism’s hostility to traditional sex roles within the family and to the idea that men and women naturally tend to differ in psychological traits no less than they do physiologically.  Hence the liberal’s dogmatic insistence on seeing persistent differences in economic and other outcomes as a result of unjust discrimination and insufficiently vigorous social engineering.’

Just providing a reasoned, principled critique of such liberal political idealism may actually be beneficial to us all.

Edward Feser In The Claremont Review: ‘Looking For Meaning in All The Wrong Places’

From Edward Feser: ‘Nagel And His Critics Part IV’

Leo Strauss seems to have had Burke succumbing to historicism? A response here.

As to the American and French Revolutions:

“In both cases the political leaders whom Burke opposed insisted on certain rights: the English government on the rights of soverignty and the French revolutionists insisted on the rights of man.  In both cases Burke proceeded in exactly the same manner:  he questions less the rights than the wisdom of exercising the rights.”

“What ever might have to be said about the propriety of Burke’s usage, it is here sufficient to note that, in judging the political leaders whom he opposed in the two most important actions of his life, he traced their lack of prudence less to passion than to the intrusion of the spirit of theory into the field of politics.”

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

Edward Feser on David Mamet’s ‘Glengarry Glen Ross’ And More Modernist Commentary

This blog welcomes lenses with which to view works of modern art.

From Edward Feser: ‘Aquinas Watches Glengarry Glen Ross’

Feser:

‘Clarity: As I’ve said, the movie abstracts from concrete reality certain general character types, purges from them the nuance and complexity in which we find these general patterns embedded in everyday life, and re-embodies them in extreme characters so that we might more carefully consider those types.  Just as we know more clearly what it is to be a triangle by abstracting from particular triangles (red ones, green ones, triangles drawn in ink, triangles drawn in chalk, etc.) and considering the general pattern, so too does the movie allow us to see more clearly what it is to be a desperate man, a cruel man, a weak man, a dishonest man, a broken man, and so on, by way of its skillful caricatures.

So, in its integrity, proportion, and clarity, Glengarry has the marks of a beautiful thing, despite its grim subject matter.  One need not admire and approve of Satan in order to admire and approve of Dante’s or Milton’s literary representations of Satan, and one need not admire or approve of the sorts of people represented in a film like Glengarry in order to admire and approve of the representation itself.’

Glengarry Glen Ross‘ has become something of a cultural touchstone for many; maybe this generation’s ‘Death Of A Salesman

You call yourself a salesman you son-of-a-bitch?:’

For those who’ve ever had a real job, and seen people at their best and worst, or been reasonably honest about their own motivations and willingness to be do right by others under duress, well, there’s a lot of truth to be found in this particular work of art.

Like boxing gyms and MMA matches, or call-centers full of debt collectors, or daily life on public city buses, the stuff of humanity is pretty much the same as anywhere else, just more raw and closer to the surface.

On fuller display, perhaps.

Feser provides some reasonable context, here, the kind that forms the backbone of a good Catholic education, and which this blog considers to have enriched the debate.

For those who didn’t ask!:

As this blog sees things, the modernist project is not explicitly ideological, but it is extremely ambitious:  Make it new.  Start from the ground up, or go back to the foundations and take a really good look, and have the individual genius start building his own, new foundations (alone or in contact with others, such as the Bloomsbury Group).

It takes really talented individuals to pull this off; often individuals with previous exposure to tradition; young practitioners with enough talent and perseverance, as well as enough of a pedagogy to inherit and rebel against should they choose.

As this blog has noted, it’s not hard to witness a string of causation between high modernist aims and a lot of the modern and postmodern aimlessness we see all around us.  There sure are a lot of poseurs and would-be artists bobbing in the postmodern stew, left to sort out the entire world and their relation to it alone, or upon a stage (as alone and not alone as one can be).

They write these f**king art blurbs before they have any art!  What the f**k is this lady doing?:

From the comments on this piece:

‘The most useful definition of modernist fiction I’ve encountered comes from Brian McHale’s Postmodernist Fiction. He says modernist fiction tends to “foreground epistemological questions” such as “How can I interpret the world I’m part of? What is there to be known? Who knows it? What are the limits of that knowledge?” In contrast, postmodernist fiction tends to “foreground ontological questions” such as “What is a world? What kinds of worlds are there and how are they constituted? What happens when…boundaries between worlds are violated?’

The above can invite all manner of despair and isolation, and perhaps a deeper cynicism we see in this generation’s rather pervasive desire for fame and recognition.

The above can also exacerbate the spiritual and meaning-making demands individuals place upon the Marketplace, the Church, and in The Media and The Academy (where an authoritarian/totalitarian radical Left seeks to control institutions, institutions where a kind of Western secular humanism and standard-issue political idealism often dominates).

As I see it, I cannot call myself a believer in the questions the Catholic Church claims to to be able to answer, but many modern political and politico-philsophical movements are incomplete at best, and dangerously wrong at worst.

Ah well…there’s my two cents.

There’s good art to be found, of course, but like most well-made things, good art is relatively rare, its ultimate value and quality endlessly disputed, but perhaps, enduring.

Enduring…I like the sound of that.


Because you really didn’t ask:

Another video included at the link.

David Mamet underwent a conversion to conservatism in rather dramatic and public fashion a few years ago.  In leaving his liberal views behind, he’s no doubt become a heretic to some.  At the link, he hosts an interview at Il Forno in Santa Monica with Uncommon Knowledge’s Peter Robinson.

Here’s my take, for what it’s worth:

Born and raised in Chicago, Mamet seems pretty old-school and pretty tough.  He reminds me a bit of Norman Mailer, verbally pugilistic and combative, though unlike Mailer he’s taken a different turn into ju-jitsu, instead of boxing, as well as into a different set of motivating principles.  Alec Baldwin’s Death-Of-A-Salesman-on-steroids speech from Glengarry Glen Ross is a well-known example of Mamet’s work (demonstrating the kind of balls-out truth-telling dialogue from which Baldwin has possibly not recovered).  I’m guessing Mamet grew-up back before anti-bullying campaigns and excessive political correctness became the norm.

Mamet also cites Chicago School Of Economics neoclassical thinkers’ Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Austrian economist/political philosopher Friedrich Hayek as central to his conversion.  Hayek’s rather tragic view of limited resources and opportunity costs being the natural state of affairs for mankind is clearly an influence. This would generally lead one to eschew the Statist/rationalist idealism and socialist utopianism typically associated with many Left and liberal Left movements.

***As I understand it, Thomas Sowell, after becoming a young Marxist eventually became a young ex-Marxist, embracing a hard-bitten empiricism regarding outcomes and results, not the intentions, of economic and social policies.  See him discuss his later vision of human nature and political organization in a Conflict Of Visions.

Mamet cites the Bible, but mainly the Talmud as a source of wisdom and knowledge to draw upon as a guide for flawed human nature. Jewish folks in the U.S. have traditionally formed a reliably liberal/Democratic voting bloc, so unlike many Christian religious conservatives, they aren’t necessarily voting Republican.  There are no doubt many reasons for this, but to be sure, there are also many tales of neoconservatives ‘mugged’ out of the social sciences and policy-making halls of the liberal establishment into doubt and skepticism, some chased away by the New Left.  There is also a conservative Christian/Jewish pro-Israel alliance which has traditionally been strong on national defense (some fundamentals of that American/Israeli relationship may be changing).

Religious belief can ground one in a kind of traditional and tragic view of human nature.  This, say, as opposed to human nature understood as simply a blank slate or existentialist absurdity, or by some political movements as human clay to be molded with the right knowledge and right people in charge of our social institutions (they always seem to nominate themselves).  As Mamet discusses in the video, there are distinctions to be made between Talmudic justice and social justice.

I’m guessing he might agree there are distinctions to be made between abstract equality and equality under the law (the exception of Civil Rights and black folks held under the civil laws is discussed).  I’m also guessing he’d argue there are distinctions to be made between life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness on one hand, and liberation theology and/or individual freedom granted by a rights-based cohort in charge of government on the other.

Mamet also touches on the fact that the arts aren’t a political endeavor.  If writing a play is simply a didactic enterprise and/or a vehicle for deploying a political philosophy (Ayn Rand?), then I think the artist has probably failed in some fundamental way to show the audience/reader a unique truth which only that work of art has to show.  Didactic art can come across as clunky at best, pure propaganda at worst.

Personally, I tend to believe that politics, religion, convention and popular thinking all have trouble with the arts.

Anyways, this is just a brief summary.  Any thoughts or comments are welcome.

Feel free to highlight my ignorance.

A Bleak, Modern House-Four Poems

No thanks to living in planned communities upon someone else’s overall vision.: Roger Scruton In The City Journal: Cities For Living–Is Modernism Dead?Repost-Via Reason: ‘Salvador Allende’s Cybersocialist Command Center’…Cities should be magnets for creativity and culture? –From The Atlantic: Richard Florida On The Decline Of The Blue-Collar ManFrom Grist.Org Via The New Republic Via The A & L Daily: ‘Getting Past “Ruin Porn” In Detroit’… some people don’t want you to have the economic freedom to live in the suburbs: From Foreign Policy: ‘Urban Legends, Why Suburbs, Not Cities, Are The Answer’

A structure in the desert…not even a city Update On LACMA, Michael Heizer And The ‘Levitated Mass’-Modern Art And The Public;..where is modernism headed? Via Youtube: Justin, The Horse That Could Paint

Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’

Repost-William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’

Full post here.

Stern points out how important the Catholic Church, and one man in particular, were in transforming Irish immigrants from a hated, poor, dislocated immigrant class into something more in mid nineteenth-century America:

‘A hundred years ago and more, Manhattan’s tens of thousands of Irish seemed a lost community, mired in poverty and ignorance, destroying themselves through drink, idleness, violence, criminality, and illegitimacy.’

The Irish Catholic Church had brought a lot of its troubles with it, but opportunity was here, and the religion needed to change (the metaphysical debates may last for centuries but religion is woven into the culture, responding to the culture, of its time, usually only as good as its people and the decisions they make):

Hughes was outraged. He didn’t want Catholics to be second-class citizens in America as they had been in Ireland, and he thought he had a duty not to repeat the mistakes of the clergy in Ireland, who in his view had been remiss in not speaking out more forcefully against English oppression.’

This required a moral and psychological transformation that perhaps only religion could provide.  Education and job opportunities were key:

‘Faced with perhaps as many as 60,000 Irish children wandering in packs around New York City—not attending school, not working, not under any adult supervision—Hughes encouraged the formation of the Society for the Protection of Destitute Catholic Children, known as the Catholic Protectory, which was in a sense the forerunner of Boys Town.’

Eventually, criminals became policeman, trades were learned, politics was infiltrated and controlled through the big city machines.

***Many of the functions that charities, churches, and religious organizations perform will likely try and be co-opted by the government (the De Blasio coalitions no doubt see many things this way).  Interestingly, old-school Democrat, poor Brooklyn kid, and sociologist Daniel Patrick Moynihan made some interesting arguments about the dangers of such Statism.

Related On This Site:  But progressive policies do address needs, and reward people, just at great cost including potential threats to individual liberties, jobs, political stability and individual and fiscal responsibility, obviously.  Walter Russell Mead says the Great Society is over:  A Few Thoughts On Walter Russell Mead At The American Interest: “Why Blue Can’t Save The Inner Cities Part I”

Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Repost-Two Sunday Quotations By Albert Jay Nock in ‘Anarchist’s Progress’

Roger Scruton At The WSJ: ‘Memo To Hawking: There’s Still Room For God’ …Theodore Dalrymple In The City Journal: Atheism’s Problems..more progressive silliness.Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Repost-The Moral Decline Of A Nation?-Ross Douthat At The NY Times: ‘The Perils of Anti-Decadence’

Full piece here.

(This piece has been altered to reflect an accurate reading of Douthat’s piece. Better late than never. Original copies can be provided.)

There’s certainly been a lot of Kennedy talk in the air, lately, and Douthat makes the Aldous Huxley/C.S. Lewis case for moral decadence regarding the heroic elevation of JFK, and the Kennedy clan.

‘So it isn’t quite sufficient to say that the cult of John F. Kennedy is merely a case where admirable energies and impulses have been misdirected toward an unworthy hero figure. Rather, the biggest problems with the Kennedy era — the way that “missile gap” rhetoric led inexorably to the Bay of Pigs fiasco and then a near-nuclear war, the sleepwalking escalation in Vietnam, and then what my colleague David Brooks rightly calls “the mirage of religiosity” around the modern presidency that Kennedy’s rhetoric and martyrdom helped conjure up — are all characteristic and recurring problems with the attempt to resist, through politics, the trends and tendencies that books like “The Abolition of Man” and “Brave New World” discerned and warned against.’

And:

‘These problems are among the reasons why so many contemporary writers, mostly liberal and libertarian, are inclined to dismiss the very concept of decadence … or at least to say that while we probably wouldn’t want to go the full Mustapha Mond, that kind of danger is still extremely remote, and so long as growth continues, living standards rise, and equality advances, anything that’s lost along the way is probably well worth giving up.’

Click through.

Another addition: Just read Douthat’s article. He is critiquing something that progress and the creature comforts of a material culture provide and which both Huxley and Lewis warned against: A soporific attitude towards life because much immediate suffering has been vanquished. Our technology and progress can lead to a sleepy drift where we are happy to trade security for freedom because many of us don’t know any better, and don’t want to risk finding out.

JFK was a receptacle for national liberal greatness, and for a lot of Americans’ sense of civic duty, membership to the national identity, and perhaps cause for moral action like joining the Peace Corps. Such calls to ‘national greatness’ politics as in the case of JFK can be intended to take advantage of the sense of purpose such politics bring to individuals’ lives. This can lead to great error and consequences on down the road, especially surrounding the myth of politics. JFK admirers can be a rather deluded bunch when the facts of his Presidency are enumerated (to say nothing of the conspiracists) and a poor receptacle for such hopes and dreams.

There seems to me to be a deeply personal line of reasoning behind much of this argument, which might require an individual to enter into a complex relationship with God through church doctrine, or at least to recognize the dangers of false idols and the celebrification of our culture. We should be skeptical of such mythmaking and what ‘national greatness’ politics can do to our commitments in life. I can respect such an argument, even though I may not agree.

I should say it’s nice to have a contrarian voice around in the face of a popular, secular humanism promising ever more individual freedom, ever more equality, and ever more progress. Those goods will clearly come into conflict with one another. Douthat, as a conservative columnist, seems to be living up the the Buckley-esque mandate of standing athwart history yelling: ‘Stop.’

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A few more thoughts, for what it’s worth:

The progressive, activist Left seems perfectly happy to achieve its goals through charismatic, populist leaders engaged in majoritarian politics, often willing to push through ambitious laws impossible for even a competent technocracy to administer. This can easily go beyond science and wise policy-making into rabble-rousing street politics and a naive idealism wedded to the logic of political power.

Douthat, at least, gives me that courtesy of explaining his reasoning without immediately seeking control over my life through his political coalitions.

Of course, as Douthat points out, the decadence criticism would be applicable to the Right as well, and a surging conservative populism: Just repeating the names of Reagan, Churchill, and Calvin Coolidge doesn’t necessarily absolve one of one’s freedoms and responsibilities. Simply appealing to God and/or Ted Cruz comes with all the realities of human nature, policy-making, laws, and grubby politics, too. Skepticism is certainly warranted, and actions always speak louder than words.

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On that note:

Free-market libertarian Ira Stoll wrote ‘JFK, Conservative

Libertarian Virginia Postrel has a new book entitled ‘The Power Of Glamour: Longing And The Art Of Visual Persuasion.’ The Kennedys and their representation in the popular media and public mind certainly involves a lot of glamour. I like some of what she does:


The NY Times op-ed writer and a practicing Catholic? William Saletan and Ross Douthat At Slate: ‘Liberalism Is Stuck Halfway Between Heaven And Earth’…Douthat’s The Grand New PartyRoss Douthat At First Principles: ‘The Quest for Community in the Age of Obama: Nisbet’s Prescience’

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books Via The A & L Daily: ‘Rescuing The Enlightenment From Its Exploiters’… Behavioral economics and libertarian paternalism and below all that some liberal totalitarianism (the personal is political crowd)…Ross Douthat Responds To Paul Krugman At The NY Times: ‘Can We Be Sweden?’

Are these the enemies of the future?: Virginia Postrel At Bloomberg: ‘How The Elites Built America’s Economic Wall’

Repost-From The Spiked Review Of Books: ‘Delving Into The Mind Of The Technocrat’

Walter Russell Mead takes a look at the blue model (the old progressive model) from the ground up in NYC to argue that it’s simply not working.  Check out his series at The American Interest.

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’

Monday Quotation From Charles Kesler And A Few Thoughts on ConservatismCharles Murray At The New Criterion: ‘Belmont & Fishtown’

Repost-Roger Kimball At Arma Virumque: ‘Santayana On Liberalism And Other Matters Of Interest’

Full essay here.

Worth a read:

‘My point is only that Santayana — the Spanish-born, Boston-bred, Harvard educated cosmopolite — stands out as an unusual specimen in the philosophical fraternity. He wrote beautifully, for one thing, commanding a supple yet robust prose that was elegant but rarely precious or self-infatuated’

and Kimball on Santayana’s interaction with William James:

‘Temperamentally, the two men were complete opposites — James bluff, hearty, the thorough New England pragmatist in manner as well as philosophical outlook: Santayana the super-refined, sonnet-writing, exquisitely disillusioned Catholic Spaniard. In many ways, Santayana was closer in spirit to William’s brother Henry.’

For what it’s worth, I recall a deeply Catholic lament and longing in the Spanish character, which can be combined with a kind of clear-eyed realism and stoicism, but not always.  The faith runs deep in St Teresa and her passions, and despite Miguel de Unamuno’s rationalist influences, I remember a general preference for wisdom in the Tragic Sense Of Life.

Something clicked regarding Spain when I finally visited the Escorial outside of Madrid after many months of being in that city.  It’s a grand castle of course, but it also struck me as rather plain, barracks-like at times.  Very austere.  It was explained that the Escorial was both a royal palace and a monastery:

————————–

Quote found here:

‘Philip’s instructions to Herrera stipulated “simplicity of form, severity in the whole, nobility without arrogance, majesty without ostentation,” qualities clearly illustrated by the long sweep of these facades.’

That Catholic influence can also get a little intense:

‘El Escorial was built to honor St. Lawrence, who was burned on a grill. In order to remind the citizens of his martyrdom and sacrifice, the entire building is a grill. Yes, it is shaped like a grill. There are paintings of St. Lawrence on a grill, grills are carved into the doorways, the weather vain is in the shape of a grill, the backs of chairs are supposed to be grills, the list literally could go on forever.’

Maybe they got a little carried away during the Reconquest.

Any thoughts and comments are welcome.

Related On This Site: Wednesday Poem: Wallace Stevens-Anecdote of The JarSome Sunday Quotations: (On) Kant, Locke, and Pierce

British conservatism with a fair amount of German idealist influence: Repost-Roger Scruton In The American Spectator Via A & L Daily: ‘Farewell To Judgment’

Via The University Of British Colombia: Kant-Summary Of Essential PointsFrom Bryan Magee’s Talking Philosophy On Youtube: Geoffrey Warnock On KantSunday Quotation: From Jonathan Bennett On Kant

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?’

Medieval Times-Roaming The Gloom With Theory: Interview With Michel Hollebecq

Interview sent in by a reader with French novelist Michel Hollebecq on his new novel, ‘Soumission,’ which, in his fictional world, imagines a soon-to-be Muslim candidate defeating a French nationalist candidate, followed by an ultimate submission of French society to Islamic law and political leadership.

Interesting discussion at the link (including a deflation of (R)acism as critical theory).

‘But now you’re asking words to mean something they don’t. Racism is simply when you don’t like somebody because he belongs to another race, because he hasn’t got the same color skin that you do, or the same features, et cetera. You can’t stretch the word to give it some higher meaning.’

On some of Hollebecq’s thinking behind the creative work:

‘Yes. It has to happen sometime and it might as well be now. In this sense, too, I am a Comtean. We are in what he calls the metaphysical stage, which began in the Middle Ages and whose whole point was to destroy the phase that preceded it. In itself, it can produce nothing, just emptiness and unhappiness. So yes, I am hostile to Enlightenment philosophy, I need to make that perfectly clear. ‘

Whoa, at least he’s relatively up front about that.

Isn’t it possible to reject Hollebecq’s modernity-is-dead worldview AND also put the universal claims of progressive, collectivist, ideological, postmodern, multicultural feminist discontents into their proper perspective…without suggesting the end of the modern world and some presumed next stage to be reached?

And as for discussions of art:  Is the book worth a read?

*******I’ve never been to Medieval Times, but I am told there will be flagons of mead and tournaments of strength:

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From the comments:

‘Those of you regarding e.g. feminism as somehow an antidote to the patriarchal impulses in enlightenment thinking or Islam, or in broader terms postmodern political and social movements as offering a ‘third way’, something totally new and immune from this dynamic of competitive decay and decline, forget the fact that these movements are themselves the most recent outgrowths of the emancipative instinct, one of the core features deeply rooted in Western thought ever since the renaissance, as Barzun described. As an Asian living in the West myself, I have to tell you that this instinct is simply not present as a core element in other civilisations, and is indeed distinctive about the West. That Japan and Korea, and for that matter every non-western nation, modernised without a countercultural ‘values’ rebellion is indicative in this regard. The west is going to be without allies as it goes with a whimper.

Under such a depressing worldview, hope is provided for by religion and mysticism, a return to medievalism. It is sad, because the West will truly die as it numbs its own most deeply embedded instincts in the process of conversion, but the mysticism is a form of hope for the masses, who never particularly cared for high ideals anyway.

Houellebecq seems to channel Spengler, who hardly anybody reads nowadays. But that such an interesting thinker is hardly glanced at today is an indictment of us, not of him.’

Also, from the comments.  Hubristic, but there’s something to the grandiosity and deflated nihilism:

‘This is why I love French writers and thinkers. Fascinating to read even if they are always wrong.’

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Robert Merry took a look at Oswald Spengler:

‘So it is with America and Europe. Hence, an analysis of American decline must lead to questions about Western decline. And an analysis of Western decline must lead to Oswald Spengler, the German intellectual who in 1918 produced the first volume of his bombshell work Der Untergang des Abendlandes (The Decline of the West), followed by the second volume in 1922. Spengler’s thesis forced his readers to look at history through an entirely new prism. They did, and he enjoyed a surge of influence. But the man and his work are in eclipse today, and there’s little evidence that scholars pondering American decline have consulted the dark musings of this German romantic or his overarching theory of history.’

As much as I’m hoping for a break-up of Islamist ideology, I suppose I’m hoping for some light into these dark, post-Enlightenment corners as well.  Something other than the existential void and the ideas and ideologies which so often rush in.

I have to give Hollebecq some credit, too, for as he points out, the major religions have been dealing with questions of purpose, suffering, telos, why, what, when, and the stuff human nature for a lot longer time…
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Denis Dutton suggested art could head towards Darwin (and may offer new direction from the troubles of the modern art aimlessness and shallow depth…the money and the fame) Review of Denis Dutton’s ‘The Art Instinct’…

Roger Sandall, Australian critic of romantic primitivism and the Western’s Left’s penchant for the Noble Savage: His home page where his essays can be found. Here’s “The Rise Of The Anthropologues“ and…

Robert Hughes, Australian and often fierce critic of modernism and post-modernism.

***I should add that Herzog’s ‘Into The Abyss‘ was worth my time. Herzog is probably not a proponent of the death penalty, but I thought he left me to decide what I thought, and he didn’t flinch from the crime, the tragedy and the loss.

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?’

Sunday Quotation: Edmund Burke On The French Revolution

Catholics, Punditry, Progressives & Rubes-Ross Douthat At The NY Times

Full piece here.

Douthat responds to E.J. Dionne’s ‘The Reformicons‘ and Andrew Sullivan’s ‘Reform Conservatism.’ It’s interesting to note that Dionne is a liberal Catholic progressive Democrat (concern-trolling at its finest), and Sullivan a gay, Catholic British emigre, aligning with progressives on many social and political issues (Obama is the ‘true conservative‘), and Douthat a more conservative Catholic columnist for the NY Times, who’s written a book on the subject ‘Grand New Party.’

This seems a pretty BosWash and Catholic affair.

Perhaps Dionne and Sullivan are gazing with warier eyes upon religious and social conservatives now that the progressive coalition in power may be running out of steam, and Obama’s approval numbers are running lower lately.

Douthat:

‘The reality is that, except in truly exceptional cases, our politics is better off in the long run when views held by large proportions of the public are represented in some form by one of our two parties. Right now (to run down a partial list of divisive cultural issues), a plurality of Americans want the immigration rate decreased; about half the country opposes affirmative action; more than half supports the death penalty; about half of Americans call themselves pro-life. Support for gay marriage and marijuana legalization has skyrocketed, but in both cases about 40 percent of the country is still opposed. Even independent of my own (yes, populist and socially conservative) views, I think these people, these opinions, deserve democratic representation: Representation that leads and channels and restrains, representation that recognizes trends and trajectories and political realities, but also representation that makes them feel well-served, spoken for, and (in the case of issues where they’re probably on the losing side) respected even in defeat’

The wheels are turning, and like politicians, many a pundit’s limp body has been pulled from the gears of electoral politics and predictions about the future.

Predictions are hard, especially about the future.

You’re Free Now-From The Volokh Conspiracy: ‘Your Side Tries to Impose Its Beliefs — My Side Seeks Justice’

Full post here.

Volokh reacts to a U.S. News & World Report article with ‘justice’ on its side.

No, that’s not parody.

Volokh:

‘The focus on Big Bad Catholics when many of the phenomena discussed in the article — e.g., the “campaign [in] the statehouse” by “the forces arrayed against women’s right to self-determination, which I take it refers to restrictions on abortion — stem more from the views of non-Catholics as well as the Catholics. The lack of acknowledgment that about half of women don’t share the views on abortion that the author thinks the “sisterhood” shares.’

Maybe we’re a bit out-of-whack in our public discourse these days.

On that note, there was a recent NPR story about a young man overcoming the religious strictures of the Jehovah’s witnesses to become part of a ‘nomadic’ hipsterish-folk duo (to be fair, they have some talent):

‘During a recent conversation on Morning Edition, Berube talks about how what he found in Wisconsin and with Beaupre would challenge his faith as a Jehovah’s Witness — and change the course of his life. The two now live a nomadic lifestyle and say they’re excited about their chosen homelessness’

Chosen homelessness!

Pastor Terry Jones and a few Westboro Baptist church stragglers should be happy to hear the news:  A mere head-dunking into the river of secular humanism and they could be washed clean.  Perhaps they can find salvation in the afterglow of love, music, and another day on the open road, the faces of Woody Guthrie and/or Pete Seeger faintly visible in the Northern sky, offering some small comfort.

My theory (it must be true) runs that besides staying relevant to a younger audience, some folks at NPR actually need the blood of young hipsters and English majors on which to feed.

All kidding aside, who needs a good economy when you’ve got justice, history and progress on your side?

Did the 60’s counter-culture and the conservative counter-counter culture both win, in a sense?

Christopher Hitchens, William F. Buckley and Peter Robinson discuss below:

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Related On This Site:  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”

I’m drafting on Charles Murray: The Hoover Institution Via Youtube: Charles Murray On ‘Coming Apart’

Free speech and Muslimst From Kenanmalik.com: ‘Introduction: How Salman Rushdie Changed My Life’… Via YouTube: ‘Christopher Hitchens Vs. Ahmed Younis On CNN (2005)’…  Mohammad Cartoonist Lars Vilks HeadbuttedDuring Lecture’From The OC Jewish Experience: ‘UC Irvine Muslim Student Union Suspended’From Volokh: ‘”South Park” Creators Warned (Threatened) Over Mohammed’… More From Spiegel Online After The Westergaard Attacks Via A & L Daily: ‘The West Is Choked By Fear’

A Few Thoughts On NPR And Current Liberal Establishment Thinking Under Obama

From FIRE.org-’Federal Government Mandates Unconstitutional Speech Codes At Colleges And Universities Nationwide’

Greg Lukianoff At FIRE.Org: ‘Emily Bazelon And The Danger Of Bringing “Anti-Bullying” Laws To Campus’

Youtube Via Reason TV-Judge Napolitano ‘Why Taxation is Theft, Abortion is Murder, & Government is Dangerous’

As Gillespie points out, many libertarians are indifferent or even hostile to religion.  Napolitano, however, merges a common defense of individual liberties most libertarians can get behind with his life as practicing Catholic and an advocate of Natural Law (he’s pro-life).   He mentions a tradition he sees stretching from Aristotle to Aquinas to John Locke to Thomas Jefferson onward to the present day.  On his view, our freedoms come from our humanity, and our humanity is cast in God’s image.  God is free and so humans are free, and thus humans derive their free will from God and the Natural Law.  This freedom acts a strong line of defense against the interests of the anti-theists, and the oft state-building secular, progressive Left who will seek to enshrine their ideals within the power and expansion of the government (from abortion to public assistance to the growth of definitions of liberty that also include women and black folks).

Clearly our commonwealth and Constitution create no religious test for office, and do so in order to get around the constant religious strife and persecution going on in a Europe which so many fled (including the Puritans, the Calvinists, the Huguenots and the waves of 19th century onward Irish/Italian Catholic immigrants with which I’m more familiar).

Napolitano then ends up using a broader defense of liberty against both conservatives and liberals who seek State power to further their interests and who can violate due process, and probably brings him back around to the libertarianism he’s known for.

Surprisingly interesting discussion.

***And as regards making laws that enslave some, Napolitano mentions a higher law of Aquinas’ ‘right reason.’  Here’s a quote from J.S. Mill, whose utilitarianism is often used as the best argument I’ve heard for the freedom and opportunity of women and minorities:

“The likings and dislikings of society, or of some powerful portion of it, are thus the main thing which has practically determined the rules laid down for general observance, under the penalties of law or opinion.  And in general, those who have been in advance of society in thought and feeling, have left this condition of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into conflict with it in some of its details.  They have occupied themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a law to individuals.  They preferred endeavoring to alter the feelings of mankind on the particular points on which they were themselves heretical, rather than make common cause in defence of freedom, with heretics generally.  The only case in which the higher ground has been taken on principle and maintained with consistency, by any but an individual here and there, is that of religious belief:…”

******I should add that I don’t view taxation as theft as long as those governing maintain the consent of the governed (which requires vigilance and participation on both sides).  I believe the government does have a role to play in the common defense, local government in local education, in some financial regulation, and in securing private property.  I don’t think it follows that such a defense naturally advocates the progressive vision (and more importantly what so often lies beneath it given human nature, especially in big cities: union bosses forcing membership, graft, waste, some corruption, federal bureaucrats in every localized educational setting, distorted markets and the distressing incentives of the Welfare State…it is a road to financial and political dysfunction we can’t afford).

Related On This Site:  Another Catholic, fighting Obamacare’s statism:  From Youtube Via Althouse-’Paul Ryan: Hiding Spending Doesn’t Reduce Spending’

How does Natural Law Philosophy deal with these problems, and those of knowledge?…where black liberation theology and academic postmodernism meet religious impulses and Natural Law Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”Repost-William Stern At The City Journal: ‘How Dagger John Saved New York’s Irish’…more progressive silliness.Heather MacDonald At The City Journal: ‘The Sidewalks Of San Francisco’

Leo Strauss and the philosophy of Natural Right (which includes some hermetic, Nietzschean baggage).  He will likly make you think about the consent of the governed and the threats to it, the uses and misuses of reason, and man’s relationship with nature.  Harry Jaffa At The Claremont Institute: ‘Leo Strauss, the Bible, and Political Philosophy’Via An Emailer: Some Criticism Of Leo Strauss?Some Tuesday Quotations From Leo StraussFrom Peter Berkowitz At Harvard: ‘The Reason Of Revelation: The Jewish Thought Of Leo Strauss’

I’m not sure the Chicago School has put its finger on many causes and problems of poverty quite like religion can, but they very much point out the mistakes and problems of the progressive, statist, and liberal banners of social justice and rights based governance which interferes with the individual.  Very much worth reading: A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’Repost-From Fora Via YouTube: ‘Thomas Sowell and a Conflict of Visions’

Using J.S. Mill, moving away from religion?: From The Harvard Educational Review-A Review Of Martha Nussbaum’s ‘Cultivating Humanity: A Classical Defense of Reform in Liberal Education.’…Repost: Martha Nussbaum Channels Roger Williams In The New Republic: The First Founder

Singer takes utilitarianism and runs with it: Peter Singer discusses Hegel and Marx

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