Tag Archives: Philosophy

Abortion, Tomlinson, and Moral Midgets

A few days ago, an author by the name of Patrick S Tomlinson, posed a trolley problem, which, in a huge bout of Dunning-Krueger, he claimed eviscerates the pro-life argument.

You can read his argument in full here, but the basic gist is: if given a choice between saving a thousand frozen embryos or a 5-year-old from afire, every pro-lifer will either equivocate or choose to save the 5-year-old. Of course, many pro-lifers then responded that they would save the embryos, invalidating his point, and he showed his intellectual maturity by calling them monsters, thinking that was a reasonable argument. I personally tweeted that I would save just 1 embryo before I would save Mr. Tomlinson, thereby proving, by his own logic, that he was worth less than an embryo and should be killed, to which he reacted predictably. I tweeted some other stuff he didn’t respond to because they showed his argument to be foolish.

That was the end of it until tonight, when one Heidi asked one Lauren if she had a response. She responded, that tagged me in saying much smarter people such as myself could answer better. Being a sucker for flattery (thank you for the compliment, Lauren), I couldn’t resist responding, but decided it would be easier to do so by blog than by Twitter. So here we go.

Ben Shapiro already responded, and his response was okay. Tomlinson then proved the full heft of his intellectual integrity and honesty by then refusing to engage the argument, then blocking Shapiro. He further displayed his overwhelming philosophical openness by whining about people who pointed out flaws in his little puzzle I don’t expect this to have any impact on Tomlinson (though I plan to tweet it at him), or those ideologically blinded, morally retarded, or just plain stupid enough to agree with his little trolley trap but hopefully it will help those questioning.

Before I begin, these kinds of puzzles are often given by those with good verbal abilities to trap people. It can be hard to see the trap because their high verbal abilities conceal things; leading you into thinking incorrectly based on their hidden presuppositions. Never concede the presuppositions until you have figured out what they are. A good way to do this is to switch to equivalent terms. In this case I did so:

We can see when we replace the terms that there’s something wrong with the argument. Almost everybody would save their own child over 1000 strangers (and most people would look askance at someone who too readily agreed to part with their own child) or a healthy child over 1000 dying elderly people.

We can see that Tomlinson himself would rather spend money on plants and Mustang’s than on saving Africans from Malaria or starvation. By his own logic, Tomlinson himself values the life of a plant more than the life of an African. He values slightly higher acceleration over Africans. Tomlinson is a very cold, ruthless person is her not?

No, because everybody does these kinds of things. Those who don’t are a cut above and end up sainted.

So what are the problems:

Action vs. Theory

The first trick the question plays is to set up an elaborate story of a burning building and a crying child. YOU CAN ONLY SAVE ONE! This story is meant to play on your emotions, to get you thinking like you are actually there. Quick, you see a crying, frightened child and a metal box, which do you save? A crying child about to die provokes a strong emotional response. Nobody in that situation would stand still for a minute and carefully ponder the ethical ramifications of saving a child or embryos, they’d just grab wailing kid that’s hogging their attention and run. He’s trying to force you into immediate emotional response, then acting like this applies to a moral-philosophical question. There is no basis for claiming a split-second decision is equivalent to a well thought-out moral philosophy of life.

Remove the story, remove the immediacy and the loaded wording and the question suddenly becomes: either one 5-year-old child or 1000 unborn children will perish. Which would it be more ethical to let die? Now the answer’s not so obvious and requires thought. I’d bet pro-life folks would be a lot more split on this.

Concentric Circles of Morality

This then touches on another matter Tomlinson has artfully concealed: Moral distance. Interpersonal morality is different the closer the person in question is to you. Anybody who neglects to feed their own child is a moral monster and almost everyone agrees they should be jailed. If a neighbour child was going without food most everyone would feed him, and we’d probably look down on or criticize someone who didn’t, but we wouldn’t call them a monster and certainly wouldn’t demand they be jailed. You can feed a child in Africa for less than your own child or your neighbour, yet most don’t give to World Vision. (Sponsor a child). Many of you won’t even click that link. This is normal, we wouldn’t even look askance at someone who doesn’t give to World Vision, let alone actively try to punish them.

This is because your moral responsibility is greater to those near you than to those farther from you (by whatever metric that distance is measured).

In Tomlinson’s story, he artfully forces the moral closeness of the crying child right in front of you compared to the sterile farness of embryos in a cold metal box. The question suddenly changes if you change the moral closeness. Would you spend $3340 to save the unborn child you’ve been trying to conceive for years, your only chance at a child, from a miscarriage, or donate $3340 to World Vision? I’m sure most pro-abortion people would suddenly find themselves valuing embryos more than 5-year-olds in that situation.

Situational, Relative, and Absolute Moral Worth

The next trick he pulls is to apply to confuse absolute, relative, and situational moral worth. He assumes into the question and the follow-up that because you would save a child about to burn to death over a thousand embryos that that is a guide to the absolute moral worth of an individual.

My little joke earlier illustrates the problem nicely: I dislike Tomlinson for being intellectually dishonest and for supporting the murder of children by the millions, so I’d save an embryo over him. Does that mean I think the embryo has some absolute moral worth more than Tomlinson? No, I just think he’s a evil dick and like embryos more than him.

There’s absolute moral worth: all lives are equally valuable before God (or before Athe if you don’t believe in God).

Then there’s relative moral worth: Anybody with a soul and an ounce of moral character would think to themselves: “my child is my child and is therefore worth more to me than an indeterminate, but very high amount of other people’s children.”  Yet that doesn’t mean that in absolute sense one child is worth more than another.

Then there’s situational moral worth: Most people, including many elderly cancer patients would think to themselves: “these elderly cancer patients have lived long lives and will die soon. This healthy child will live for decades to come. We’ll save the child.” That doesn’t mean that the child is somehow absolutely more morally worthy than dying old people. It’s just the current circumstances dictate who we save.

Change the relative and situational moral worth and the question and answers change: do you save a 1000 embryos, including your dozens of you own, your only hope for children, or do you save the cruel little brat who’s laughing as he set the clinic on fire while trying to kill those embryos for fun?

Moral Worth and Killing

There is an unspoken argument Tomlinson denies making and doesn’t come right out and say, but implies heavily and is trying to make you emotionally feel without having to come out and say it because, at some, level, even Tomlinson has to know that it is utterly ridiculous. This argument, the argument that the pro-abortion argument rests on, is that if there is a difference in value between a child and a embryo, then it is alright to kill the unborn. Tomlinson, and most other abortion supporters, won’t make is that an unborn child is without value, because anybody with a shred of humanity knows there is at least some value in the unborn.

Instead, they say it is of lesser worth, then leap from lesser worth to morally acceptable to kill with impunity, and hope you won’t catch the leap, maybe not even catching it themselves. Tomlinson denies making this, saying he’s against abortion, but his argument right from the go is that pro-life people (ie. those wanting to restrict abortion) don’t care about the unborn but only desire to control woman (for some vague unprovided reason). His whole argument, unstated but very clear, is that the only reason to be against murdering the unborn is that you hate women and desire power over them for some unknown reason. Contra his objections, this does not seem to be imputing any value to the unborn.

Even if it is ceded that an unborn child is of lesser absolute moral value than a born child, (something I won’t cede, but that Shapiro weakly did) that does not in itself make abortion morally acceptable. If the elderly cancer patient is of lesser moral worth than the healthy child, that may morally allow me to save the child instead of the cancer patient, it does not morally allow me to shoot the old cancer patient.

To make abortion morally acceptable you have to show that it has no value (which Tomlinson rejects) or show that the difference in value is great enough that killing an unborn child for convenience is permissible while killing a born child is not. Tomlinson does not even attempt to do so, he just accuses his opponents of bad faith and hopes the emotional correlations he builds will carry this implicit argument without him having to make it.

Action vs Inaction

Following from the above: abortion is the killing of the unborn. In his story, the embryos are dying. There is a moral difference between allowing someone to die, particularly if you can’t save them or have to choose, and killing something. Allowing embryos to die makes zero logical impact on whether killing them is justified.

Utilitarianism

All the above can be linked to one major moral flaw, the philosophical hobgoblin that eats the minds of morally stunted rationalists: Utilitarianism. Look past the fancy language and big words and utilitarianism is essentially stripping away man’s humanity and reducing him to units of pleasure and pain (perfect for our inhuman modern society), then doing cold calculations on how various actions allocate units of pleasure and pain, then deciding to take the action that gives the most overall plaeasure. You can see this inhuman calculation most readily when they start talking about animals and meat-eating, and making mathematical conversions of animal pain to human pain.

Trolley problems are usually interesting because they bring up deep philosophical problems. The classic brings up the relative weight of killing the fat man by action versus allowing 5 others to die by inaction. Are people as morally responsible for inaction as for action? If not, how much difference is there? It’s these deeper issues that really get you to think. Strip away the deeper issues and a trolley problems becomes a utilitarian calculus of do you save one replaceable human unit or five replaceable human units. Five is more than one so you obviously do what is most efficient with your replaceable human units. This interchangeability is the crux upon which Tomlinson’s argument rests, yet he cloaks it behind an emotional story to prevent you from seeing it.

Tomlinson’s argument rests on the implicit assumption of utilitarian interchangeability. He assumes that if you value one life in a particular circumstance over a thousand lives in another particular circumstance, you therefore assign an objectively higher moral value to the former over the latter. If you value both embryos and children as lives worth preserving and protecting, you must therefore view them as morally exchangeable sacs of utilitarian units. One embryo for one child. One fat guy for one guy tied to a railroad track. One unit of utility for one other unit of utility. All are interchangeable.  If they are not interchangeable, you must value one less than the other, they must not think them morally equivalent.

This stripping away of humanity if what Tomlinson’s argument, and many modern moral arguments, rest upon. This child is not a crying child in need of rescue from a fire pulling at your virtue, he is one unit of 70 life-years to be saved. If you do not act exactly the same to an embryo as to this unit of 70 life-years, you must place lesser absolute value on the embryo. The circumstances of the life-unit, your relation to the life-unit, your own virtue, your own emotions, none of it matters, this is the cold calculus of comparing life units.

Morality can not be removed from its circumstances. This is why Tomlinson made up that whole story to put the argument in specific moral context and circumstances to best elicit the moral response that bolstered his argument. Once he elicited that moral response, he then strips the moral context away and introduces a cold utilitarian calculus. You did not save the embryos, therefore they must be of less value.

Nobody sees this magic trick because he pulled it off deftly and we’ve been conditioned through countless abstract moral problems involving switches, trolleys, and lying to axe murderers to view morality as inhuman, contextless, calculations of utilitarian value.

Human morality can not be compared as numbers on a spreadsheet. It exists in context. After a moral decision has been placed in a specific context, it can not then be removed from that context to suddenly become an abstract, absolute, objective arbiter of moral value.

Just War and Breivik

A couple of Ask.fm questions and a Twitter convo with Mandrake have prompted me to post on just war and Brievik.

Just war has two aspects jus ad bellum and jus in bello. Jus ad bellum governs whether a particular military conflict is justified, while jus in bello regulates proper action in war. I should note that I reject the concept international law, as it violates subsidiarity, as international organization aren’t sovereign and therefore can’t make law, and as law is and should be made by a government of a people for that particular people, making one set of laws applicable to differing peoples is harmful. So I am talking about moral law here, not ‘legal’ law.

Before we even get to just war, we must define war. War is conflict between nations, for a war to be a war it must be waged by a people against another people, not by a person; if a person is waging war on their own, they are simply committing murder, not committing war.

For a war to be just a state of war must be entered by the people. To do this a legitimate authority over a people must declare the war on behalf of the people he represents. Someone who is not an authority for his people can not declare a war. This declaration need not necessarily be a formal declaration of war. A surprise or pre-emptive attack may be just declaration of war depending on the circumstance. (I am unsure on the question of whether an illegitimate authority can justly declare war on the people he has authority over; it will require more pondering).

For a declaration of war to be just, it must meet three conditions:

First, it must be defensive, either in defense of your own nation, in defence of another nation, or in defence of justice. Defence is not used in its strictest sense, and goes beyond simply warding off an invasion. For example, an invasion to rescue a national citizen kidnapped while visiting a foreign nation would be a valid defence of the nation, while an invasion to stop mass murder or to punish the guilty may be a valid defence of justice.

Second, the war must have some real chance of success. If a war would have no realistic chance of success, then the war is unnecessary, and would therefore be unjust. A small chance of success is still a real chance.

Finally, war must be proportional. The expected benefits of a war must be greater than the expected evils of war.

Once in war jus in bello should be followed:

First two principles are necessity and proportionality, unnecessary violence is to be avoided and violence enacted should not be disproportionate to the goals.

The third is the avoidance of deliberately targeting non-combatants. Violence should only be enacted upon legitimate military targets.

Finally, there is the proper treatment of POW’s. It should be noted here, that spies, saboteurs, and the like are not POW’s and can be dealt with harshly.

Those are the basics of just war.

So, now we get to Breivik. I think Breivik did have a just cause for war; the rapes, violence, and slow genocide of his people by foreigners and hostile elites are just causes for war, but he was not carrying out a just war.

The first reason was that he was not engaging in war. He acted alone, not as a part of a people; there was no war, simply murder. As well, he was not a legitimate authority, so his act of ‘war’ could not be a legitimate declaration of war to begin a war.

Secondly, his actions had no real chance of success. Given that propaganda outlets are almost entirely in the hands of his enemies, the most realistic outcome was that his actions would actively hinder his cause.

He also failed to meet jus in bello principles. The targets of his attacks were not legitimate military targets. Given the nature of the conflict in Norway, I think a legitimate case could be made that the ruling elite and politicians are legitimate military targets, but the spawn of the ruling elites were not. He should have targeted the politicians, media, and bureaucrats, not their children.

A just war in Norway, would require the Norwegian people, or at least a significant minority of them, to have (or appoint) a legitimate authority to declare war on behalf of their community in order to expel (not genocide) the foreign invaders and remove the internal traitors supporting them from positions of power.

If this community can not be found, no amount of lone wolf attacks will matter. The Norwegian people will, sadly, have chosen their own subjugation and extinction.

End of the World

Chapters 7 & 8 of Chesterton’s the Everlasting Man are one of the best things I’ve read in a while. Here’s an excerpt:

For the shepherds were dying because their gods were dying. Paganism lived upon poetry; that poetry already considered under the name of mythology. But everywhere, and especially in Italy, it had been a mythology and a poetry rooted in the countryside; and that rustic religion had been largely responsible for the rustic happiness. Only as the whole society grew in age and experience, there began to appear that weakness in all mythology already noted in the chapter under that name. This religion was not quite a religion. In other words, this religion was not quite a reality. It was the young world’s riot with images and ideas like a young man’s riot with wine or love-making; it was not so much immoral as irresponsible; it had no foresight of the final test of time. Because it was creative to any extent it was credulous to any extent. It belonged to the artistic side of man, yet even considered artistically it had long become overloaded and entangled. The family trees sprung from the seed of Jupiter were a jungle rather than a forest; the claims of the gods and demigods seemed like things to be settled rather by a lawyer or a professional herald than by a poet. But it is needless to say that it was not only in the artistic sense that these things had grown more anarchic. There had appeared in more and more flagrant fashion that flower of evil that is really implicit in the very seed of nature-worship, however natural it may seem. I have said that I do not believe that natural worship necessarily begins with this particular passion; I am not of the De Rougemont school of scientific folk-lore. I do not believe that mythology must begin with eroticism. But I do believe that mythology must end in it. I am quite certain that mythology did end in it. Moreover, not only did the poetry grow more immoral, but the immorality grew more indefensible. Greek vices, oriental vices, hints of the old horrors of the Semitic demons began to fill the fancies of decaying Rome, swarming like flies on a dung-heap. The psychology of it is really human enough, to anyone who will try that experiment of seeing history from the inside. There comes an hour in the afternoon when the child is tired of ‘pretending’; when he is weary of being a robber or a Red Indian. It is then that he torments the cat. There comes a time in the routine of an ordered civilization when the man is tired at playing at mythology and pretending that a tree is a maiden or that the moon made love to a man. The effect of this staleness is the same everywhere; it is seen in all drug-taking and dram-drinking and every form of the tendency to increase the dose. Men seek stranger sins or more startling obscenities as stimulants to their jaded sense. They seek after mad oriental religions for the same reason. They try to stab their nerves to life, if it were with the knives of the priests of Baal. They are walking in their sleep and try to wake themselves up with nightmares.

At that stage even of paganism therefore the peasant songs and dances sound fainter and fainter in the forest. For one thing the peasant civilization was fading, or had already faded from the whole countryside. The Empire at the end was organized more and more on that servile system which generally goes with the boast of organization; indeed it was almost as servile as the modern schemes for the organizations of industry. It is proverbial that what would once have been a peasantry came a mere populace of the town dependent for bread and circuses; which may again suggest to some a mob dependent upon doles and cinemas. In this as in many other respects, modern return to heathenism has been a return not even the heathen youth but rather to the heathen old age. But causes of it were spiritual in both cases; and especially the spirit of paganism had departed with its familiar spirits. The heart had gone out of it with its household gods, who went along with the gods of the garden and the field and the forest. The Old Man of the Forest was too old; he was already dying. It is said truly in a sense that Pan died because Christ was born. It is almost as true in another sense that men knew that Christ was born because Pan was already dead. A void was made by the vanishing of the whole mythology of mankind, which would have asphyxiated like a vacuum if it had not been filled with theology. But the point for the moment is that the mythology could not have lasted like a theology in any case. Theology is thought, whether we agree with it or not. Mythology was never thought, and nobody could really agree with it or disagree with it. It was a mere mood of glamour and when the mood went it could not be recovered. Men not only ceased to believe in the gods, but they realized that they had never believed in them. They had sung their praises; they had danced round their altars.

They had played the flute; they had played the fool. So came the twilight upon Arcady and the last notes of the pipe sound sadly from the beechen grove. In the great Virgilian poems there is already something of the sadness; but the loves and the household gods linger in lovely lines like that which Mr. Belloc took for a test of understanding; incipe Parve Puer risu cognoscere matrem. But with them as with us, the human family itself began to break down under servile organization and the herding of the towns. The urban mob became enlightened; that is it lost the mental energy that could create myths. All round the circle of the Mediterranean cities the people mourned for the loss of gods and were consoled with gladiators. And meanwhile something similar was happening to that intellectual aristocracy of antiquity that had been walking about and talking at large ever since Socrates and Pythagoras. They began to betray to the world the fact that they were walking in a circle and saying the same thing over and over again. Philosophy began to be a joke; it also began to be a bore. That unnatural simplification of everything into one system or another, which we have noted as the fault of the philosopher, revealed at once its finality and its futility. Everything was virtue or everything was happiness or everything was fate or everything was good or everything was bad; anyhow, everything was everything and there was no more to be said; so they said it.

Everywhere the sages had degenerated into sophists; that is, into hired rhetoricians or askers of riddles. It is one of the symptoms of this that the sage begins to turn not only into a sophist but into a magician. A touch of oriental occultism is very much appreciated in the best houses. As the philosopher is already a society entertainer, he may as well also be a conjurer. Many moderns have insisted on the smallness of that Mediterranean world; and the wider horizons that might have awaited it with the discovery of the other continents. But this is an illusion; one of the many illusions of materialism. The limits that paganism had reached in Europe were the limits of human existence; at its best it had only reached the same limits anywhere else. The Roman stoics did not need any Chinamen to teach them stoicism. The Pythagoreans did not need any Hindus to teach them about recurrence or the simple life or the beauty of being a vegetarian. In so far as they could get these things from the East, they had already got rather too much of them from the East. The Syncretists were as convinced as Theosophists that all religions are really the same. And how else could they have extended philosophy merely by extending geography? It can hardly be proposed that they should learn a purer religion from the Aztecs or sit the feet of the Incas of Peru. All the rest of the world was a welter of barbarism. It is essential to recognize that the Roman Empire was recognized as the highest achievement of the human race; and also as the broadest. A dreadful secret seemed to be written as in obscure hieroglyphics across those mighty works of marble and stone, those colossal amphitheaters and aqueducts. Man could do no more.

For it was not the message blazed on the Babylonian wall, that one king was found wanting or his one kingdom given to a stranger. It was no such good news as the news of invasion conquest. There was nothing left that could conquer Rome but there was

also nothing left that could improve it. It was the strongest thing that was growing weak. It was the thing that was going to the bad. It is necessary to insist again and again that many civilizations had met in one civilization of the Mediterranean sea; that it was already universal with a stale and sterile universality. The peoples had pooled their resources and still there was not enough. The empires had gone into partnership and they were still bankrupt. No philosopher who was really philosophical could think anything except that, in that central sea, the wave of the world had risen to its highest, seeming to touch the stars. But the wave was already stooping; for it was only the wave of the world.

That mythology and that philosophy into which paganism has already been analyzed had thus both of them been drained most literally to the dregs. If with the multiplication of magic the third department, which we have called the demons, was even increasingly active, it was never anything but destructive. There remains only the fourth element or rather the first; that which had been in a sense forgotten because it was the first. I mean the primary and overpowering yet impalpable impression that the universe after all has one origin and one aim; and because it has an aim must have an author. .What became of this great truth in the background of men’s minds, at this time, it is perhaps more difficult to determine. Some of the Stoics undoubtedly saw it more and more clearly as the clouds of mythology cleared and thinned away; and great men among them did much even to the last to lay the foundations of a concept of the moral unity of the world. The Jews still held their secret certainty of it jealously behind high fences of exclusiveness; yet it is intensely characteristic of the society and the situation that some fashionable figures, especially fashionable ladies, actually embraced Judaism. But in the case of many others I fancy there entered at this point a new negation. Atheism became really possible in that abnormal time; for atheism is abnormality. It is not merely the denial of a dogma. It is the reversal of a subconscious assumption in the soul; the sense that there is a meaning and a direction in the world it sees. Lucretius, the first evolutionist who endeavored to substitute Evolution for God, had already dangled before men’s eyes his dance of glittering atoms, by which he conceived cosmos as created by chaos. But it was not his strong poetry or his sad philosophy, as I fancy, that made it possible for men to entertain such a vision. It was something in the sense of impotence and despair with which men shook their fists vainly at the stars, as they saw all the best work of humanity sinking slowly and helplessly into a swamp. They could easily believe that even creation itself was not a creation but a perpetual fall, when they saw that the weightiest and worthiest of all human creations was falling by its own weight. They could fancy that all the stars were falling stars; and that the very pillars of their own solemn porticos were bowed under a sort of gradual Deluge. To men in that mood there was a reason for atheism that is in some sense reasonable. Mythology might fade and philosophy might stiffen; but if behind these things there was a reality, surely that reality might have sustained things as they sank. There was no God; if there had been a God, surely this was the very moment when He would have moved and saved the world.

The life of the great civilization went on with dreary industry and even with dreary festivity. It was the end of the world, and the worst of it was that it need never end. A convenient compromise had been made between all the multitudinous myths and religions of the Empire; that each group should worship freely and merely give a sort of official flourish of thanks to the tolerant Emperor, by tossing a little incense to him under his official title of Divus. Naturally there was no difficulty about that; or rather it was a long time before the world realized that there ever bad been even a trivial difficulty anywhere. The members of some Eastern sect or secret society or other seemed to have made a scene somewhere; nobody could imagine why. The incident occurred once or twice again and began to arouse irritation out of proportion to its insignificance. It was not exactly what these provincials said; though of course it sounded queer enough. They seemed to be saying that God was dead and that they themselves had seen him die. Ibis might be one of the many manias produced by the despair of the age; only they did not seem particularly despairing. They seemed quite unnaturally joyful about it, and gave the reason that the death of God had allowed them to cat him and drink his blood. According to other accounts God was not exactly dead after all; there trailed through the bewildered imagination some sort of fantastic procession of the funeral of God, at which the sun turned black, but which ended with the dead omnipotence breaking out of the tomb and rising again like the sun. But it was not the strange story to which anybody paid any particular attention; people in that world had seen queer religions enough to fill a madhouse. It was something in the tone of the madmen and their type of formation. They were a scratch company of barbarians and slaves and poor and unimportant people; but their formation was military; they moved together and were very absolute about who and what was really a part of their little system; and about what they said, however mildly, there was a ring like iron. Men used to many mythologies and moralities could make no analysis of the mystery, except the curious conjecture that they meant what they said. All attempts to make them see reason in the perfectly simple matter of the Emperor’s statue seemed to be spoken to deaf men. It was as if a new meteoric metal bad fallen on the earth; it was a difference of substance to the touch. Those who touched their foundation fancied they had struck a rock.

Three Truths

There are three ways something can be considered true.

  1. Fact truth – Fact truth is mundane reality. A fact truth is empirical, it explains or describes a natural phenomenon but goes no deeper than that. “The sky is blue” would be a fact truth. Science is the best developed way of establishing this type of truth.
  2. Social truth – A social truth is something socially accepted as being true. A social truth is something true in relating to and within a society. Social truths can be both mundane and transcendental. “It is rude to spit on the sidewalk” would be a mundane social truth; “the American Dream” would be a transcendental social truth.
  3. Primal truth – Primal truth is transcendental truth. It is Truth. Truth speaks to the core of our human essence; to who and what we are. It is never mundane.

Of these, fact truth is empirically real, primal truth is the most viscerally real, and social truth is that which is most firmly embedded in a man.

A man needs all three truths to be fully realize his humanity. It is in stories and myths that a man finds these truths and his place in the world.

A story with none of those truths will fail; nobody wants a story that does not talk of these truths, even in opposition. Only a broken nihilist can like a story without truth.

There are no stories of solely fact truth; if there was it would simply be a textbook. Man can not derive meaning from mundane naturalism. This is where economists and new atheists go wrong; economists view all human society and interaction through the fact truth of supply and demand, ignoring social and primal truths, while new atheists try to make fact truths into social and primal truths, something which it can not be. It is no wonder they often come across as spergy; autists are naturally unable to grasp social and primal truths.

Most stories, including almost all popular culture, are the stories of social truths. These truths may not strike us to the core as the deeper stories do, but they can entertain and leave a small implicit moral.

A story of primal truth, of Truth, strikes much deeper. These go to the very soul, to the essence of what it means to be human. These stories can remain popular for millennia and people across cultures and time can appreciate them. We still listen to the Greek myths today because they speak these primal truths.

Myths are something that are both primally and socially true, but not necessarily factually true. They are True, even if they aren’t mundanely true. For example, the Iliad is not factually true, but for the Greeks it was socially and primally true. For us, Greek myths persist because they are primally true, even though we don’t accept them as socially true. When we read them and hear them, we recognize they speak to us on a primal level; they reach into our humanity and teach us something True about war, manhood, life, and death, even if it is not necessarily true.

All societies need myths, a society without myths is dying.

****

Our cultural malaise can be attributed to our society lacking in myth.

America had myths: George Washington freeing Americans from the British; the founding fathers drafting the constitution; the frontier heroes of Daniel Boone, Sam Houston, and Davy Crockett; the freeing of the slaves (or the War of Northern Aggression); the American Dream; all men are equal; life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; America keeping the world safe for freedom; and so on.

These myths of civic religion were added to the Christian religious myths and bound Americans together in a common story. These myths created an ideal for Americans to aspire to. It gave them a sense of place, a sense of purpose. They succeeded because they were socially true, primally true, and, to some degree, factually true. They spoke to people.

But these myths are rapidly being destroyed: the founding fathers were hypocritical slave owners; the frontier heroes were racist, genocidal, imperialists; the American Dream has morphed into a consumerist farce; the constitution has been gutted; freedom is eroding. The religious myths have been entirely rejected. They’ve all been destroyed.

Those that haven’t have been mutated into perversions by Whig history. The constitution was no longer about protecting republican freedom, but promoting democracy and diversity. Equality has transformed from a metaphysical myth to a concrete fact. The civil war, probably the most internally dividing myth, was once spoken of as a regrettable, bitter war of brother against brother, but is now merely a righteous crusade against evil bigots. Life & liberty have been subjugated to happiness and happiness that is now guaranteed rather than simply being pursued.

The Whigs have added new myths: the melting pot, the immigrant nation, the defenders of democracy, the sexual revolution.

They’ve tried to enforce these perverted and new myths as social truths and have been mostly successful, but they do not function well as myths. These perverted and new national myths is they are not primally true; in many cases they are not even factually true.

Social truths do not necessarily have to be factually true. Some cultures, such as the Japanese, even make a specific distinction between social (tatamae) truths and factual truths (honne). People can accept some dissonance between the two, especially if the social myths are primally true. Americans though have always been pragmatic folks and have had less tolerance for dissonance between the two. The primarily American phenomenon of Christian fundamentalism and atheist fundamentalism illustrates this. Unable (or unwilling) to distinguish the primal Truth of scripture from the fact truth of scripture, the fundamentalists on both sides rage over the Bible, particularly Genesis, as if reading from a textbook.

But even Americans can accept some dissonance, but not this much, and not without the primal truths.

Equality, democracy, diversity, hedonism; none of these are primally true. No ancient myths celebrate letting every idiot vote; nobody believes in their soul, in their heart, that they are the equal to both the saint and damned, the genius and the retard, the hero and the fool; no one really feels true kinship to the other; and no one can be moved in their soul by sticking their dick in every available orifice.

Despite progressive attempts to enforce Whig values, there is no primal truth, or even factual truth, in these attempts at whig mythology, but this whig mythology is the only accepted social truth; all other social truths are purged.

So our young men, our young women, are brought up in Whig mythology. They know, on a primal level, they aren’t truth, but they have no alternatives. They are part of a story that doesn’t feel right to them, but they have no other story.

They aren’t fully realizing their humanity. They are adrift, disconnected, unhappy, without meaning, and alone. Their gods are dead, their stories hollow. They are searching for meaning and returning empty.

This then is what reactionaries must do: create new myths. Myths that are primally true, that are factually true.

We must give young men and women a story they can fit themselves into, where they can find meaning and community.

Man lives in myth, he is a creature of myth.

We need myth.

Thankfully, as reactionaries, we already have thousands of years of myth from which to draw.

Are New Atheists Idiots?

I came across this artice on Slate on some arrogant, “intellectually superior” atheist named Martin Pribble is leaving the atheist community because the religious are unthinking and irrational.

He spends the first few paragraphs deriding faith and religious people, with such arrogantly superior gems as this:

There is no point in it. All this back-and-forth sniping serves to do is to make us feel a sense of superiority to the person making the claims and does nothing for them except leave them with a smugness about their assumption that “atheists are all mean.” Faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation, so arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little.

Just after a few paragraphs of this type of arrogance, he then states this:

I have decided to define myself by what I stand for in life rather than what I don’t believe in. I call this “methodological humanism.” In essence, methodological humanism is a standpoint by which everyone, theist, agnostic, and atheist alike, can agree on as a platform from which we can all benefit: the need for food, water, and sanitation; the protection of our natural environment; and the preservation of the world as a whole. Without these things, we, as a species, cease to exist.

Make sure to read the link to “methodological humanism.”

Are atheists really this intellectually blind? Can he honestly not see the disconnect?

He derides faith, then blindly creates his own little faith-based beliefs which we should all agree for we will all “benefit”.

But I’m probably just “banging my head against a brick wall” as even if he reads this he probably will not see.

****

Bonus Fun: On the sidebar of his blog he states “I am a member of Secular Woman”. I have no point with this but it amused me.

The Grand Inquisitor

From a story in the Brothers Karamazov in which the Grand Inquisitor speaks to a returned Jesus, captured and imprisoned:

“‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us? For Thou hast come to hinder us, and Thou knowest that. But dost thou know what will be to-morrow? I know not who Thou art and care not to know whether it is Thou or only a semblance of Him, but to-morrow I shall condemn Thee and burn Thee at the stake as the worst of heretics. And the very people who have to-day kissed Thy feet, to-morrow at the faintest sign from me will rush to heap up the embers of Thy fire. Knowest Thou that? Yes, maybe Thou knowest it,’ he added with thoughtful penetration, never for a moment taking his eyes off the Prisoner.”

‘Hast Thou the right to reveal to us one of the mysteries of that world from which Thou hast come?’ my old man asks Him, and answers the question for Him. ‘No, Thou hast not; that Thou mayest not add to what has been said of old, and mayest not take from men the freedom which Thou didst exalt when Thou wast on earth. Whatsoever Thou revealest anew will encroach on men’s freedom of faith; for it will be manifest as a miracle, and the freedom of their faith was dearer to Thee than anything in those days fifteen hundred years ago. Didst Thou not often say then, “I will make you free”? But now Thou hast seen these “free” men,’ the old man adds suddenly, with a pensive smile. ‘Yes, we’ve paid dearly for it,’ he goes on, looking sternly at Him, ‘but at last we have completed that work in Thy name. For fifteen centuries we have been wrestling with Thy freedom, but now it is ended and over for good. Dost Thou not believe that it’s over for good? Thou lookest meekly at me and deignest not even to be wroth with me. But let me tell Thee that now, to-day, people are more persuaded than ever that they have perfect freedom, yet they have brought their freedom to us and laid it humbly at our feet. But that has been our doing. Was this what Thou didst? Was this Thy freedom?'”

‘For now’ (he is speaking of the Inquisition, of course) ‘for the first time it has become possible to think of the happiness of men. Man was created a rebel; and how can rebels be happy? Thou wast warned,’ he says to Him. ‘Thou hast had no lack of admonitions and warnings, but Thou didst not listen to those warnings; Thou didst reject the only way by which men might be made happy. But, fortunately, departing Thou didst hand on the work to us. Thou hast promised, Thou hast established by Thy word, Thou hast given to us the right to bind and to unbind, and now, of course, Thou canst not think of taking it away. Why, then, hast Thou come to hinder us?'”

“‘The wise and dread spirit, the spirit of self-destruction and non-existence,’ the old man goes on, great spirit talked with Thee in the wilderness, and we are told in the books that he “tempted” Thee. Is that so? And could anything truer be said than what he revealed to Thee in three questions and what Thou didst reject, and what in the books is called “the temptation”? And yet if there has ever been on earth a real stupendous miracle, it took place on that day, on the day of the three temptations. The statement of those three questions was itself the miracle. If it were possible to imagine simply for the sake of argument that those three questions of the dread spirit had perished utterly from the books, and that we had to restore them and to invent them anew, and to do so had gathered together all the wise men of the earth- rulers, chief priests, learned men, philosophers, poets- and had set them the task to invent three questions, such as would not only fit the occasion, but express in three words, three human phrases, the whole future history of the world and of humanity- dost Thou believe that all the wisdom of the earth united could have invented anything in depth and force equal to the three questions which were actually put to Thee then by the wise and mighty spirit in the wilderness? From those questions alone, from the miracle of their statement, we can see that we have here to do not with the fleeting human intelligence, but with the absolute and eternal. For in those three questions the whole subsequent history of mankind is, as it were, brought together into one whole, and foretold, and in them are united all the unsolved historical contradictions of human nature. At the time it could not be so clear, since the future was unknown; but now that fifteen hundred years have passed, we see that everything in those three questions was so justly divined and foretold, and has been so truly fulfilled, that nothing can be added to them or taken from them.

“Judge Thyself who was right- Thou or he who questioned Thee then? Remember the first question; its meaning, in other words, was this: “Thou wouldst go into the world, and art going with empty hands, with some promise of freedom which men in their simplicity and their natural unruliness cannot even understand, which they fear and dread- for nothing has ever been more insupportable for a man and a human society than freedom. But seest Thou these stones in this parched and barren wilderness? Turn them into bread, and mankind will run after Thee like a flock of sheep, grateful and obedient, though for ever trembling, lest Thou withdraw Thy hand and deny them Thy bread.” But Thou wouldst not deprive man of freedom and didst reject the offer, thinking, what is that freedom worth if obedience is bought with bread? Thou didst reply that man lives not by bread alone. But dost Thou know that for the sake of that earthly bread the spirit of the earth will rise up against Thee and will strive with Thee and overcome Thee, and all will follow him, crying, “Who can compare with this beast? He has given us fire from heaven!” Dost Thou know that the ages will pass, and humanity will proclaim by the lips of their sages that there is no crime, and therefore no sin; there is only hunger? “Feed men, and then ask of them virtue!” that’s what they’ll write on the banner, which they will raise against Thee, and with which they will destroy Thy temple. Where Thy temple stood will rise a new building; the terrible tower of Babel will be built again, and though, like the one of old, it will not be finished, yet Thou mightest have prevented that new tower and have cut short the sufferings of men for a thousand years; for they will come back to us after a thousand years of agony with their tower. They will seek us again, hidden underground in the catacombs, for we shall be again persecuted and tortured. They will find us and cry to us, “Feed us, for those who have promised us fire from heaven haven’t given it!” And then we shall finish building their tower, for he finishes the building who feeds them. And we alone shall feed them in Thy name, declaring falsely that it is in Thy name. Oh, never, never can they feed themselves without us! No science will give them bread so long as they remain free. In the end they will lay their freedom at our feet, and say to us, “Make us your slaves, but feed us.” They will understand themselves, at last, that freedom and bread enough for all are inconceivable together, for never, never will they be able to share between them! They will be convinced, too, that they can never be free, for they are weak, vicious, worthless, and rebellious. Thou didst promise them the bread of Heaven, but, I repeat again, can it compare with earthly bread in the eyes of the weak, ever sinful and ignoble race of man? And if for the sake of the bread of Heaven thousands shall follow Thee, what is to become of the millions and tens of thousands of millions of creatures who will not have the strength to forego the earthly bread for the sake of the heavenly? Or dost Thou care only for the tens of thousands of the great and strong, while the millions, numerous as the sands of the sea, who are weak but love Thee, must exist only for the sake of the great and strong? No, we care for the weak too. They are sinful and rebellious, but in the end they too will become obedient. They will marvel at us and look on us as gods, because we are ready to endure the freedom which they have found so dreadful and to rule over them- so awful it will seem to them to be free. But we shall tell them that we are Thy servants and rule them in Thy name. We shall deceive them again, for we will not let Thee come to us again. That deception will be our suffering, for we shall be forced to lie.

“‘This is the significance of the first question in the wilderness, and this is what Thou hast rejected for the sake of that freedom which Thou hast exalted above everything. Yet in this question lies hid the great secret of this world. Choosing “bread,” Thou wouldst have satisfied the universal and everlasting craving of humanity- to find someone to worship. So long as man remains free he strives for nothing so incessantly and so painfully as to find someone to worship. But man seeks to worship what is established beyond dispute, so that all men would agree at once to worship it. For these pitiful creatures are concerned not only to find what one or the other can worship, but to find community of worship is the chief misery of every man individually and of all humanity from the beginning of time. For the sake of common worship they’ve slain each other with the sword. They have set up gods and challenged one another, “Put away your gods and come and worship ours, or we will kill you and your gods!” And so it will be to the end of the world, even when gods disappear from the earth; they will fall down before idols just the same. Thou didst know, Thou couldst not but have known, this fundamental secret of human nature, but Thou didst reject the one infallible banner which was offered Thee to make all men bow down to Thee alone- the banner of earthly bread; and Thou hast rejected it for the sake of freedom and the bread of Heaven. Behold what Thou didst further. And all again in the name of freedom! I tell Thee that man is tormented by no greater anxiety than to find someone quickly to whom he can hand over that gift of freedom with which the ill-fated creature is born. But only one who can appease their conscience can take over their freedom. In bread there was offered Thee an invincible banner; give bread, and man will worship thee, for nothing is more certain than bread. But if someone else gains possession of his conscience- Oh! then he will cast away Thy bread and follow after him who has ensnared his conscience. In that Thou wast right. For the secret of man’s being is not only to live but to have something to live for. Without a stable conception of the object of life, man would not consent to go on living, and would rather destroy himself than remain on earth, though he had bread in abundance. That is true. But what happened? Instead of taking men’s freedom from them, Thou didst make it greater than ever! Didst Thou forget that man prefers peace, and even death, to freedom of choice in the knowledge of good and evil? Nothing is more seductive for man than his freedom of conscience, but nothing is a greater cause of suffering. And behold, instead of giving a firm foundation for setting the conscience of man at rest for ever, Thou didst choose all that is exceptional, vague and enigmatic; Thou didst choose what was utterly beyond the strength of men, acting as though Thou didst not love them at all- Thou who didst come to give Thy life for them! Instead of taking possession of men’s freedom, Thou didst increase it, and burdened the spiritual kingdom of mankind with its sufferings for ever. Thou didst desire man’s free love, that he should follow Thee freely, enticed and taken captive by Thee. In place of the rigid ancient law, man must hereafter with free heart decide for himself what is good and what is evil, having only Thy image before him as his guide. But didst Thou not know that he would at last reject even Thy image and Thy truth, if he is weighed down with the fearful burden of free choice? They will cry aloud at last that the truth is not in Thee, for they could not have been left in greater confusion and suffering than Thou hast caused, laying upon them so many cares and unanswerable problems.

“‘So that, in truth, Thou didst Thyself lay the foundation for the destruction of Thy kingdom, and no one is more to blame for it. Yet what was offered Thee? There are three powers, three powers alone, able to conquer and to hold captive for ever the conscience of these impotent rebels for their happiness those forces are miracle, mystery and authority. Thou hast rejected all three and hast set the example for doing so. When the wise and dread spirit set Thee on the pinnacle of the temple and said to Thee, “If Thou wouldst know whether Thou art the Son of God then cast Thyself down, for it is written: the angels shall hold him up lest he fall and bruise himself, and Thou shalt know then whether Thou art the Son of God and shalt prove then how great is Thy faith in Thy Father.” But Thou didst refuse and wouldst not cast Thyself down. Oh, of course, Thou didst proudly and well, like God; but the weak, unruly race of men, are they gods? Oh, Thou didst know then that in taking one step, in making one movement to cast Thyself down, Thou wouldst be tempting God and have lost all Thy faith in Him, and wouldst have been dashed to pieces against that earth which Thou didst come to save. And the wise spirit that tempted Thee would have rejoiced. But I ask again, are there many like Thee? And couldst Thou believe for one moment that men, too, could face such a temptation? Is the nature of men such, that they can reject miracle, and at the great moments of their life, the moments of their deepest, most agonising spiritual difficulties, cling only to the free verdict of the heart? Oh, Thou didst know that Thy deed would be recorded in books, would be handed down to remote times and the utmost ends of the earth, and Thou didst hope that man, following Thee, would cling to God and not ask for a miracle. But Thou didst not know that when man rejects miracle he rejects God too; for man seeks not so much God as the miraculous. And as man cannot bear to be without the miraculous, he will create new miracles of his own for himself, and will worship deeds of sorcery and witchcraft, though he might be a hundred times over a rebel, heretic and infidel. Thou didst not come down from the Cross when they shouted to Thee, mocking and reviling Thee, “Come down from the cross and we will believe that Thou art He.” Thou didst not come down, for again Thou wouldst not enslave man by a miracle, and didst crave faith given freely, not based on miracle. Thou didst crave for free love and not the base raptures of the slave before the might that has overawed him for ever. But Thou didst think too highly of men therein, for they are slaves, of course, though rebellious by nature. Look round and judge; fifteen centuries have passed, look upon them. Whom hast Thou raised up to Thyself? I swear, man is weaker and baser by nature than Thou hast believed him! Can he, can he do what Thou didst? By showing him so much respect, Thou didst, as it were, cease to feel for him, for Thou didst ask far too much from him- Thou who hast loved him more than Thyself! Respecting him less, Thou wouldst have asked less of him. That would have been more like love, for his burden would have been lighter. He is weak and vile. What though he is everywhere now rebelling against our power, and proud of his rebellion? It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy. They are little children rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish delight will end; it will cost them dear. Mankind as a whole has always striven to organise a universal state. There have been many great nations with great histories, but the more highly they were developed the more unhappy they were, for they felt more acutely than other people the craving for world-wide union. The great conquerors, Timours and Ghenghis-Khans, whirled like hurricanes over the face of the earth striving to subdue its people, and they too were but the unconscious expression of the same craving for universal unity. Hadst Thou taken the world and Caesar’s purple, Thou wouldst have founded the universal state and have given universal peace. For who can rule men if not he who holds their conscience and their bread in his hands? We have taken the sword of Caesar, and in taking it, of course, have rejected Thee and followed him. Oh, ages are yet to come of the confusion of free thought, of their science and cannibalism. For having begun to build their tower of Babel without us, they will end, of course, with cannibalism. But then the beast will crawl to us and lick our feet and spatter them with tears of blood. And we shall sit upon the beast and raise the cup, and on it will be written, “Mystery.” But then, and only then, the reign of peace and happiness will come for men. Thou art proud of Thine elect, but Thou hast only the elect, while we give rest to all. And besides, how many of those elect, those mighty ones who could become elect, have grown weary waiting for Thee, and have transferred and will transfer the powers of their spirit and the warmth of their heart to the other camp, and end by raising their free banner against Thee. Thou didst Thyself lift up that banner. But with us all will be happy and will no more rebel nor destroy one another as under Thy freedom. Oh, we shall persuade them that they will only become free when they renounce their freedom to us and submit to us. And shall we be right or shall we be lying? They will be convinced that we are right, for they will remember the horrors of slavery and confusion to which Thy freedom brought them. Freedom, free thought, and science will lead them into such straits and will bring them face to face with such marvels and insoluble mysteries, that some of them, the fierce and rebellious, will destroy themselves, others, rebellious but weak, will destroy one another, while the rest, weak and unhappy, will crawl fawning to our feet and whine to us: “Yes, you were right, you alone possess His mystery, and we come back to you, save us from ourselves!”

“‘Receiving bread from us, they will see clearly that we take the bread made by their hands from them, to give it to them, without any miracle. They will see that we do not change the stones to bread, but in truth they will be more thankful for taking it from our hands than for the bread itself! For they will remember only too well that in old days, without our help, even the bread they made turned to stones in their hands, while since they have come back to us, the very stones have turned to bread in their hands. Too, too well will they know the value of complete submission! And until men know that, they will be unhappy. Who is most to blame for their not knowing it?-speak! Who scattered the flock and sent it astray on unknown paths? But the flock will come together again and will submit once more, and then it will be once for all. Then we shall give them the quiet humble happiness of weak creatures such as they are by nature. Oh, we shall persuade them at last not to be proud, for Thou didst lift them up and thereby taught them to be proud. We shall show them that they are weak, that they are only pitiful children, but that childlike happiness is the sweetest of all. They will become timid and will look to us and huddle close to us in fear, as chicks to the hen. They will marvel at us and will be awe-stricken before us, and will be proud at our being so powerful and clever that we have been able to subdue such a turbulent flock of thousands of millions. They will tremble impotently before our wrath, their minds will grow fearful, they will be quick to shed tears like women and children, but they will be just as ready at a sign from us to pass to laughter and rejoicing, to happy mirth and childish song. Yes, we shall set them to work, but in their leisure hours we shall make their life like a child’s game, with children’s songs and innocent dance. Oh, we shall allow them even sin, they are weak and helpless, and they will love us like children because we allow them to sin. We shall tell them that every sin will be expiated, if it is done with our permission, that we allow them to sin because we love them, and the punishment for these sins we take upon ourselves. And we shall take it upon ourselves, and they will adore us as their saviours who have taken on themselves their sins before God. And they will have no secrets from us. We shall allow or forbid them to live with their wives and mistresses, to have or not to have children according to whether they have been obedient or disobedient- and they will submit to us gladly and cheerfully. The most painful secrets of their conscience, all, all they will bring to us, and we shall have an answer for all. And they will be glad to believe our answer, for it will save them from the great anxiety and terrible agony they endure at present in making a free decision for themselves. And all will be happy, all the millions of creatures except the hundred thousand who rule over them. For only we, we who guard the mystery, shall be unhappy. There will be thousands of millions of happy babes, and a hundred thousand sufferers who have taken upon themselves the curse of the knowledge of good and evil. Peacefully they will die, peacefully they will expire in Thy name, and beyond the grave they will find nothing but death. But we shall keep the secret, and for their happiness we shall allure them with the reward of heaven and eternity. Though if there were anything in the other world, it certainly would not be for such as they. It is prophesied that Thou wilt come again in victory, Thou wilt come with Thy chosen, the proud and strong, but we will say that they have only saved themselves, but we have saved all. We are told that the harlot who sits upon the beast, and holds in her hands the mystery, shall be put to shame, that the weak will rise up again, and will rend her royal purple and will strip naked her loathsome body. But then I will stand up and point out to Thee the thousand millions of happy children who have known no sin. And we who have taken their sins upon us for their happiness will stand up before Thee and say: “Judge us if Thou canst and darest.” Know that I fear Thee not. Know that I too have been in the wilderness, I too have lived on roots and locusts, I too prized the freedom with which Thou hast blessed men, and I too was striving to stand among Thy elect, among the strong and powerful, thirsting “to make up the number.” But I awakened and would not serve madness. I turned back and joined the ranks of those who have corrected Thy work. I left the proud and went back to the humble, for the happiness of the humble. What I say to Thee will come to pass, and our dominion will be built up. I repeat, to-morrow Thou shalt see that obedient flock who at a sign from me will hasten to heap up the hot cinders about the pile on which I shall burn Thee for coming to hinder us. For if anyone has ever deserved our fires, it is Thou. To-morrow I shall burn Thee. Dixi.'”*

* I have spoken.

Prescient; yet it is not the Catholic church to which they bow for their bread, but unto the non-theistic ideological sons of the puritans.

Defense of Perennial Philosophy

I found this excerpt from the Trivium interesting (p. 224):

The logic of perennial philosophy presented in this book is scorned in many universities today as outmoded, inadequate, and unfit for a scientific age. Logical positivism admits as knowable only sense experience of matter and the relations of coexistence and succession in natural phenomena; it denies spirit, intellect, and the capacity to know essence. Modern semantic regards as arbitrary and shifting not only words but ideas; it denies that words are signs of ideas that truly represent things. The new symbolic or mathematical logic, which aims to free logic from the restrictions of words and thing, becomes a mere manipulation of symbols capable of being tested for their internal consistency but having no correspondence to ideas or things (and therefore no stability or truth).

Perennial philosophy holds that symbols such as those of the syllogism, opposition, obversion, conversion represent a higher degree of abstraction and more clear relationships than words do, and therefore a more advanced knowledge; they are sound precisely because they represent words that do correspond to the ideas and things. These symbols point the way to a more complete symbolic logic which preserves the basic truths of perennial philosophy, in particular its healthy respect for intellectual knowledge derived from sense knowledge by abstraction.

(By perennial philosophy she’s referring to Thomas’ Aristotalean method of thinking rather than to the universalist form of perennial philosophy).

We can see this today in academe and throughout society; words have become unmoored from their purpose of referring to a concrete idea or object, rather they are meaningless utterances of vague emotions that do not approach the level of rational thought.

The word democracy is an excellent example of this. The word democracy, originally referring to rule of the people, has simply become cant; calling something undemocratic holds no more meaning than ungood.

We can see the bizarre meaningless from this, the first link on a google search of ‘it’s undemocratic’. According to the article, yhe person who ruled due to being elected by the majority of Egyptians is somehow ruling undemocratically. Read this quote from “State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki”:

What I mean is what we’ve been referencing about the 22 million people who have been out there voicing their views and making clear that democracy is not just about simply winning the vote at the ballot box.

It’s pure, unadulterated nonsense, but nobody bats an eye. The label undemocratic is thrown at everything that is deemed ungood, while the label democratic is thrown at everything considered good. Take this quote from Barack Obama:

President Barack Obama on Thursday praised the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage as a “victory for American democracy”…

Think on that for a second: the overturning of the laws created due to a referendum of the people in California by an unelected body is a ‘triumph of democracy’. There is no rational way the word democracy can possibly be used to refer to an unelected body overturning the majority will of the people expressed through a referendum, yet, nobody but John Lott even notices.

The word democracy does not refer to anything; it is has no more, and possibly less, meaning or rational thinking behind it than an illiterate barbarian’s simple grunt of approval.

Of course ‘democracy’ is not alone in this. We all remember Moldbug’s classic example of goodthink:

Improper political influence over government decision-making.

But I’m digressing. We have scorned the reason of perennial philosophy for the irrational thinking of arbitrary definitions. Words are used as weapons or as meaningless emotional outbursts, with no rational thinking behind them.

Not only are definitions arbitrary, and hence meaningless, composition is not unaffected. We can see this in this review of the Trivium. It basically argues for the Trivium, but not because the rules of logic and grammar are good for someone writing in English to know. Rather the restrictions of actually adhering to the rules of reason and the English language are quaint enough and outdated enough that it provides a foreign perspective in composition classrooms. In the authors own words:

For instance, a teacher can use The Trivium alongside [other]… textbooks that use contemporary examples and celebrate more rhetorical and logical flexibilities. This deliberate undercutting pushes students to understand the multiplicity of perspectives; while it simultaneously pushes teachers to embrace multiplicity and flexibility.

“Logical flexibility”, I like it. It’s such as fascinating term. How insane is it that the rules of logic and grammar are so foreign to modern English education that people advocate for teaching it simply to get a plurality of viewpoints.

Welcome to a world where there exists a plurality of viewpoints on the use of logic.

Anyway, I will end with a Chesterton quote:

Since the modern world began in the sixteenth century, nobody’s system of philosophy has really corresponded to everybody’s sense of reality; to what, if left to themselves, common men would call common sense. Each started with a paradox; a peculiar point of view demanding the sacrifice of what they would call a sane point of view. That is the one thing common to Hobbes and Hegel, to Kant and Bergson, to Berkeley and William James. A man had to believe something that no normal man would believe, if it were suddenly propounded to his simplicity; as that law is above right, or right is outside reason, or things are only as we think them, or everything is relative to a reality that is not there. The modern philosopher claims, like a sort of confidence man, that if we will grant him this, the rest will be easy; he will straighten out the world, if he is allowed to give this one twist to the mind…

Against all this the philosophy of St. Thomas stands founded on the universal common conviction that eggs are eggs. The Hegelian may say that an egg is really a hen, because it is a part of an endless process of Becoming; the Berkelian may hold that poached eggs only exist as a dream exists, since it is quite as easy to call the dream the cause of the eggs as the eggs the cause of the dream; the Pragmatist may believe that we get the best out of scrambled eggs by forgetting that they ever were eggs, and only remembering the scramble. But no pupil of St. Thomas needs to addle his brains in order adequately to addle his eggs; to put his head at any peculiar angle in looking at eggs, or squinting at eggs, or winking the other eye in order to see a new simplification of eggs. The Thomist stands in the broad daylight of the brotherhood of men, in their common consciousness that eggs are not hens or dreams or mere practical assumptions; but things attested by the Authority of the Senses, which is from God.