Saturday, September 26, 2020

The Abolition of the Universe

The process whereby man has come to know the universe is from one point of view extremely complicated; from another it is alarmingly simple. 

-          The Empty Universe, by C.S. Lewis (Chapter 8 from this collection)

I wanted to title this post “The Abolition of Man: Cliffs Notes Version, but that would get a little long.  This is taken from a Preface written by Lewis in 1952, to D. E. Harding’s The Hierarchy of Heaven and Earth.

Lewis describes a one-way progression in our knowledge of the universe.  From the beginning, we saw a universe filled with qualities of life, will, and intelligence: “every tree is a nymph and every planet a god.  Man himself is akin to the gods.”

As knowledge advanced, this rich universe was emptied – of its gods, its smells, its sounds, its tastes.  From the objective, these moved to the subjective – these are now nothing more than our thoughts, or emotions. 

The subject becomes gorged, inflated, at the expense of the object.

In the same manner, man is emptied: no more souls, selves, or minds.  These vanish, just as Dryads vanished from the trees.  “We were mistaken,” it is announced.  Man, like the gods, is a phantasm.

And just as we have been broken of our bad habit of personifying trees, so we must now be broken of our bad habit of personifying men:  a reform already effected in the political field.

It was all a mistake, a linguistic mistake.  Linguistically, my self and my spectacles reflect the same concept: I could forget to slip one in my coat pocket just as easily as the other when leaving the house in the morning.

As Lewis notes in The Abolition of Man, it is not necessarily that we are unhappy about this.  It gives us some form of liberty in a sense.  It also offers the same to our government:

But now, of course, he has no “inside”, except the sort you can find by cutting him open. If I had to burn a man alive, I think I should find this doctrine comfortable.

We cannot, of course, keep our minds in a condition that can make any sense of such a philosophy.  Really, we would go mad.  Lewis points to Hume, who is attributed with severing the “is” from the “ought,” as the great ancestor of this philosophy.  This leads us to nihilism – but, Lewis notes, Hume has an answer even for this: backgammon. 

I had to look this up; not that I don’t trust Lewis, but it seemed silly.  Here it is; I cannot shorten it, as it would lose all meaning:

“Where am I, or what? From what causes do I derive my existence, and to what condition shall I return? ... I am confounded with all these questions, and begin to fancy myself in the most deplorable condition imaginable, environed with the deepest darkness, and utterly deprived of the use of every member and faculty.

Makes one contemplate suicide…or drugs.  But I should not interrupt.

Most fortunately it happens, that since Reason is incapable of dispelling these clouds, Nature herself suffices to that purpose, and cures me of this philosophical melancholy and delirium, either by relaxing this bent of mind, or by some avocation, and lively impression of my senses, which obliterate all these chimeras. I dine, I play a game of backgammon, I converse, and am merry with my friends. And when, after three or four hours' amusement, I would return to these speculations, they appear so cold, and strained, and ridiculous, that I cannot find in my heart to enter into them any farther.”

This is all that is left, the further that materialists have pushed to abolish the universe – and, now, man.  Materialism leaves us with a chimera; no meaning, no free will, no purpose, no reason for being.  Suicide, if not physical, certainly spiritual, mental, and emotional.  But the suicide of these is, of course, immaterial to the materialist.

Which leaves us with only one way to live, according to Lewis:

I have heard that there are states of insanity in which such a nihilistic doctrine becomes really credible… The patient has the experience of being nobody in a world of nobodies and nothings. Those who return from this condition describe it as highly disagreeable.

Which has now fully caught up with us.  We see the nobodies and nothings on the news every day, rioting on the streets, excoriating us to perfection – to a standard that is no standard at all.  Lewis comes terribly close to describing the world we live in today – seventy years after this essay was written:

Now there is of course nothing new in the attempt to arrest he process that has led us from the living universe where man meets the gods to the final void where almost-nobody discovers is mistakes about almost-nothing.

This is true as far as it goes: anything goes and everything is accepted and acceptable.  There is one flaw, however: it is absolutely not acceptable to not accept that anything goes and that everything is to be accepted and acceptable.

We cannot return to the animism of a long-ago age; we must correct the flaws in the first thinkers of such thoughts – who likely never could have imagined or desired that their thoughts would lead us to this hell on earth.

…in emptying out the dryads and the gods (which, admittedly, “would not do” just as they stood) we appear to have thrown out the whole universe, ourselves included.

If this book by Harding doesn’t turn the tide – and Lewis speculated that most likely it would not – it might at least be a marker as the beginning of a series of such endeavors.  Even if it achieves none of this (so far, not) it still offered value to Lewis.  Having read it…

… One has breathed a new air, become free of a new country.  It may be a country you cannot live in, but you now know why the natives love it.  You will henceforward see all systems a little differently because you have been inside that one.

I agree.  It is good to know at least this much.

Friday, September 25, 2020

Virtues Let Loose

The modern world is not evil; in some ways the modern world is far too good. It is full of wild and wasted virtues. When a religious scheme is shattered (as Christianity was shattered at the Reformation), it is not merely the vices that are let loose. The vices are, indeed, let loose, and they wander and do damage. But the virtues are let loose also; and the virtues wander more wildly, and the virtues do more terrible damage. The modern world is full of the old Christian virtues gone mad.

Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton (ebook)

Apologies for starting with such a long quote, but Chesterton so perfectly nails this…and, I remind myself, this more than 100 years ago.  I don’t want to get into the Reformation part, however just keep in mind that Chesterton wrote this book well before becoming Catholic.

But to the part that he described perfectly: just considering the ultimate Christian virtue, that of Love.  In today’s society, we are all guilty of not “loving” enough – ignoring, of course, that a major attribute of love is discipline: we discipline that which we love.  Today we are to love without discipline, without even advice and counsel.

Thus some scientists care for truth; and their truth is pitiless. Thus some humanitarians only care for pity; and their pity (I am sorry to say) is often untruthful.

Such humanitarians offer, in love or charity, that sin can be easily forgiven because there are no sins to commit.  What would Chesterton say about the world around us today as compared to the time of his writing?

Another aspect is humility.  Humility was once meant to be a restraint upon man’s arrogance.  Today (100 years ago) it has moved: from the idea of ambition to the idea of conviction:

A man was meant to be doubtful about himself, but undoubting about the truth; this has been exactly reversed. Nowadays the part of a man that a man does assert is exactly the part he ought not to assert—himself. The part he doubts is exactly the part he ought not to doubt—the Divine Reason.

The old meaning of humility would make a man doubtful about his efforts, thereby motivating him to work harder toward the aims of which he was certain; today’s humility makes a man doubtful about that toward which he should aim, thereby removing any desire to work at all.  And in this, Chesterton succinctly describes the meaning crisis that has plagued the West.

We are on the road to producing a race of men too mentally modest to believe in the multiplication table.

We have now reached the end of that road.  Multiplication tables are a sign of white privilege.  And those who stand accused of this unforgiveable sin are too mentally modest to act in defense – either of themselves or of the multiplication table.

The meek do inherit the earth; but the modern sceptics are too meek even to claim their inheritance.

No doubt. Two-thousand years of inherited wisdom. Or 2500 years if you want to count the Greeks, or perhaps 3500 years if you want to go back to the Ten Commandments.  Our meekness on claiming this inheritance knows no bounds – meekness transformed into arrogance…or idiocy.

“Oh, but we rely on reason today!”  What reason?  Is every generation damned to discovering the lightbulb anew?  The automobile?  The wheel, for goodness’ sakes?  Then why is it reasonable to damn ourselves to discovering the teachings of thousands of years when it comes to behavior?  (Hint: it’s not.)

Just as one generation could prevent the very existence of the next generation, by all entering a monastery or jumping into the sea, so one set of thinkers can in some degree prevent further thinking by teaching the next generation that there is no validity in any human thought.

With the result just as we have it today: an unthinking generation.

Chesterton makes a very counter-intuitive point – at least counter-intuitive to much of modernity:

The creeds and the crusades, the hierarchies and the horrible persecutions were not organized, as is ignorantly said, for the suppression of reason. They were organized for the difficult defence of reason. Man, by a blind instinct, knew that if once things were wildly questioned, reason could be questioned first.

Call the man crazy if you want, and I know not many people saw this as early as Chesterton did, but there you have it.  Try to deny it when looking around today’s world.  It is reasonable for a man to become a woman, or to riot, burn and loot.  It is reasonable, as post-modernists have done, to deconstruct reason.

Thursday, September 24, 2020

The Prodigal Narrative

The narrative set off for a distant country, squandering its chance to tell us the truth and wasting its life in wild living.  Finally, deciding to return, those in search of the narrative were filled with compassion and burst into tears, hugging and kissing the narrative.  A feast would be thrown, all in honor of the lost narrative that was finally found.

Allow me to ramble.

I heard someone mention the other day, very matter of fact: the riots we are seeing on the street are caused by Trump supporters.  I was so taken aback that I actually responded (in hindsight, maybe I shouldn’t have), offering my view that it was just the opposite.  I had never heard of such a thing.

Then a couple of bits of news fell into my life: from the single-most woke sports network (that I haven’t watched in months) comes this – from the talk show where getting yelled at is the highest calling – it is apparently now in the open that the protestors are right-wing agitators. (How did I find it, then?  Reading the one sports outlet that is offering something contrary to the Marxist perspective on these issues.)

And then there is this poll: thirty-three percent of likely voters believe that it is right-wing radicals responsible for the riots; this compared to about thirty-nine percent who believe it is left-wing radicals.  So, what I heard mentioned the other day is suddenly pretty mainstream – and must have been for at least a few weeks if it is reflected thus in the polls.

Before addressing this idea of a prodigal narrative, just a review of the situation: the protests are seemingly motivated by an organization led by those who openly claim to be Marxist, who disavow the family, who want to defund the police.  None of these would fit what one would label right-wing positions.

Until recently, we were told by the mainstream: the looting was reparation, the protests were peaceful (even while seeing burning buildings the background); democratic mayors were ordering the police to stand down, democratic district attorneys were refusing to prosecute rioters while prosecuting those who were defending property and life.  Nothing right-wing about these narratives; nothing at all.

Maybe I was only hearing half the story for the last three-plus months, but that is the story I was hearing – even from mainstream outlets.  Then, a few days ago, Nancy Pelosi and a couple other democrat mouthpieces started talking about being against the riots.  I heard none of that before.  When the riots were spoken about prior to this, they were justified.

So, now we are being told that the rioters are right wing agitators, and one-third of Americans believe this.  Well, if this was true all along – that one-third of Americans believed it – I missed the boat.  Where was this narrative from the beginning?  Or did I just miss it?  Were we being told this by the mainstream press and leftist politicians all along?

Admittedly, I watch none of the mainstream press.  However, I do receive newsfeeds from two of the more well-regarded outlets – well-regarded by the acceptable crowd.  I want to at least keep up with what is being fed to the in-crowd, those allowed to speak openly in public now that they have been told what to say.  It keeps me somewhat safe when I am interacting with those so consumed.  But even the alternative outlets make known the mainstream narrative – even if only to debunk these.  I saw none of this.

I don’t recall any of this “right-wing radicals” stuff come across either of these newsfeeds.  You would think at some point during 100 nights in Portland or during the burning of Kenosha this might have come up in the opening paragraph.

This idea of a prodigal narrative hasn’t been so in the past, when narratives made themselves known almost before the event.  Being exposed to the narrative couldn’t be avoided – the narrative flooded every outlet – mainstream and alternative (even if only to debunk it) alike.

Within minutes we knew: Osama bin Laden was responsible, the Russians downed the plane over Ukraine, Assad gassed his people, China caused the virus.  I could go on for an hour; you get the point.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Medieval Work Life

The Protestant Reformation and Work, Ryan Reeves (video)

Reeves offers a view on the medieval life of the peasant (beginning here).  His comments add to my earlier understanding that relative to our time and place – and, of course, discounting for the technological advances – peasants and serfs didn’t have it so bad.

First, I will review some of my previous work on this.  As is often pointed out, the serf was tied to the land; yet, he was no more tied to the land than his lord.  Society, by and large, was agricultural and rural.  Being tied to the land meant food.

The serf owed allegiance to his lord, but only to the extent that the lord kept up his end of the bargain; their oath was mutual, binding two ways.  The lord was obliged to offer protection and to offer charity in times of difficulty.  The serf had the right to the produce of certain fields of the lord’s lands; the lord could not remove the serf on a whim, and the serf had access to a court in case of grievance.

The serf owed labor to his lord, the amount varying over the centuries and in different geographic regions.  This could range from a few days per year to a few days per week – the latter, per household, meaning that a family of six could meet the obligation in one day or less.  This, compared to our taxes, is miniscule.  Serfs were not obligated to fight the lord’s battles, but could do so with the possibility of gaining freedom thereafter. 

Serfs owed allegiance, but they most certainly were not slaves (slavery having been virtually eliminated in much of medieval Europe).  The slave was property, the serf was still a man.  The lord did not have the right over the serf’s life and death; the serf could marry and establish a family; he was able to acquire property and pass it on to his children.

With this as background, I now return to Reeves.  Like Reeves, on this point it is not my intent to get into the various Protestant / Catholic angles of this story; it is merely to describe the medieval life of the peasant – and it was a life that was, in many ways, quite different than the stereotypes offered to us.

Reeves first offers many of these stereotypes, Monty Python being the expert that many rely on.  The farmer bathed once a year, died before the age of thirty, life was pain and misery.  The work day was 16 – 18 hours.  The peasants worked themselves into the grave, lived in houses with dirt floors and barely a roof.  Everyone was angry, and fathers spent their free time beating their wives and children.

Instead, the average person in the Middle Ages was not overworked: in Spain and France, the peasant worked about five months a year; in England, seven to eight months.  The Catholic Church mandated significant time off for the average worker: in France, for example, every Sunday was off, there were ninety additional rest days, and almost forty additional holidays tied to the Church calendar.

There were festivals and church events, one of the most interesting was the “ale,” a seven-day party.  One of the most common was for a wedding – a bride-ale, today’s bridal.  A seven-day ale would be held for a funeral as well.

What of the workdays – was it eighteen hours?  No.  it was more like seven or eight hours.  Yes, they worked from dawn to dusk, but with many breaks in-between.  He might start work at dawn, then return to have a leisurely breakfast; after returning to work for a time, he would take a long break; after more work, lunch and a nap.  The afternoon proceeded in the same manner.  Given the minimal workdays owed to the lord (taxes for us), how much work was necessary in order to provide for the family?  Apparently not much.

One can see here where the idea of Protestant work ethic comes from; one can also see remnants of this in places that still reflect the Catholic influence, like France and Spain; this when compared to the more Protestant Germanic countries today.

Conclusion

Of course, the connection can be made that the increased amount of work today has brought us the technological advances.  At the same time, it seems fair to consider that modern life is far too focused on the pace and amount of work as opposed to a focus on family, friends, and health.  Much of this could be dealt with merely by a return of owing the lord (the state) only a few days of work per year!

In any case, my point isn’t to make any sweeping comparison of work ethic, technology, etc.  Just to paint the picture of the work life of the medieval peasant or serf.  It most certainly did not fit the stereotypes of today, and while the serf did not benefit from our technology, he also did not suffer from our frantic lifestyle or bondage by the state.

Monday, September 21, 2020

My Canned Response

Occasionally I receive comments like this:

“To claim that freedom derives from Christianity is nonsense.”

From now on, I will simply offer a link to this post: my canned response.

-----------------------------------------------------

I occasionally receive comments such as yours.  I believe the topic is much more involved than can be achieved via a simple response in the comments section.  Therefore, I offer the following as a gesture of goodwill: I truly want to address your comment; I can only do so via the following posts. 

I thank you in advance for entering into what I am certain will be your honest exploration of this topic.  After all, why would you have commented if you didn’t want a thorough discussion?

Start here: Antonio Gramsci Libertarians; and here: Libertarian Communists

Then this post, based on this talk given by Jeff Deist – read them both

Further foundation: A Libertarian Grand Narrative.  Also read the two embedded links within this post:

·         The Libertarian Quest for a Grand Historical Narrative, by Hans-Hermann Hoppe

·         The Cost of the Enlightenment, by Daniel Ajamian

Then go to the Bibliography tab, and from there read the following:

·         Gerard Casey, Freedom's Progress?: A History of Political Thought

o   Christianity

o   Christians and Government

o   Augustine

o   Finding Freedom in an Unfree World

o   Thomas Aquinas and Law

·         Fritz Kern, Kingship and Law in the Middle Ages

o   The (Not So) Dark Ages

o   The Road from Serfdom

o   Every Individual Vested with Veto Power

o   The Law (No, Not THAT One)

o   A Written Constitution: Protecting the State from the People

 Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Liberty or Equality: The Challenge of Our Time

o   The Words of the Prophets

o   The Fatherland of Philosophy

 Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leftism: From de Sade and Marx to Hitler and Marcuse

o   Leftism: A Perfect Track Record of Failure

o   Living Right

o   The Left’s War on Religion…

o   Vive la Révolution

o   The Road to International Socialism

o   The “Good” Liberal

o   The “Bad” Liberal

o   More Alike Than Unlike

·         C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

o   This is Sublime

o   Finding the Trunk

o   Nature Conquers Man

o   It’s Natural

o   The Natural Law of C.S. Lewis

·         Robert Nisbet, The Quest for Community: A Study in the Ethics of Order and Freedom

o   One Hand Washing the Other

o   Community Lost

o   Community Found

o   No Turning Back

o   Name Your Poison

o   The Revolutionary Essence of the State

o   The Road to Sovereignty

o   Far Cry

o   Procuring Petty and Paltry Pleasures

o   The Missing Link

·         Heinrich A. Rommen,   The Natural Law: A Study in Legal and Social History and Philosophy

o   The Natural Law

o   The Scholastics

o   New Wine, Old Wineskins

o   Wine Fraud

o   Man in a State of Nature?

o   Where Natural Law was Lost

o   Why Positive Law Dies….

o   Is-Ought and Hume’s Guillotine

o   The Foundations for Liberty

·         James C. Russell, The Germanization of Early Medieval Christianity: A Sociohistorical Approach to Religious Transformation

o   Germanic Christianity

o   What Kind of Christian Are You?

o   Shake the Dust off Your Feet

o   Germanic Social Structure

o   Conversion

·         Richard Storey, The Uniqueness of Western Law: A Reactionary Manifesto

o   The Not-So-Universal Libertarianism

o   Libertarianism and Natural Law

o   Asking for Trouble

o   Political Life

·         Frank van Dun, Various

o   What Happened to the Promise?

o   Give Me Liberty or Give Me Property Rights!

o   Heresy

o   Medieval Libertarianism

o   Frank van Dun’s Natural Law

o   Natural Law and Anarcho-Capitalism

Then read this on natural rights, based on work by Murray Rothbard: What of Natural Rights?

Finally, read this book: The Search for Liberty

o   Preface / Introduction

o   Chapter One: Metaphysics and the Four Causes

o   Chapter One.one: Aristotle’s God

o   Chapter Two: The Form of the Good

o   Chapter Three: An Overview of Natural Law

o   Chapter Four: Philosophy and Theology

o   Chapter Five: Thomistic Metaphysics

o   Chapter Six: Thomas and Natural Law

o   Chapter Seven: Four Laws

o   Chapter Eight: The Catholic View

o   Chapter Nine: Compare and Contrast

o   Chapter Ten: The Natural Law of C.S. Lewis

o   Chapter Eleven: On Ethical Absolutism

o   Chapter Twelve: Libertarian Natural Law  

o   Chapter Thirteen: Libertarian Natural Rights  

o   Chapter Fourteen: Natural Law: The Complication

o   Chapter Fifteen: Crime and Punishment

o   Chapter Sixteen: The Continuum

o   Chapter Seventeen: Ergo Summatim

o   Appendix: The Form of the Good Made Manifest

 

After you read these, I believe we can have a proper discussion.

Kind regards,

bionic mosquito