Heidegger, Nihilism, the Sunset of the West (in 3 paragraphs)

From First Things, 1993, via a random tweet, wherein

Several members of the Philosophy, History, and Political Science faculties at the University of Tulsa recently completed a Martin Heidegger reading group, which read and discussed the principal writings of this important German philosopher. Among the many topics discussed was whether Heidegger’s philosophy is related to his membership in and support of Germany’s National Socialist Party during his tenure as Chairman of the Philosophy Department and Rector at the University of Freiburg in the 1930s.

As a basis for discussion, the group assigned William Hughes, a “civilian” member of the reading group and a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in Boston, to present the case against Heidegger. What follows, in the form of a prosecutor’s closing argument, is his summation. The argument is based on Heidegger’s philosophical works (principally Being and Time and What Is a Thing ) and on lectures and interviews given by Heidegger before and after the war.

This:

First, the defense will argue that the individualism of the defendant’s ethic of self is fundamentally inconsistent with the corporatism of National Socialism. But we know from our modern experience that an ethic of self, if anything, increases the state’s intrusions into the private life of individual man: an ethic of self first weakens and then destroys the institutions and group norms of society, creating a vacuum soon filled by the power of the few through a state they control, unimpeded by any coherent voice in opposition or by any principle of obligation owed by one man to another.

Yep.

I have read very little Heidegger because he’s very dense, very long-winded and life is short – I’d rather read more Aristotle. But I do think that some influential writers need to be read and understood because they are terrible. So, if my personal life is long enough and my eyesight hangs in there, maybe someday….

On Running Them Through With the Sword

(Minor addendum: reread this, and want to be clear – in a state worthy of the name, citizens don’t get to use the sword except in self-defence. St. Louis’ comment is made as a king, not as a subject/citizen. We are to appeal to the proper secular authorities in cases – apart from self-defence/defence of others – where violence may be called for. This essay is not a call for violence. Just FYI.)

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St. Louis, taking a break from skewering heretics to hold the Crown of Thorns, as represented in the Sainte-Chapelle,  the chapel he built to house it.

“Reason with them, or run them through with the sword.”

This phrase is attributed to St. Louis of France, as his response to the question “How does one deal with heretics (or barbarians, depending on source)?” Whether you sagely nod or recoil in horror says a lot about your world view, here meaning your grip on reality. For a polite rephrasing of the underlying challenge here would be: argue if you can, because, once the arguing stops, all that is left is violence.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the same people who attempt to end all arguments – about what constitutes marriage, human life, proper individual rights, or even if people are DESTROYING THE PLANET – simultaneously seek, and often succeed, in commandeering the state’s power to use violence to further their cause. This attempt to use state violence, which is expressed in the state’s unique legal power to restrict your rights, seize your stuff and even take your life, is merely the next obvious and inevitable step after excusing all other violence in support of the cause. If shouting down or forbidding free speech, fining businesses into bankruptcy, creating new taxes on your opponents, dragging your opponents into court merely to bankrupt them with court costs, rioting, looting and murder don’t bring about the righteous enlightenment of the masses, then the state should lock them away, take all their stuff, ‘educate’ their children without their consent, and so on.

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Dr. Cockroach: “Forgive him, but as you can see, he has no brain.”  B.O.B. “Turns out, you don’t need one! Totally overrated!”

It should be obvious upon a moment’s reflection that the modern age is almost completely uninterested in rational discussion. The exceptions are, with unfortunately decreasing regularity, science and, because of the very real possibility that the Real World will have the last word, business and other routine human activities, such as building a house or a computer. Outside those things where reality holds a clear and more or less immediate veto, modern people will not use their minds if they can possible help it.

This aversion to reason is not, as one might presume, a result purely of fallen human nature.  No, while the mind is found in an unfortunately weakened state in all of us, millennia of experience has proven that, with proper exercise, the mind can become, if not completely healed, at least robust enough for many valuable uses. We even, to a greater or lesser extent, are born curious, eager for exactly the exercises that would make our minds stronger. As with all natural traits, a healthy environment – in this case, life among knowledgeable, wise and curious adults – is all that is needed for natural development of reason as a way to satisfy valid curiosity.

No, in the modern world, the fruits of the darkening of the intellect are carefully cultivated through 12 or more years of schooling, during which being ‘nice’ (however defined) and regurgitating the ‘correct’ answers to the allowed questions is the ticket to gold stars in this life, and a good job in the next. That next life is increasing a government-funded job, since all that training tends to produce ‘product’ incapable of anything better. Or welfare of a more direct sort – what matters is that we have learned not to trouble our little heads with mattera our betters will be deciding for us in any event.

We are expected and trained to join a Tribe of Nodding Agreement. The only recognized and punishable sin is failure to recognize the authority of the Tribe. What the Tribe wants is the power, all power, needed to enforce its will against all, people within or outside the Tribe, who dare disagree. This is what the current cultural battle is all about, whether it takes the form of getting a judge to overturn the ‘incorrect’ votes of the people, shouting down or banning from campus any speaker who says anything against the Tribe, rioting against those who point out the errors in the Tribe’s claims, creating ‘safe spaces’ where the unreasonable can be safe from argument, driving those who fail to comply out of business, and, finally, getting political power to enact as law their positions, so that the battle can be waged through the police powers of the state itself.(1)

It is some comfort to know that, insofar as the Tribe wins, its members will commence to eat each other. Once the battle against The (Straw) Man is won, then the various people inside the Tribe start to notice that their interests are actually often mutually exclusive, sharing only that the reviled enemy disapproves of them. Thus feminists start to notice that gay men are very often the worst misogynists and don’t often hide it all that well; blacks start to see that they are dragged into sexual politics with only a tenuous and dubious relationship to their goals, and, ultimately, the Marxists trying to drive this train recognize that not all, maybe not even most, of the passengers are all that wedded to Marxism.

Of course, Marxists have a well established scruples-free practice of simply purging the useful idiots once they are no longer useful. This includes both those who were never really Marxists to begin with – although, given the thinking-free environment carefully fostered, they can probably be cowed into line as often as not – but most especially, those whose flavor of or take on Marxism differs from those who hold power at the moment. The only real difference seems to be that Kulaks in their millions are dispatched with relative dispassion, while Trotsky gets soundly denounced before getting an ice pick in the head.

But for the sane, it has come to this: no more hiding, no more reasoning at least until our efforts are reciprocated (it takes two to argue, after all). Instead, we must disagree, out loud, to their faces, and never give an inch. We can do it now, when all we face is spittle and fists, or wait to do it when the Tribe has legally empowered firing squads.

It is not going to get any better on its own. There will not be a better time than now. While the collapse of the Tribe is inevitable (lies cannot stand forever) there’s no guarantee it will be a collapse into, say, the chaos of Trump rather than a 1,000 years of tyranny.

Sorry to get so dark. St. Louis of France – Pray for us!

  1. William Briggs points out the error in thinking we can argue our way out of this here.

Book Review: Swan Knight’s Son

Short and sweet: Swan Knight’s Son is a lot of fun, charming and even a quick read, which is not something one can say about most of John C. Wright’s typically much longer books. It is, as far as I know, Mr. Wright’s first foray into YA fantasy. Am now reading it aloud to our 12 year old son, who laughs out loud, especially at the antics of the Ruff the magical dog and Bruno the one-eyed bear dojo master. Fun read for a grown-up, but more fun read to a tween, if just to see his reaction to the comic relief. First in a series, buy it now so you and your kids can rip through it and wait impatiently for the next installment. Well, click the link – what are you waiting for?

As the Amazon blurb says: “SWAN KNIGHT’S SON is the first book of THE GREEN KNIGHT’S SQUIRE, the first volume of MOTH & COBWEB, an astonishing new series about magical worlds of Day, Night, and Twilight by John C. Wright.” I have only one question, and perhaps I need to address it to Mr. Wright’s muse: Here, for the first time outside a short story, Mr. Wright expounds and explores a merely dazzling array of ideas and sources. This, as opposed to his typical 2+ novels worth of ideas per chapter amidst a few dozen references to classical and world mythology and the fringes of science, with character names both evocative and really, really long. Well, Miss Muse, are you going soft? Not that I mind or anything…

Silver-haired Gilberic Parzival Moth is a kid as remarkable as his name, who gets thrown out of high school for busting up some kids and drugs situation. He perhaps used a little too much force, and perhaps got on the wrong side of the principal for reasons he doesn’t understand. He and his mom move around at the drop of a hat, crossing the country, and he fears that she will make them move again. After a lifetime of having his mother answer his questions with evasions and riddles, he wants to know why they have to move all the time, why they seem to always be hiding from something, who his father is, indeed, who he is.

Things get a little spooky. Gil takes it for granted, as totally unremarkable, that he can talk to animals – when he says a little bird told him, he means a little bird told him. Ruff, the dog, is both completely dog and wiser than most people, always ready with enthusiastic advise or a dead squirrel as the situation calls for. One night as he heads home very late, Gil sees all the townspeople walking in a trance, and is warned away and rescued by someone he cannot see from inside a boarded up church he could not possibly have gotten into – yet there he is.

His beautiful silver-haired and ageless mother is ready to move again, but ends up merely throwing Gil out of the house – he can’t go back to school, so he must find honest work. She will not let him sleep at home, and she does not want to discuss the doorway that appears wherever they live – on the proper nights when the moon is full – leading somewhere  decidedly else.

So Gil and Ruff set out to get Gil a job – and thus the adventures begin. Talking animals, mermaids, knights, elves, and a fight for his life. That’s about all I can say without spoilers, and you really don’t want spoilers, you really want to go buy this book and read it. Really fun book!

Politics, Family Life & the Flat Moral Universe

(Another from the Draft folder! This + weeding = only 67 to go!)

Here, I contrasted the rich and varied moral universe of Dante – of the Church – with the flat moral universe of Marx and Modernity. Briefly: in his Divine Comedy, Dante lays out  a world of complex – nuanced, even – moral choices and consequences. It is possible for an individual to commit a wide variety of sins. (1) Depending on the nature and severity of these sins, different consequences follow both in the Hell of one’s own soul and, equally important for Dante, in the Church and what might be called the extended State – extended to include all the family and social relationships that found and sustain the State.

In such a world – the real world – any little sin can result in much evil, and great sins can destroy empires and civilizations. The first identified sinners, after Dante himself, are Paolo and Francesco, whose sin of adultery starts a chain of evils that includes their own deaths at the hands of Francesco’s husband, children left bereft of a mother or father, and conflict between the families and, ultimately, the cities those families were prominent in.

Paolo’s and Francesco’s sin is presented as a comparatively small sin, mitigated by circumstances – through Dante’s example, we are invited to sympathize with the two lovers who are only following where their love leads. Yet, Dante opens with this sin, hardly a sin at all in the modern view, in order to show how even such sins can ruin many lives.

But the modern world rejects a subtly varied moral world, where individual people make their own choices, in favor of a flat moral universe, where personal decisions have little if any effect. In the old view, the evil (and good!) in the world to at least some extent is an expression or culmination of all the personal decisions made by individual people. This is rejected.  Instead, some presumed impersonal yet oddly meddlesome god-like forces do bad, bad things. Thus, instead of examining whether abandoning my wife and children for this year’s fling is a culpable evil act on my part, I look to some ism or other to account for the misery in the world.

There’s a direct inverse correlation between accepting personal responsibility for moral acts and believing that racism, sexisim, capitalism, or some other ism du jour is the problem. Am I sad? That’s because I’m oppressed, somehow. Are my children sad? Well, as long as they don’t entertain the notion that *my* acts have anything to do with it, they can be made to see that it’s some global force at work in their lives.

I wish I were making this up. If I hadn’t seen it repeatedly over the last few decades, I would not have believed an adult would use his own children’s desire to have a mom and dad as a weapon to get them to pretend to accept that it’s OK that mommy and daddy broke up on a whim, that, as a condition of having one or the other parent in their lives, they must pretend that nothing much happened when the kids had all emotional security in their lives torn away from them by divorce. It must be of no consequence that the people who say they love you can up and decide they no longer love daddy or mommy – a kid simply cannot draw the conclusion that the parent’s professions of love for the kid are likewise subject to sudden, arbitrary reversal.

The Hegelian and Marxist faith that some big factors (History, Spirit) outside personal acts form human fate and, in Marx’s case, are the sole sources of evil (2) in the world conveniently lets you off the hook for falling short, even falling short of today’s low standards. That many people have lived good and decent lives in relative poverty under oppressive regimes is simply invisible, impossible, even, for a Marxist, as is that, today, many people less well off than your politically enlightened self are simply happier and healthier. No, to the the True Believer, I and mine must be miserable and deluded, and our happiness based on the advantages (whatever they are) that accrue to me via my group’s oppression of everybody else. My wife and kids, to whom I have dedicated my life and for whom I would lay it down, are nonetheless oppressed by me, because white male. (3) If only their consciousness were raised, they’d despise me, as is only proper, I suppose.

In the more complex universe of reality, it can be acknowledged that, indeed, oppression exists; it is even acknowledged that institutional oppression exists. But such systemic oppression is not somehow independent from the acts of the people involved. (4) The Enlightened seem always impatient (despite patience being perhaps the biggest single sign of maturity), such that any proposed action or inaction that addresses individual people as individuals is never enough: the System (whatever that is, functionally) must be changed – no, not changed, but brought down! And, since destruction of the System is such an overarching good (despite the lack of any coherent idea of what the Good means within a Marxist universe – but logical consistency is for the little people, as often pointed out) , any and all acts that the benighted bourgeoisie might, under their false consciousness, consider evil, such as starving 20 million Kulak men, women & children, murdering unnumbered insufficiently pure Chinese or using power tools to drill holes in the heads of Cambodians  for the crime of having learned to read – such acts are neither good nor bad in themselves, but are to be judged based on how well they advance the Revolution. No, really.

  1. And, by necessity, also makes it possible for an individual to perform a wide range of virtuous acts. It is always good to remember that the same nature of Man and the spiritual world that makes the evil of sin impossible to contain also spreads the good of virtuous acts in ways we can hardly imagine. Every loving gesture and act of self-sacrifice reverberates through time and space. A great saint always leaves in his wake a trail of little saints.
  2. Although there is no basis within Marx’s world for the concept of ‘evil’ – an inconsistency that falls under the ‘logic is for little people’ rubric. If you’re not outraged, you’re paying a little too much attention, as it were.
  3. Mostly. I’m 1/64 Cherokee, and therefore 1/128 less evil on the White Male Scale of Evil. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
  4. The esteemed and much missed Dr. Boli lays out a classic example of how complicated and inextricably intertwined the relationship between the individual’s desire to do good and the social situations within which that desire must operate here.

I Want These!

Both for their very stylish artwork and the not so subtle socio-political statements. From the Wright Stuff shop on Zazzle:

 

(Found here)

We are awake in this hellish Night Land, surrounded by degenerate lying Night Hounds and Abhumans, lured to our doom by the vile House of Silence under the unsleeping eyes of the Watching Things. We can’t step outside our Redoubt unless we are well Prepared. Everything points to our eventual extermination – yet we, awake,  hope.

And:

Escape the Dark Tower! T-Shirt

(Found here)

The Dark Tower, with its weary determinism and vile minions, wants us to believe in Progress All is Fated, that we are doomed to live lives as they say, with no chance at freedom, that all struggle against our dark fate is merely calling down the wrath of the Tower, which will increase our suffering at their hands. But we know that the Dark Astrologers cannot see past an act of virtue, of bravery, love, or hope! All good acts are free, and confound and infuriate the Tower! Let us call on our God and smite the Tower in his Name! Escape the Dark Tower!

Or they’re just cool-cat t-shirts, take your pick from them or the dozens of other Wright Stuff merchandise. I myself know what I’m getting for Christmas – already sent my beloved the email.

Update From Kansas: A Data Point on Education

(Another post salvaged from the Drafts folder. This is from 3 months back. And I found 1 to throw away – down to 69!)

On the road in Atchison, where we visited the Amelia Earhart home of birth and ate at local restaurants – and attended the graduation of our lovely and beloved and good Daughter #1 of Renown and Honor. Education data point, and, yes, I am bragging: we have been told that we ‘ruined’ our daughter and her siblings by not making them go to a real school – we sent them to a school where they were free to hang out, play video games, watch movies, sleep – whatever they wanted that didn’t interfere with what others wanted or risk the wrath of the Law. After 10 years of this horrible, ruinous schooling, this daughter went to college. To repeat: she took no classes in reading, writing or math in grade school or high school. She was assigned no homework. She wrote no papers. No one watched over her or directed her educational activities in any way, until she decided to go to college.

Yesterday, she graduated magna cum laude from Benedictine College with a double major in music and theater.  She will be attending an acting program in LA for the next two years, and then plans to pursue a master’s, either in theology or classics/Great Books. Anybody want to bet against her?

The point here: K-12  is a waste of time at best, a tool designed by our self-appointed betters to make our kids stupid and easily managed. It works great. Just don’t do it! You will be reviled and threatened by family, friends and state, but just say NO! Your kids will be happier, smarter and saner for it. As a side benefit, our family life was free of arguments over homework or grades, and free of parent-teacher conferences and all other busywork and insults to our intelligence.

Is my daughter a genius? Yes – but as John Taylor Gatto said after decades of teaching in public school, often in impoverished areas, genius is a common as dirt. It is the opportunity to develop and use it that is denied most people.

It doesn’t matter if your child learns to read at 4 or 14 – It. Doesn’t. Matter. It doesn’t matter if they learn algebra when they’re 15, or 6, or – gasp – never. They can always learn it when they need it, if they have learned that they can learn. The whole idea of ‘grade level’ is a tool used to keep kids – and their parents – in line. Grade level is a evil fantasy that didn’t exist until our betters decided people needed to be graded like so many eggs or so much lumber. How about we help people learn what they want to learn when they need to learn it? You don’t need graded classrooms for that – even the greatest scholars did without them until 200 years ago – and, I’d wager, the greatest scholars today found them more hindrance than help.

Our next two children, raised and educated in exactly the same negligent and ruinous manner, have joined us in Atchison from Thomas Aquinas College and Thomas More College of Liberal Arts, where they each just now successfully completed their freshman year – Latin, Euclid, heavy reading and writing loads. Both ‘A’ students. Both never took any reading, writing or math classes in grade school or high school.

So, who here is crazy? Me, who claims all that compulsory graded classroom education crap is as stupid and harmful as any objective analysis reveals it to be? Or the millions of parents who have been cajoled and threatened – and patted on the head and given gold stars – to make them think they needed to send their kids to school or they would be ruined? Ruined, I say!