On the Cartesian fallacy as “the source of our present cultural malaise”

Source: John Paul II Identified the Source of Our Present Cultural Malaise – Crisis Magazine

Pope John Paul II – now St. John Paul II, in the Roman Catholic Church – was a wise man in many regards. One of them was in his realization that part of the root of our present-day malaise is philosophical: putting “Descarte before the horse,” as it were, by adopting the Cartesian axiom that thought is prior to being (“I think, therefore I am”):

“Before Descartes, philosophy was concerned with being (esse), with what was real and with the reasoning necessary to bring the mind to an adequate knowledge of that reality. Since Descartes, the concern has been primarily (even exclusively) with questioning the instrument of reason — that is, with analyzing thought [cogito] …

“In the early twentieth century, the advocates of neo-Thomism (a renewal of Saint Thomas Aquinas’s method of philosophy and theology) chose this Cartesian ‘break’ as the obstacle to be overcome: we must get back to the reality of being and out of the cobwebbed darkness of thought, where philosophy had in a sense languished, turning and turning upon itself, unable to gain any traction. [In contrast to Descartes, traditional philosophical thought — not to mention a common-sense grasp of reality — has asserted that] extra-mental being [objective existence] was prior to thought and consciousness: real things stir the intellect into activity in the first place, and so there was no reason to begin philosophy in thought. Thought, in a sense, begins in being.”

Continue reading “On the Cartesian fallacy as “the source of our present cultural malaise””

Inspiration and hope for the future!

The following was posted by a young gentleman(18-21 age bracket) on a social network where I have a presence:

I believe men are protectors.
As men we are given strength to stand for what we believe. We are given a physical nature that can be used to protect and love or destroy.
I want to leave a legacy of people who I helped, of people I guarded from harm.
I want to be a man who loves deeply and truly. Who is not afraid to display weakness, but knows he is strong.
I want to be a man that proves my masculinity by being gentle and respectful to women. Who proves my heritage by making her feel safe in my arms and comforted by my touch. I want to make her quiver and tingle in the most innocent and wonderful ways.
I will demonstrate my strength by standing up for the weak. By speaking kindly when I don’t want to. By listening to both sides of the story.

I want to be a sheepdog, and the very best version of myself. I want to continually grow and learn. I desire knowledge and a level head. I want to be the person who remains calm and collected when the world around me is tangled in flames and in chaos.

As I told him, it is a joy to see these words, especially coming from a member of the rising generation. It gives me hope for the future!

What is cultural Marxism?

As a blog devoted to the defense and promotion of the traditional, the classical, and the enduring – or to put it another way, “the good, the true, and the beautiful” – The Anglophilic Anglican is obviously on the polar-opposite end of the spectrum from that pervasive and pernicious metapolitical phenomenon often known as “cultural Marxism.” But what is cultural Marxism, anyway?

The precise definition can vary with the individual or entity doing the defining, but it is fair to say that cultural Marxism includes at least these elements:

  1. Globalist and internationalist in scope and ethos, cultural Marxism opposes national or regional loyalty, pride, and patriotism, supporting instead transnational structures like the UN and EU.
  2. Cultural Marxism typically supports “open borders” and “liberal” (e.g., lax or nonexistence) immigration policies, employing euphemisms (such as “undocumented” instead of the factual illegal, and “refugees” rather than the more accurate “migrants”) to mask or justify its intentions.
  3. Deeply anti-traditional, cultural Marxism sees (rightly!) traditional cultural, spiritual / religious, and even political norms and values as antithetical, indeed hostile, to its goal of transforming society in its own image.
  4. Highly secular, even atheistic, cultural Marxism is opposed to traditional religious and moral values, particularly those rooted in the Christian faith, although it is willing to use quasi-religious rhetoric and the idea of interfaith “coexistence” to advance its agenda.
  5. Aggressively “multi-cultural,” cultural Marxism claims to champion “diversity,” but appears to fail to realize that making every place demographically identical is not in fact diversity, but homogeneity. Or perhaps it does realize this, and that’s part of the agenda…
  6. While claiming “individual rights” as the justification for much of its raison d’être, cultural Marxism paradoxically adopts strong-arm, authoritarian tactics – from shaming campaigns (accusing opponents of “racism,” “sexism,” “xenophobia,” etc.) to violent protests / riots – for squashing dissent and imposing its view of the world, in the process trampling the individual rights of those who do not agree with its ideology.
  7. Despite its antipathy to traditional moral standards, cultural Marxism is quite willing to use traditional terminology and concepts, such as “compassion” and “fairness,” to justify its attempts to overthrow traditional social and political structures and moral values.
  8. Cultural Marxism is methodical and gradual in its methods, and takes the long view of history, knowing that every moral or social innovation accepted makes it that much more difficult to justify opposition to the next step; it counts on its opponents becoming fatigued, and giving up the fight.

“The Revolution won’t happen with guns, rather it will happen incrementally, year by year, generation by generation. We will gradually infiltrate their educational institutions and their political offices, transforming them slowly into Marxist entities as we move towards universal egalitarianism.” – Max Horkheimer, leader of the “Frankfurt School”

Not coincidentally, the importation and juxtaposition in close proximity of people with widely (even wildly) varied cultural, political, social, and religious backgrounds (*), coupled with the deconstruction of traditional mediating institutions such as traditional families and churches, and traditional social, moral, and political norms and understandings, provides fertile ground for the imposition of radically innovative ideas and ideologies – such as cultural Marxism itself. This is a truth which is not lost on cultural Marxists.

(* On this subject, I wish I could find the account I read, several years ago, about a cruise company which proudly advertised the multicultural nature of its crews. The dark secret that “selling point” hid, as recounted by the author of the article, is that having a crew made up of people of  a wide range of ethnicities, cultures, national origins, languages, etc., meant that it was almost impossible for them to come together and organize for collective bargaining. As a result, the company was able to exploit them more-or-less with impunity! This is a lesson which should be recalled, when considering the ostensible “benefits” of aggressive multiculturalism and immigration.)

Nota Bene: Franklin Einspruch, at The Federalist, makes a good case that what are most commonly known, these days, as cultural Marxists are actually what he refers to as “pomofascists,” short for “postmodern fascists.” As Einspruch notes,

“The main impulse at work here is not Marxism, but megalomania. The pomofascist sees himself as the embodiment of good and worthy causes. The less everyone else supports those causes, the less human they are, and therefore deserving fewer rights and less entitlement to their own views. Lying to them or about them is of no consequence. Beyond a not-so-far-off point of disagreement, it is acceptable to attack them, rhetorically or bodily. In this context, Marxism is merely an exculpatory device.”

While I don’t disagree with the point, I think we can’t totally discredit or ignore the Leftist / Marxist attitudes and ideology espoused by most of these people, either (see Horkheimer quote, above). Also, I think he’s fighting an uphill battle if he seriously wants to change the designation: “cultural Marxism” has acquired a certain currency, despite repeated (and somewhat hysterical) attempts by its proponents to discredit both the term and those who use it.

But then, I have always argued that the political spectrum is less a straight line than a horseshoe: go far enough to either the Left or the Right, and you end in totalitarianism.

“Because Man is not great” – on the relationship between atheism and socialism

Throne, Altar, Liberty: The Younger Brother

The linked post is a review of The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith by Peter Hitchens, younger brother of Christopher Hitchens, whose paean to atheism god is not great, received a certain amount of attention several years ago. While The Rage Against God is not, as Gerry T. Neal, author of “Throne, Altar, Liberty,” points out, “a comprehensive rebuttal of the atheistic arguments his brother Christopher compiled,” a number of interesting and cogent points are found in Mr. Neal’s account thereof.

Among them is a discussion of the relationship between World War Two and the functional end of of both Empire and Christianity as applied to Britain: “The War marked the end of Britain’s being a Christian nation in anything other than name. It also marked the end of the British Empire with the United Kingdom being eclipsed as the world power by its wartime allies, the United States and the Soviet Union.”

The two are not unrelated; both represent a crisis of faith: on the one hand, faith in a transcendent sacred reality, usually referred to as God; on the other, faith in traditional social and political structures and norms, as represented by the British Empire, which had existed for several centuries at the time of WW II (and arguably, intermittently at least, for a thousand years or more previously).

As the younger Hitchens points out, “I had replaced Christianity and the Churchill cult with an elaborate socialist worldview — because I had decided that I did not wish to believe in God or in patriotism.”

And socialism, of course, is a utopian political and economic worldview and ideology which believes that we can bring about a return to Eden on our own, if only we can enact (and bring people to accept, by persuasion or, if necessary, compulsion) enough programs of social engineering. It is therefore by its very nature predisposed to be amenable to, and compatible with, atheism, although it does exist in at least nominally Christian forms.

[I shall be speaking, here, of socialism primarily in its social / cultural form, as described above — which in its more extreme manifestations is sometimes referred to as “cultural Marxism.” Critiques may be made of both socialism and capitalism as economic systems, but that is not the topic of this essay.]

Rather than accepting (in How the Irish Saved Civilization author Thomas Cahill’s idiom) that “St. Paul trumps Plato” — a clear-eyed realization that Paul’s admission that “I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19) is far closer to the experience of most humans, most of the time, than Plato’s assumption that one who comprehends “the Good” cannot help but pursue it — socialists and atheists alike continue to believe that we can “boot-strap” ourselves into a secular analog of salvation.

Ironically, then, while secularists — both socialists and atheists — pat themselves on the back for their “rationalism” and “realism,” it can be argued that Christianity actually has a much more realistic and rational view of human nature. But despite, or perhaps because of, its more modest expectations, it has nonetheless inspired its adherents to accomplish some pretty amazing things, intellectually, artistically, and socially. It has also, of course, fallen prey to the vicissitudes of human nature.

Atheists continually try to downplay the countless ways Western civilization has benefited from Christianity and to condense Church history into the Crusades, Inquisition, and priestly child abuse. As Hitchens points out however, violence and persecution that has been conducted in the name of faith is “not because they are religious, but because Man is not great.”

That is to say, violence and persecution in the name of religion occur not because of the Christian faith, but despite it. Religion may be the justification or rationalization used, but it is not the cause. Human nature is the cause. This does not deny that Christianity has sometimes been used to justify oppression, but it places the blame where it belongs: on the human element, not the doctrine. (Of course, some religions have doctrines that encourage violence in a way that Christianity does not. The fact that the human religious impulse itself comes from God and tends toward God does not mean that all religions are morally equivalent, or theologically interchangeable. Discernment is vital.)

Similarly, in the words of Hitchens, atheists ought to

concede that Godless regimes and movements have given birth to terrible persecutions and massacres. They do not [make this concession], in my view, because in these cases the slaughter is not the result of a misunderstanding or excessive zeal. Utopia can only ever be approached across a sea of blood. This is a far greater problem for the atheist than it is for the Christian, because the atheist uses this argument to try to demonstrate that religion specifically makes things worse than they otherwise would be. On the contrary, it demonstrates that our ability to be savage to our own kind cannot be wholly prevented by religion. More important still, Atheist states have a consistent tendency to commit mass murders in the name of the greater good. [emphasis added]

Similarly, if (hopefully) less drastically, socialist states have a consistent and easily-observable tendency to enact ever-more-stringent social controls in the name of “equality” and “protecting the rights of the individual,” until you have what amounts to a “soft” totalitarianism of oppressive laws that drastically limit individual freedom in the service of ostensibly protecting individual rights.

In other words, the right of individuals to freely express themselves is constrained, sometimes dramatically, in pursuit of the right of other individuals to not be “put out”… which is another way of saying, to freely express themselves.

So who decides whose rights to express themselves are more important? Why, whoever is in power at the time! Is this morality, or is it the law of the jungle? As Mr. Neal accurately notes, “Atheists such as Greg Epstein insist that man can be ‘good without God.’ Hitchens shows that apart from an external source of justice, morality among humans ultimately breaks down into ‘might makes right’.”

Or as C.S. Lewis famously put it,

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep; his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

So while socialism and atheism may not be identical, and may not always and necessarily co-inhabit the same person’s psyche, they are natural allies and frequent fellow-travelers. It is therefore not a surprise that post-WW II Britain – and indeed, much of Europe – has become increasingly both socialist and atheist (a process which actually began with World War One, and only accelerated after the Second World War).

But the combination is a problematic one, to say the least. As discussed previously, it leads inevitably toward the devaluing of faith: not only faith in a transcendent sacred reality, replacing it with a dubious faith in the ultimate perfectibility of human nature (against which both reason and experience counsel strongly), but faith in traditional norms and structures of society: ironically, despite the name, socialism tends to result in a radically individualistic social milieu, compared to more traditional societies.

The result is a too-frequent and perhaps inevitable breakdown of the moral and practical constraints which these traditional elements place upon the more violent and hubristic elements of human nature. As noted above, apart from an external source of justice, morality among humans ultimately breaks down into “might makes right” — an unreliable source of moral rectitude, to put it mildly!

QOTD from “Throne, Altar, Liberty,” with commentary

“We live in an age of idolatry, in which false gods have been substituted for the true God, and counterfeit goods for true goods. Our age has substituted human rights for natural law, equality for justice, and democracy for constitutional government, and we are the worse for each of these substitutions.”

Only one of several gems among this collection of “brief thoughts on assorted matters” from the author of “Throne, Altar, Liberty,” a self-described “Protestant Christian, patriotic Canadian, and a reactionary High Tory.”

red ensign

Here’s another:

“Political correctness has so rotted the minds of our politicians that Parliament is seriously considering condemning as an irrational fear and prejudice the concerns of those who consider it imprudent to admit large numbers of immigrants or asylum-seekers who adhere to the religion that converted the Arabic peoples at sword point during the life of its founder, conquered the rest of the Middle East within twenty-five years of his death, was invading Christian Europe from both sides by the end of its first century, and has behaved in the exact same way towards Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and anyone else who had the misfortune to live in proximity to it ever since.”

And one more:

Isn’t it interesting how those who decry the mixing of religion and politics whenever a conservative evangelical, fundamentalist or traditionalist Catholic or Orthodox leader calls for pornography to be restricted, abortion to be banned, and public morality to be restored to what it was sixty years ago or otherwise expresses a right-of-centre view of public policy seem to have no objections to those wolves in shepherds’ clothing who devote all of their pulpit time to preaching the gospel of environmentalism, denouncing the evils of various sorts of prejudice and discrimination, and calling for more immigration and diversity.

And, I would add, seem to have no objection to the importation and accommodation of members of a “religion” — Islam — which is in fact an all-embracing ideology: one which makes explicit its claim to absolute dominance in every sphere of human existence, including not only religion and morality but governance, jurisprudence, military affairs, and even economics.

There is no separation of Church (mosque) and State in Islam, no “render unto Caesar,” no “my Kingdom is not of this world.” Yet anyone who raises questions about this is “racist,” “xenophobic,” “Islamophobic.” Another dangerously ironic example of the inconsistency, hypocrisy, and irrationality of the current “liberal” Left.

But as the author of “Throne, Altar, Liberty” also points out,

“Liberals, socialists, and neoconservatives are all in favour of high levels of immigration and a lackadaisical approach to border security and the enforcement of immigration law. This is because each sees the immigrants as the means to some selfish end of their own. [Liberals — in the U.S., Democrats] see a voting base that will keep them in power perpetually, [socialists] see a pathway to power in potential voters they can lure away from the [liberals] by offering more government benefits, and the neoconservatives see a supply of cheap labour. All three condemn as ‘racist’ those who want lower levels of immigration, stricter enforcement of border security and immigration laws, and an immigration policy that is based upon our own country’s needs and interests and does not seek to radically transform our country.”

It’d almost be funny, if it wasn’t so sad.

“Do you think the word ‘feminism’ can be rehabilitated?”

I recently came across a post with the above title, on a social media site not typically noted for its preponderance of thoughtful, reflective posts, and it caught my attention. The person posting, who happens to be female, and with a background in law, noted that

Although I applaud women like these [see image, below] for making a valiant effort… I’m afraid that — like the term “conservatism” — the word “feminism” has been abused, misused and propagandized beyond reclamation.

Bruner on feminism

As I responded, this issue is far from a new one! The late great G.K. Chesterton wrote this back in the late 19th or early 20th century:

Chesterton - feminism

His point remains valid today, in my opinion.

If “feminism” means according women their proper due – that is to say, recognizing them as equal in intrinsic value / inherent worth with men, not necessarily identical in role but equal in importance and honour – then I am all for it.

If it means lowering, as the meme she posted points out, the standards for women to the abysmally low standards to which men are often held, or if it means either feminizing men or masculinizing women, as seems too often the case – or if, as one commentator described the “third wave” feminism of today, it is about “fighting for the right of women to engage in self-destructive behavior and get away with it while making sure men do not” – it is in my estimate a detriment rather than a benefit to society.

She further noted in response,

The always perceptive Chesterton was making a similar point to what I was making this morning:

“Why are millions of women taking the day off work today? To draw attention to a world where the shackles of the Patriarchy have been cast off — giving them the opportunity to be wage-slaves too — and as waves of liberation have swept further through the economy and society many women have now realized the dream of having two or even three unfulfilling jobs necessary in order to keep their family afloat.”

It is rarely mentioned that just as liberation was kicking into gear in 1973 (the same year, not so coincidentally, that Nixon closed the gold window) the economy started to warp; and one of those warps was fewer “breadwinner” jobs — jobs that pay a sufficient salary to support a family — and that is a trend which continues to this day.

Socially and culturally this stuff ended up not just dragging women down to the worst flaws of men, but dragging men even lower. Feminism incorporated the Sexual Revolution (which should no longer be called a revolution, because they won and are now the establishment). This aspect of feminism became increasingly central and more disgusting in Third Wave. Former Cosmo editor Sue Ellen Browder wrote a good book on this: Subverted: How I Helped the Sexual Revolution Hijack the Women’s Movement.

But there has been a backlash among younger women to this trash. Millennials (especially the younger tier) really are the “Pro-life Generation” — polls consistently show them to be pro-life — they are Planned Parenthood’s greatest nightmare. And there is a repulsion to the “hook-up culture” and all that among younger women — which is not surprising, that is just not the metaphysical nature of women.

The pendulum nearly always swings, thankfully, as I commented in my follow-up post. And as I wrote there, I, too, have seen the beginnings of a shift back, in the younger generation, to a more traditional — and, in my view, healthier and saner — approach to sexuality and procreation. Encouraging! But it is unquestionable that the connection between morality and economics is a closer (and, likely, less coincidental) one than most people realize.

It is ironically interesting, although sad, to track the way in which the breakdown of what are often considered “traditional family values” has marched practically in lock-step with the breakdown in the traditional family itself — in part, at least, due to the fact that, as my interlocutor commented, it is now much more rare for a single “breadwinner” to be able, economically, to support a family, meaning that both partners need to work.

This in turn tends to fragment family ties and devolve “child care” (which used to be called parenting) onto paid professionals, who may or may not share the parents’ values, background, and intentions for their children. It is difficult indeed to maintain a close, cohesive family structure, and engage in focused, intentional child-rearing, when both parents work outside the home!

A vicious downward spiral, which will likely take much more time and effort to arrest and reverse than it did to initiate. That, sadly, is the recurring pattern! Good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created… or re-created, once lost.