Thursday 31 March 2011

Intellectuals are (intrinsically) eunuchs


Ernest Gellner made the point that - as a class - intellectuals are eunuchs (using a broad definition).

Ancient societies were (mostly) divided into warriors (rulers), priests (advisers, administrators/ clerks, lawyers), and peasants - and the priests were (in a sense) eunuchs. 

In other words the intellectual elite are (over time) excluded from reproduction and leadership.


This was achieved in some societies by making actual castration a pre-requisite of obtaining the privileges of the intellectual class.

For example, in the Byzantine Empire (the most successful Christian Empire by far) the civil service was staffed by eunuchs - they formed a buffer zone between the Emperor and the rest of the world.

In Roman times most intellectuals were slaves.

In medieval Europe, the intellectuals were celibate (legally celibate, that it; they could not have legitimate heirs).

Another main class of intellectuals in medieval Europe were Jews, who were an encapsulated and subordinate population, legally excluded from rulership.

Most teachers have been of servant status: like 'nannies', private tutors or governesses.

In modern times, the intellectual elite (which includes a high-ish proportion of women) are of course de facto eunuchs: in the sense that they have opted for voluntary sterility with fertility delayed into the thirties and a fertility rates way below replacement levels; and in the sense that they are servants (who adjust to society) not leaders (who shape society).

(Indeed, there are no leaders at present; which is why things are set to revert.)


To be a eunuch, then, is to opt for a life of relative intellectual freedom and relative physical comfort; at the cost of near-zero fertility and subordinate (slave, serf, servant, outcast) status.


(I should emphasize that eunuchs may indeed, did indeed, have sex - as did celibate priests, slaves, servants etc; but they do not reproduce; or only at an insignificant level. Either they do not have offspring, or they are allowed to die, or are given/ taken away, or cannot inherit, or are confined in a ghetto, or something of the sort.)


The trend may be bucked for a generation or two - but equilibrium is soon restored: as we can see all around us. We are returning to the default of warriors, priests and peasants.

Of course, the present vast class of (pseudo) eunuchs - I mean intellectuals - cannot possibly be supported, and almost all of us will be returned to peasant status.  


[There was, of course, another class: the middle class, the skilled trades and crafts and arts - the guilds or 'mysteries'. And these are not eunuchs but patriarchs. They provide the population to fill vacancies in the ruling classes, and leaders of the peasant classes. But the middle class have gone altogether. They will need to be rebuilt from the ground-up.]


What we cannot have: modernity minus PC


Whatever the future holds, one things we cannot have (even if we want it) is modern society minus political correctness.

We cannot have freedom, growth, capability, comfort etc.... minus PC.

And of course we cannot have freedom, growth, capability, comfort etc with PC; because PC is actively destroying all of these.

We are going to lose modern society whatever happens - whether PC continues, or whether PC is destroyed and replaced.

Modernity is doomed: suck it up!


We cannot return to modern society pre political correctness.

That is, we cannot go back to 'the fifties', which was merely a transitional era when PC had not quite broken through to dominance; but it was there, and all trends were set for it to take-over.

Furthermore we cannot overcome the problem by returning to Victorian times, or the early American Republic, or the Stuart absolute monarchy, nor even to Medieval Europe.

It would be futile to try, but we cannot even try; because there are no grounds for leverage.


For example, we cannot generate reactionary change using democracy, or hedonism, or economic materialism, or nationalism, or science, or art, or via the mass media or even via Christianity - since all of these systems are now PC.

Any use of any of these will merely loop-back to PC via a short detour.  

We would be trying to get rid of one part of PC by using another part of PC - hauling on a folded lever with both ends in the same place.


(What can we do? Repentance is the first step. We must repent the modern experiment. Which is why the delusion of working to restore modernity-minus-PC is fatal: it prevents, or at least delays, repentance. Acceptance that we cannot have what we want (or, what we think we want) is the first step in making a choice between the options on offer.)


Wednesday 30 March 2011

Rooted in common sense


From the comments:


All reason must assume (without question!) a basis of innate common sense.

Because the reasoning we use to discriminate between assumptions itself has assumptions.

There is no rational basis for reason: yes, this is obvious, but ignored.


This never used to be a problem for philosophers (in the ancient world and up to Aquinas), since they implicitly accepted that humans are 'born into the world' equipped with valid means of understanding the world.

(And humans are thus equipped not by accident. Teleology, purpose is assumed, is part of common sense.)


But later philosophers (notably Descartes) created a pseudo- and insoluble problem by doubting 'everything' (as they imagined they were doing), by trying to work from arbitrary and assumption-free axioms, or by using reason to evaluate reason.

And instead of retreating from their error (which led to reductio ad absurdum in every direction), they simply went further and further along the same path, seeking coherence at some more advanced and specialized level - and here we are...


The point is that philosophical enquiry as such has already left-out a lot, even before it starts; and therefore all philosophy is distorted and wrong when pushed hard enough. At the bottom is 'common sense'/ Natural Law / the human condition - and then, for some, divine revelation.

The validity of divine revelation being itself established by common sense/ natural law kinds of reasoning and knowledge - and *not* by specialist sub-systems such as philosophy or science.

This is where Pascal's Pensees are so impressive - not because of his 'wager' but because he establishes 1. the validity and 2. the superiority of Christianity using common sense reasoning - for example the miracles and prophecies.

All that is required for Pascal to be compelling is an acknowledgement of the *possibility* of divine revelation, soul, God etc. (i.e.the standard ingredients of religious thinking).


The root reason why modern atheists are incredulous about Christianity is that they (and my former self) deny the *possibility* of the soul, the supernatural, God/ gods, revelation, miracles, prophecies etc.

And to deny these is to deny both common sense and the wisdom of the ages - to set-up oneself and one's era and one's culture as qualitatively superior to all of human history and four fifths of the rest of the world.


The foundational sin of modernity is therefore pride (the worst of sins) - the assertion of existential self-sufficiency.

Ironically, this infinite pride and exponential subversion and insatiable destruction presents itself to itself as humility, as innocent enquiry, as: 'What do I know? I only want to find-out! I only want to be sure."


Angels and demons - and the good society


I have been reading Peter Kreeft's excellent book Angels and demons which is a philosophical window onto the traditional (and common sense) perspective that prevailed everywhere until recently, and among most people still.

Particularly enlightening was the idea that angels and demons can influence the emotions, create mental images and implant ideas...

But motivation and choice were not directly accessible to them.


In other words, the Catholic understanding of the influence of the supernatural is that external powers can (and do) put ideas and images into the mind, and influence the emotions and feelings; but that free will is immune.


In terms of the human condition, this corresponds with the fact that socio-political influences (whether angelic, demonic or indeed humanly motivated) can fill our minds with stuff, can pour images and ideas into our conscious and unconscious thinking; and can also manipulate our emotions.

But our free will (our motivations and choices) stands apart from this, and choices can be influenced only indirectly.


It is always possible to reject images, ideas and emotions. This fact is non-negotiable.

For angels or demons to influence humans, there must always be an act of free will that opens the mind to the influence.

And that is the only way that angels or demons can have influence.

So it follows that a person can potentially always be good under any circumstance: can always make good choices.


Yet, albeit indirectly, choices are influenced, shaped, pushed and pulled.


So, it follows that a good society is one in which minds are filled with good images and ideas, and these good ideas are associated with positive emotions; and where bad ideas are associated with negative emotions.

A bad society is one in which minds are filled with bad (evil, false, ugly) ideas, and these bad ideas are associated with positive emotions; and good ideas are associated with negative emotions.


Question: what kind of society do you think we live in - good or bad?


Tuesday 29 March 2011

Do you believe in...?


"Do you believe in" X is a badly-formed question: belief comes and goes with emotions, state of health, sleeping and waking and under external influence.

Any external influence which generates images, or alters our body state, can shape or shake the steadiness of believing.

The proper question concerns whether X is real.


However, in modern secular mainstream culture the question "do you believe in..." is regarded as primary - and the matter of whether X is actually real is subordinated.

This happens because modern secular mainstream culture is nihilist: which is to say it does not believe in reality except as a product of belief: which is merely to say - in a different form of words, since belief is labile - that it does not believe in reality.


Belief is therefore vitally important to secular culture: indeed belief is all important.

From this comes the fixation upon sincerity (or authenticity) as a primary virtue and the primacy of hypocrisy as the ultimate sin: the idea that it is not important what you believe but that you believe (strongly, self-consistently, permanently).

Sincerity and consistency and strength of belief is, for moderns, the only reality.

And when reality is based on nothing firmer than the subjective state of believing, then the stability of the world itself is experienced as being only as great at the stability of that state of belief.


This fact is vital for us modern Western intellectuals, who have been - from an early age - emotionally corrupted such that the common sense of the ages sincerely strikes us as absurd.

Hence we cannot have a spontaneous primary belief in that which has - for all of historical humanity, and still for most of the modern world - been taken as obvious: the soul, Natural Law, the supernatural, and so on.

About such matters, we cannot (even when we want to) achieve that steady subjective state of believing which forms the (only) foundation of modern culture.


(Perhaps we could, surely we could, believe-in these basic human presuppositions if they were supported by culture; but when the mass of ideas and images from the mass media/ education/ officialdom propaganda apparatus subverts these basic human presuppositions, then such beliefs are experienced as too insecure to serve as foundational.)


Of course, the state of believing is very important indeed; but belief is not meant to serve as the foundations for life.

When conceived as a here-and-now emotional conviction - belief is properly a second-order phenomenon.

Life should be built on reality, not belief.


"Do you believe that X is real?" gets much closer to what should be being asked.

From this it follows that we ought not regard as true that which we believe; but should instead strive to believe that which we believe is real.


The (un?) importance of dreams


From Nevill Coghill - The Poet Chaucer, 1949

"As for us [i.e. in 1949], so for Chaucer, dreams were a matter of scientific and philosophical enquiry, whether they were the dreams of poets or lovers or of humours of the blood, dreams of the soul or belly, dreams that were no more than a rag bag of past impressions and dreams that, being true visions of the future, had metaphysical importance since they seemed to establish that the future was in some way already fixed."


That preliminary 'As for us' shows the decline of the importance of dreams since 1949 - at the height of the influence of Freudian and Jungian analysis.

Tolkien's The Notion Club Papers (unfinished novel) is from this same era (1945-6) and has a similar fascination with the importance and possibilities of dreams.

And yet this recognition of the importance of dreams, which extends back as far as human records reach - back, even, into hunter gatherer times so far as we can tell - has now been displaced by the presumption that dreams are merely trivial. (I have even noticed a significant decline in interest in dreams during my adult lifetime.)

As usual, there are no discoveries to account for this displacement and downgrading of dreams - dreams have simply come to seem absurd, boring, irrelevant.

Dreams have not been explained - merely explained-away.


To recapitulate: (some) dreams used to be seen in spiritual terms as (potentially) providing of insights, supernatural guidance or power, perhaps prophetic, sometimes revelatory.

Then later on (and simultaneously, overlapping with the spiritual interpretation) dreams were seen as diagnostic - the medieval doctors would infer humoral imbalances from the nature of dreams, which had implications for treatment. Freud also saw dreams as diagnostic while Jung saw them as, in addition, either healing in their own right or providing clues to healing.

Now dreams are categorized as, at best, mere wish fulfillment - like a virtual reality home movie in the mind; or at worst nightmares that are unpleasant, hence require suppression or analgesia.


Dreams are yet another example of modern culture seeing-through, de-valuing, dis-enchanting and finally ignoring altogether a great swathe of human experience which had 'always' previously been regarded as highly significant and important.

Think dreams are useful? - Well, we know better! 


Monday 28 March 2011

Heart, Mind and Body - Harry, Hermione and Ron


When reading John Granger's excellent exposition of the underlying spirituality of the Harry Potter series - How Harry cast his spell - I was struck by his use of the traditional (although now regarded as obsolete) division into Heart, Mind and Body; and by his equation of these with the characters of Harry, Hermione and Ron.

Granger points out that the Heart is properly the leader of the trio; and when Harry follows his Heart he almost always makes the right choices and does the right thing and the trio do the right thing (even when the Head says it makes no sense or is suicidal and the Body objects because it generates immediate unhappiness and suffering).


Harry is the hero because he is quick-witted, self-sacrificing and brave. And he is a good hero because he is motivated by love not power. Harry is certainly not stupid (although slow on the uptake) but neither is he a brilliant intellectual, nor an abstract thinker, nor a magical expert, like Hermione.

But Harry cannot behave with instinctive spontaneity and naturalness like Ron - he cannot 'lose himself' in parties and feasts and celebrations, always standing somewhat apart; instead Harry continually pursues aims which diminish his happiness and comfort (something which Ron does only seldom, and under the inspiration of Harry's leadership).

Harry is, indeed, a natural Gryffindor - the House of leadership (being characterized by courage and loyalty and having chosen love over power - hence rejecting Slytherin), but Hermione as a single person is a natural for Ravenclaw, while Ron is clearly a Hufflepuff - except that he is not hard-working. Presumably, however, the Sorting Hat somehow recognized that the three needed each other for the greater good - and needed therefore to be in the same House...


'Yet' Harry is the proper leader, and the times when he (and the trio) go wrong are usually the times when Harry follows Ron or Hermione's lead against his own Heart, or when the trio is broken, hence unbalanced.

Things work best when Heart, Head and Body are present and in harmony; but the Heart must lead.


This difference between the three can be seen in terms of attitude to the magical creatures House Elves.

Ron simply accepts the subservience of the House Elves and simply takes them for granted, regards them as a ludicrous joke, or regards them as inferior and beneath consideration. He would like his family to have House Elves simply because they would make life easier, pleasanter and more comfortable.

Hermione, on the other hand, adopts a politically correct attitude to House Elves, that sees them as if they had the same ('equal') nature as Wizards; and presumes they want the same things as Wizards. She forms the pressure group SPEW (a title which she stridently asserts is 'not funny!') - the Society for the Promotion of Elfish Welfare - and sets about 'freeing' House Elves as a matter of principle, and despite their own wishes. Indeed Hermione goes so far as to try and trick the Hogwarts Elves into freedom without their consent and against their expressed wishes, by hiding objects of clothing where Elves might accidentally pick them up and thereby become magically freed. Hermione thinks she knows better than the House Elves what they really want. House Elves have, she implicitly believes - although not using this vocabulary, been indoctrinated with a 'false consciousness' that makes them act against their own interests - and therefore require to be liberated for their own good by a quasi-Bolshevik revolutionary vanguard of enlightened Wizards, in the form of SPEW (of which she just happens to be founder and leader). A typical modern intellectual, in other words...

Harry sees the House Elves as individuals, and recognizes the unusual - perhaps unique - case of Dobby who is a House Elf who really does want to be freed. On the other hand, he acknowledges the tragedy of Winky who is freed against her wishes, and is completely lost, and takes refuge in perpetual drunkenness. Harry's attitude is that House Elves are different and should be treated differently, according to their nature, and should properly be treated kindly, politely and respectfully.


When considering this division into Heart, Head and Body; and the natural and proper heroic leadership of the Heart with the subordination of Head and Body - I was struck by the fact that it is the Heart which has been abolished from modern mainstream socio-politics.

Modernity as it has unfolded has given us leadership by the Head but pandering to the Body - and the Heart is absent.

We have rule by intellectual abstractions and indulgence of bodily appetites - but the heroism of the Heart is regarded as irrational nonsense from one point of view, and foolishly puritanical killjoy-ism from the other.


We have an elite of politically correct and intellectually-gifted Hermiones leading an army of comfort- and sensation-seeking Rons, but Harry is nowhere to be seen.

Yet it was Harry who saved the world - ultimately by his faith and self-sacrifice; neither Hermione nor Ron could, nor would, have done it.


Big Hooray Words - education, science, peace, law, democracy, freedom, art


Modern discourse, inner discourse as well as public, is not just hampered but well-nigh crippled by the positive connotations of Big Hoorah Words like education, science, peace, law, democracy, freedom, art, medicine... all the Big things we are supposed to like, to favour, to promote, to support with taxes.

Although this produces cognitive dissonance - mental cramp - when somebody uses the words to support something we don't like; somehow we cannot break free from the grip these words have upon us: we cannot deny them.


But these Big Hooray Words are not virtues; they are specialized social functions, many or most of which have not existed on previous human societies.

The time is long since past that we ought to have broken free from their grip.

Why should these positive connotations be the object of our worship?


Education - just for example: why should we favour this thing?

What does this 'education' actually entail? What stuff is being taught, and by what means? What people are to be educated, and with what end?

Does this person benefit from this information being imparted in this was (compared with other things this person might be doing)?

In any formal sense, education is neither good nor bad because it is a content-free concept; in practice it boils down to the social system labelled as education - in a more- or less-restricted definition.


Science is much the same: what can we do with this idea?

Are you pro- or anti- 'science'? Are you pro- whatever may at some time or another be absorbed into the social system of science - because science now is an utterly different thing than science was 150, 100 or even 50 years ago.

Are you in favour of a social system called 'science' merely because it is the lineal descendent of something that you liked?

Science now is a different size, has different kinds of people, who are differently motivated, and do different kinds of things, which are differently funded, and differently evaluated - the broad sweep and fine grain of science are all different now than a century ago when Einstein was starting work in the patent office in Berne.


And yet we, I, keep getting drawn into thinking about and talking about these vast nebulae of swirling gas!

Somebody, somewhere must be laughing at this!


Discernment. That is what is needed. A concept much used by Fr Seraphim Rose, and applied to the precisely analogous situation of 'christianity' (lower case).

(Are you in favour of christianity? Are you in favour of a nebulous, vague gaseous entity - definitions to be provided later and changed as required by expediency?)

If there is anything we need - in the world as it has becomes and is becoming - it is discernment.


Perhaps the reason why Natural Law has lost its grip, for the first time in human history, is that it is forced to grapple with vague abstractions asif these were reality.

If discernment is applied, and we are specific about concrete, actual people, things, situations - then natural law will return.

Clarity returns.

The 'gift' of being ruled by generations of intellectuals is now that concrete specific situations are regarded as delusions, and the only reality is fluid abstraction.

We are not supposed to evaluate this person in front of us, doing - or not doing, such-and-such a thing. Because... well I don't know why because...

But we are supposed (as sophisticated moral entities) to evaluate this actual person and their actual action through what purports to be the lens of abstract principle and reason - but which is, or has become, not a lens but a fog.


Sunday 27 March 2011

A dose of mysticism in intercessionary prayer? A soul focus?


I sense that Christian churches are so permeated with worldliness that they now see the human condition in a *primarily* worldly frame.

For example in the case of intercessionary prayer. It seems normal, almost universal, to pray for those who are suffering - bodily - from illness, poverty, natural disasters and war.

And in the case of specific, known, local people, this is surely right (although our threshold for suffering is very low by historical standards - especially in terms of poverty).


But the amount of attention paid by churches to mass suffering seems, while clearly not wrong, to be strategically counter productive - in a secular society it assimilates the church to secular life.

It seems that our guided prayers ought to be very clearly distinct from what the mass media happens to be featuring as 'good cause of the week'.


The church ought not to be striving to be 'topical and relevant', it ought to be striving in the opposite direction; and insofar as any reference is made to mass suffering it ought, surely, to be concerned with the souls of those who suffer, and not with the socio-political alleviation of their physical suffering as such?

If suffering is inevitable, and cannot usually be alleviated; surely public Christian prayer should ask for spiritual resources to endure suffering, and to use suffering to advance spiritually?

Saturday 26 March 2011

The hierarchy of authorities


Authority comes from masters, via apprenticeship.

And a humble, simple master is not just adequate but the best kind of master for humble, simple apprentices.

His job is to fit the message to the specific circumstances and limitations (of age, time, aptitude, motivation etc).


Authority must, however, form a hierarchy; and the humble, simple master must stand in an apprentice-relation to his betters - the high-masters, masters of masters.

Above whom stand the eternal authorities.


And the apprentice relation is individual, one master to few apprentices.

Given this; it is undesirable - as well as impossible, because ineffective - to have a 'flat hierarchy' of one master and many apprentices.


(Just as it is both undesirable and ineffective to have a flat hierarchy in the military - as if there were to be officers but no sergeants or corporals. Naturally this reduces efficiency; since efficiency is effectiveness divided by resources. As officer/ NCO resources are reduced, so effectiveness declines faster than the saving in resources. At the reductio ad absurdum of saving resources on officers and NCOs we would have an 'army' of one General and five thousand private soldiers.)


One high-master cannot in reality exert authority over, teach, many apprentices; many apprentices cannot learn from one master.

The master needs to be able to look each apprentice in the eye, and interact with them repeatedly over considerable time in order to know what the apprentice has truly learned.

This explains why modern systems of (tele) communication (radio, TV, recorded media, the internet) do not benefit the transmission of knowledge.

The mass media do not (contrary to popular mis-conceptions) disseminate knowledge more widely.


What the mass media do is to disseminate the misinterpretation of knowledge more widely.

The mass communication media do not sustain traditions and do not preserve or advance knowledge; rather they undermine and subvert traditions and destroy knowledge.


(Obviously so! - nobody really believes that a high school kid with Wikipedia at his fingertips, or a hotshot globetrotting research professor, actually 'know more' than Aristotle or Aquinas. Rather, students and academics now actually know almost-nothing, and are - presumably - stuffed and overflowing and mere-conduits-for billions of words, sounds and images of fashions, illusions, delusions, distortions and open-ended misunderstandings.)


So apprenticeship is replaced with increasingly-fake simulacra: apprenticeships are replaced with formal institutions (schools, colleges, universities) - tutorials are replaced with seminars and 'small group teaching' are replaced with lectures are replaced with electronically disseminated lectures are replaced with 'e-learning' are replaced with 'non-fiction' entertainment, psychotherapy and wholesale distraction.

Maybe at some point on this slippery slope matter are as good, or even better, than pure individual apprenticeship - but once you have stepped onto the slope, it is impossible not to continue sliding beyond this ideal point.

At the reductio ad absurdum of flat educational hierarchy we have a school/ college/ university of one virtual teacher/ professor 'facing' five million students watching an online recording.

Or they could just browse the web on their own, and pick-up a new vocabulary of ignorance and incompetence.


And the process of subversion and destruction is insensible and wholly deniable, because after just a few generations the tradition has died; which means that there are no authorities, no masters; therefore nobody remaining who can tell the difference between the real and the ersatz.

The maximum level of human achievement then becomes only as much knowledge or skill as a single human can develop in a professional lifetime without benefit of learning from the past.

And without benefit of learning from the past the average level of human achievement drops, since each individual is building from the ground-up.

When knowledge is no longer hereditary, but simulacra dominate; then 'expertise' has replaced authority.


Friday 25 March 2011

Chaucer parodying the argument from authority

Original Middle English then done into modern English by yours truly:


From The Nonnes Preestes Tale, by Geoffrey Chaucer

Lo Catoun, which that was so wys a man,

Seyde he nat thus, `ne do no fors of dremes`?

"Madame," quod he, "graunt mercy of youre loore,

But nathelees, as touchyng Daun Catoun,

That hath of wysdom swich a greet renoun,

Though that he bad no dremes for to drede,

By God, men may in olde bookes rede

Of many a man moore of auctorite

Than evere Caton was, so moot I thee,

That al the revers seyn of this sentence,

And han wel founden by experience

That dremes been significaciouns

As wel of joye as of tribulaciouns

That folk enduren in this lif present.

Ther nedeth make of this noon argument,

The verray preeve sheweth it in dede.

Oon of the gretteste auctours that men rede

Seith thus...


My (very free) modern translation…


Thus Cato, who was so wise

Said “take no note of dreams”


Thank you, dear Madam, for such instruction.

Yet concerning Cato of such great renown

For wisdom, and such reputation,

Although he told us not to dread a dream,

By God! In older books I read

Many writer of more, much more, authority

Than ever Cato was, who seem,

If I may say, to state

The reverse opinion – they say

Dreams are hints

Of happy or sad future states

We suffer in this life.

I need no formal test of this, dear wife

Our own experience is proof in practice.

One of the most eminent authors ever…

(Who was it now? Maybe Cicero?

I forget, Or maybe he never…

But anyway someone greater

than Cato)

Said as follows…


Authority and apprenticeship


Authority is linked with the idea of apprenticeship: both are methods getting people further than they could get from their own personal experience.

One human alone can have a certain amount of experience and, according to their ability and the amount of time they spend, can get to such-and-such a level of knowledge during their life.

(This 'knowledge' might be a skill like woodworking or playing a musical instrument, a profession like medicine or scientific research, philosophy, or a religious/ spiritual discipline.)

But unless there is a method of passing on at-least some of this knowledge, each individual person would have-to start from scratch and build their knowledge from the ground up.

Authority and apprenticeship are the tried-and-tested - probably the only - ways of passing on knowledge.


So to learn knowledge, a skill, the method is to become apprentice to a local master, and that master should have sufficient knowledge to recognise greater masters, and these greater masters recognize the 'authorities' of timeless, foundational knowledge.

This is 'tradition'.

Within a discipline the priority is to ensure that this traditional knowledge is not lost, that it is kept alive in active discourse; so that its real meaning, its proper interpretation can remain accessible.

Once the thread of tradition has been broken, it cannot be repaired; because the remaining written discourse is open to a variety of interpretations; so there are (essentially) an infinite number of wrong ways to interpret it, among which the one correct way cannot be recovered.


Each recognized authority should:

1. Be compatible with all other authorities, is assumed to be compatible at some deep level (although perhaps this is not yet clear). Even when apparently there is conflict in the tradition this is assumed to be temporary, and awaits an authority who can resolve this conflict.

2. Bring to the tradition something distinctive, the authority's own particular contribution to tradition.


Authorities are ranked according to their profundity (the scope of their implications) - this will broadly be correlated with the ancient-ness of authorities, since the founders usually have the greatest influence and prestige.

Exceptions arise in so far as the very first pioneer generations can typically only rely on their direct and personal experience, whereas the next generation can build on their work. So Plato and Aristotle have higher prestige than the 'pre-Socratics' upon whose insights they built.

Another exception occurs when a later authority is able (for the first time) to harmonize apparently contradictory elements in the existing tradition, to attain a new synthesis which is more fertile.

So Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) was able to harmonize the earlier Aristotle and Augustine (philosophy and theology), while Gregory Palamas  (1296–1359) harmonized Orthodox theology with the mystical tradition of solitary asceticism.

And later authorities may become a window through which earlier authorities are viewed; perhaps by something as straightforward as a clear and sufficiently simple summary - suitable for a later era, which provides a focus and allocates relative importance to previous authorities.


Different traditions develop differently according to the behaviour and selection of authorities.

Later authorities may be primarily conservative, aiming to maintain the tradition alive without change, with its essentials unaltered.

Or, later authorities may be progressive: seeking to correct and extend previous authorities, while maintain the scope and bounds of the tradition. 

Or, later authorities may be fissile: breaking previous fusions and harmonizations into smaller islands of more specific authority - thereby spawning new traditions each with only a sub-set of the original authorities.


Or, traditions may move between these categories from conservative to progressive to fissile. But once a step has been completed, it cannot be reversed - at least not by human efforts (only temporary blips of one or two generations into progressivism or fission can be reversed due to the overlapping of generations, and by drawing upon the older generations).

Because there are an infinite number of ways to misunderstand tradition, but only few and finite ways correctly to understand it; so once the thread is broken and a tradition is lost, it is gone forever.

And then we are thrown-back onto mere individual personal experience built from the ground-up; until a new authority arises to begin a new tradition.


Thursday 24 March 2011

Authority, reason and evidence


To be learned was, for most of literate history, to be familiar-with and adept in quotation and evaluation of, 'authorities' - essentially the canonical and otherwise great writers of the past.


On the other hand, the 'anti-authoritarian' stance swept Western civilization from the romantic era onwards, and accelerating especially throughout the 1960s.

Anti-authoritarianism purports to replace authority with 'evidence' and reason.

Evidence and reason are now (purportedly) the basis of all decision-making: the only claims of authority are claims to have evidence and reason on one's side.

And yet evidence and reason are ignored when they are not faked.


So, having tried evidence and reason as the basis of authority, and evidence and reason having proven themselves inadequate, we need to return to authority: openly, explicitly and with discernment.


To argue from authority is the opposite of being mindless and slavish - as familiarity with the procedure makes clear.

Authority is evaluated, by rational procedures, as the major source of evidence - with 'experience' being the main other source; recognizing that experience is intrinsically more diverse and variable - less-stable and less-thoroughly evaluated: hence given less weight.

(Yet now, given the corruption and dishonesty of officially-sanctioned evidence and reason, we are thrown-back onto mere experience - since we cannot trust anything else.)


Neither is the process of arguing from authority closed and sterile; there is always the possibility of refinement, clarification and even (sometimes, but rarely) of reinterpretation.

Authorities are continually under evaluation, mostly by mutual comparison: some are rejected or down-graded.

And new authorities may emerge, be discovered or recognized (albeit rarely).


To argue from authority is, however, to recognize the eternal verity and relevance of authority - most authorities are old, almost inevitably, because there was more wisdom in the recorded past than exists at present.

To argue from authority entails a certain humility in the face of the past: specifically it entails ejecting the current assumption that it is plausible that we (either personally, or our generation) are confidently able to discard historical knowledge wholesale and make a fresh start on things; yet in doing so expect to improve things...

What an absurd idea! Yet of course it is mainstream: we reject historical art, science and morality wholesale and with scarcely any awareness that we have done so.

And yet we expect the pitiful results of this strategic ignorance and incompetence to be treated with the same reverence as art, science and morality used to command!


This cannot continue, it will not continue.


Practical problems with hedonism as the basis for public policy


Hedonism is the mainstream modern morality.

This is the idea that the focus of socio-political policy ought to be increasing happiness and reducing suffering.


But, while this sounds hard-nosed and practical (especially in comparison with alternative foci of public policy), hedonism as a basis for policy has serious, indeed insoluble, problems. Here are a few:


1. Uncertainty

Uncertainty about whether and to what extent a person or group is happy or suffering.

After all, these are subjective experiences, individuals lack a basis for comparison and self-reports are of hedonic state are prone to be shaped to enhance a person's hedonic state: when hedonism is the primary ethic, it is rational for people to lie about their hedonic state in order to enhance their hedonic state.

This means that happiness and suffering require to be operationalized in an objective and material sense - in terms of things like wealth, leisure time, and sex being equivalent to happy; and poverty, war, disease being equivalent to suffering etc.


2. Trade-offs

Trade-offs between people or groups whose happiness is increased by a policy, and those whose suffering is increased.

This means that happiness and suffering require to be operationalized in a material and measurable sense in terms of favoured and disfavoured people or groups; those of whom the alleviation of their suffering is a matter of priority; and those of whom the increase of their suffering is a matter of indifference, pay-back or just-deserts.


3. Quantification.

Happiness and suffering are not just uncertain and subject to trade-offs but they are qualitative.

In a sense, the maximum of happiness or suffering is that of which an individual is capable; yet policy is not about specific individuals but about 'the public'. And happiness and suffering do not cancel-out or compensate.

This means that happiness and suffering require to be operationalized quantitatively, in terms of numerical measurements of things like wealth, leisure, poverty, war, disease, gender, race, sexual activity and orientation.


At the end of the process, happiness and suffering are no longer subjective experiences 'owned' by actual human beings; but instead abstract statistical data: owned by those who have the resources and propaganda apparatus to create and disseminate this 'information'.

Public policy then becomes the creation and manipulation of objective, quantitative information pertaining to hedonic variables.


Wednesday 23 March 2011

Discerning who is genuinely reactionary: tree or mosaic?


My pessimism concerning political correctness comes from having been deep inside the beast - inside PC, socialism, modernity, rationalism, materialism...

From this I know how almost impossible it is to break free, and how partial solutions only lead back into the belly.


Most intellectuals are politically correct whether they know it or not. A few escape (a few were never caught - but they are easy to spot, having been raised by wolves).

Escape from PC is not incremental, not a step-wise progression - although it is typically gradual.

It is not an adjustment, nor is it a process of piecemeal correction - not a process of using some correct bits of knowledge to correct the erroneous ones.


It is possible to discern the difference between superficial reaction and deep reaction, although they may be identical in their superficial expression.

It is a matter of justifications: do the justifications lead back, down to a root; or does justification of one opinion lead horizontally to another opinion?

Is the system of thought a tree or a mosaic?

Is it a growth or a construction?


True reaction is an organic growth of ideas from a root; PC progressivism is an assembled mosaic.


The reactionary may be inconsistent and self contradictory as a tree may be damaged by wind, fire or fungal infection - that is the nature of an imperfect world; but if the roots are sound and the trunk is single and solid then it can regrow and repair itself.

The leaves may be superficially messy, but the further back you go, the more coherent a tree becomes.


With a mosaic, what you see is what there is; surface is all, and every piece needs to be correct.

It cannot repair itself. Its flaws and inconsistencies are seen by inspection, and corrected by external intervention.

If you peel away a flake, there is nothing behind but blank wall.

A mosaic is, indeed, a social construct.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

My method - same at Wittgenstein's


I have said some mean things about Wittgenstein, but am forced to admit that my method in this blog has been much the same as his.


From Culture and Value by Ludwig Wittgenstein (translated by Peter Winch)

"If I am thinking about a topic just for myself and not with a view to writing a book, I jump all round it; that is the only way of thinking that comes naturally to me.

"Forcing my thoughts into an ordered sequence is a torment for me. Is it even worth attempting now?

"I squander an unspeakable amount of effort making an arrangement of my thoughts which may have no value at all."

[from 1937]


"Each of the sentences I write is trying to say the whole thing, i.e. the same thing over and over again; it is as though they were all simply views of one object seen from different angles."


"One is constructive and picks up one stone after another, the other keeps taking hold of the same thing."

[From 1930]


This has not always been the case - most of my earlier writings have been theses of essay length; especially my scientific and polemical writings.

But I have been forced into this business of jumping-all-around political correctness, because I can't seem to 'get' it into a thesis.

Is this the nature of the subject (it is large: the entire world view of mainstream modern intellectual life in the West), or is it simply because I have not yet understood it?

At the moment, I am still not sure.

I shall just have to keep picking-up one piece after another until clarity strikes, or I am struck-down, or I get fed-up of the whole business...


There is no such thing as relativism


Modern morality is often termed 'moral relativism' - but this term can be misleading.

There is no such thing as moral relativism - what is called moral relativism is actually nihilism.


Relativism entails a stable and permanent reference of morality - otherwise there is not relative, quantitative difference but simply difference.

'Relativism' actually implies that all difference is qualitative (not quantitative - because quantity requires a fixed measure).

In fact, relativism - whether applied to morality, truth or beauty - is a denial of the reality of morality, truth and beauty.


In other words, what is termed relativism is actually nihilism - when nihilism is defined as the denial of reality; since reality must be single, stable and permanent.


Reference: Nihilism by Eugene (Seraphim) Rose circa 1962.


What is anti-authoritarianism?


Anti-authoritarianism is not being 'anti' authority (because anti-authoritarians are very keen on imposing their own authority).

Anti-authoritarianism is actually 'anti' stable and ancient authority.

Anti-authoritarianism is in favour of new and unstable (changeable) authority.


All instances of actually existing authority thereby become arbitrary, hence unreal (because the real is stable and ancient).

Anti-authoritarianism is therefore in favour of the unreal.

So - following the triumph of anti-authoritarianism - all authority (including the authority of the champions of anti-authoritarianism) is regarded as presumptively arbitrary, recent, temporary, and unreal.


Is it any wonder that anti-authoritarianism inevitably leads to chaos?

And that, so long as anti-authoritarianism prevails, order cannot be restored.


Living in enemy-occupied territory


"Enemy-occupied territory---that is what this world is. Christianity is the story of how the rightful king has landed, you might say landed in disguise, and is calling us to take part in a great campaign of sabotage."

C.S Lewis - Mere Christianity.
Reactionaries are also living in enemy-occupied territory; and have been for many generations.
Over the generations the occupying forces have either destroyed or infiltrated all the institutional powers.
This is why the leadership of all powerful institutions (including all the powerful churches) are corrupt (I mean the leadership as a class, not every single person), and all these leaderships will therefore either subvert or neutralize all sources of potentially reactionary power.
Which is why mainstream politics is futile.
This is why the only uncorrupt groups have the character of a covert, counter-revolutionary cell. 
And that little, is the best that can be hoped for, and we are lucky if we have even that - most people do not.

Monday 21 March 2011

Political Correctness and "I just don't understand..."


Political Correctness reveals its core of nihilism when expressing its lack of understanding of evil.

A staple of PC discourse is to depict some atrocity then to conclude with "I just don't understand it".

As Tolkien so memorably depicted in Lord of the Rings, it is characteristic of evil not to understand, in particular evil cannot understand good.

Good comprehends all, including evil (at a metaphysical level this is because Good is primary and evil a negation).

But PC cannot comprehend evil. Because PC is derived from, based-upon, an expression-of nihilism - that is upon the denial of reality, or the relativity of reality (same thing) - PC is so radically incomplete, truncated, self-refuting a moral system that it has lost the ability to understand evil.

For PC evil is merely random, an inexpicable atrocity - a disequilibrium; but soon explained-away soon forgotten, soon re-framed.

But never understood.


More on Hell as a choice: giving people what they want. Forever...


Accepting that 'traditional' depictions of Hell in terms of flames and tortures (whether true or not) are simply ludicrous to modern intellectuals - Hell can be depicted in 'modern' terms as was done by the likes of C.S Lewis (Screwtape Letters, Great Divorce, all over the place) and Charles Williams (Descent into Hell, theological essays etc.) simply as giving people eternally what they have chosen on earth.


Just suppose that modern hedonistic individualism was given what it has chosen: but given 'only' this, and for eternity.

A life of complete individual autonomy to the point of utter isolation, a life of endlessly varied hedonism according to choice.

A thought-experiment:


Imagine, for example, a wholly-convincing perception of an endless parade of novel and gratifying sexual encounters of exactly your favoured type with your favoured type of person (or other entity) - adding that even if this perception were actually a delusion rather than real, it would nonetheless be experienced as real.

And suppose that this went-on forever.

Is this state Heaven or Hell?


If you think it is Heaven: congratulations, that is what you will get.

If you think it is Hell: congratulations, there is an alternative.


Sunday 20 March 2011

Hell as punishment, consequence, choice: three concepts


Hell as punishment

When something bad happens to them, children regard it as a punishment. For them, all bad things are punishments - done to them by someone. They cannot distinguish consequences from punishments.

Children often feel that they are to blame for the bad things that happen to them - they deserved these bad things; of if children are not to blame, then they feel they have been unjustly punished.


Hell as consequence

Adult humans see bad things as consequences, as natural causes. Usually they see bad things as a default state - there is an inbuilt tendency for bad consequences except in exceptional circumstances.

Often, too, these older people feel that good things are a reward for acting well; bad things merely a natural consequence of not acting well. Good things are a privilege.

Then they feel entitled that good things will follow good actions - good things are no longer felt as a privilege but a right; and if this does not happen, these adults are indignant, then angry at having being deprived.

Instead of gratitude at the conferral of a privilege they blame someone for interfering and blocking their just rewards.


Hell as choice

At the highest level, beyond adult humans; we do not get punished, we do not get that to which we are entitled; instead we ultimately get what we have chosen.

We are, in fact, allowed to choose and to have our heart's desire forever.

It is not a punishment from others because it was chosen; it is not a reward becuase it was chosen; it is not a consequence of actions because it does not flow from actions - we neither deserve it nor was it an arbitrary piece of good fortune.

There is something separate from reward/ punishment; from cause and effect: something outside this which has choice.


But, of course, this cannot be explained to children, nor to adult humans - they cannot understand, they lack the capacity.

All this can only be understood by first receiving the gift of understanding, from outside of themselves: which understanding is itself neither a reward nor a right but must itself be chosen.

It is hopeless to try and explain this stuff to mere children and adult humans. They must first be offered enhancement: the capacity to understand, the freedom of choosing.


Luckily, this offer has been made. That is where luck comes in: not in what we get, but what we are offered, that there is a choice.


Saturday 19 March 2011

Political correctness as pastoral idyll


I think I perceive the roots of political correctness in the dreams of pastoral idyll - which happens to be one of my favourite dreams; a genre to which I am intensely susceptible.

The pastoral idyll... It is in Shakespeare's Love's Labours Lost and As You Like It - or before that in Robin Hood in the Greenwood; it is in the Romantics such as Wordsworth in the Lake District; it is in Emerson and Thoreau beside the slow Concord River or in a hut by Walden Pond; it is in (to name a contemporary favourite) John Hansen Mitchell's Scratch Flat - it is in real life too, especially between jobs and duties and on the best kind of holidays - time out of life.


What is pastoral? And what (for Heavens sake!) could it have to do with the crushing totalitarian bureaucracy of political correctness?

The short answer is: dreaming of a life free from care, a life where nothing really bad can happen, but where we are harmlessly diverted by diversity.


Eden on earth.

A life where we sink back into a kind of animal consciousness of the present - which (so far as we perceive) is a perpetual presence: such that although we may be mortal creatures, we are not aware of our mortality.

A wish to stop being self-conscious: to stop being human, indeed - to become part of the environment (and not an observer and manipulator of the environment).

And perhaps this is indeed how life actually was - much of the time - among simple hunter-gatherers. It is possible that this really was so.


Both pastoral and PC imagine a life where our environment is benign.

There are no serious harms, nothing to disturb us.

An equality of difference (like Robin Hood and his Merry Men).

Yet not boring, not static: the pastoral idyll is diverse in the diversity of nature. Seasons, the multitude of plants and animals, the changing weather, contrasts of day and night (see Thoreau's Journals).

But all is good, all is for our potential benefit (if we could but perceive them properly, as we are supposed to). All things hold lessons for us, if we can rightly perceive them.

In the pastoral idyll we are each of us gods - we create ourselves and our own world, by the spirit in which we approach it.


To live in an eternal present, with no past and no future, and eternity conceived as just more of the same; and death as unconscious - not something actually experienced because not part of life.

It is a trance-like, indeed dream-like state, aspired to.


The shared features of pastoral and PC are therefore a benign environment including a diversity of stimuli (all of which are edifying).

The difference - and it is such a huge difference as to obscure these similarities - is that pastoral is a natural environment; while for PC the environment is wholly designed.

But both aspire to a universal acceptance that avoids any need for coercion of individuals: both pastoral and PC assume that in a benign environment, conflict will be dissolved.


The gulf between pastoral and PC is the disillusionment which stands between the romantic era and moderns. The romantics believed that reality was good if properly approached; moderns are nihilists for whom there is no reality, and for whom good must be made not found.

Animists believe that the environment is benign, like a loving parent; but for PC the environment must be controlled to make it benign. Or rather, the perception of the environment must be controlled so that it will seem good.

At one time, for a while, nihilistic moderns believed that they could - as individual gods - self-create their own universe (the creative genius as cultural exemplar); but moderns lack this faith in their own capacities. They have found that (for whatever reason) it simply doesn't work.

And to be utterly dependent on oneself to provide meaning and purpose led to solipsistic despair.


(To know that one created one's own reality, and that failure meant nothingness, no form, no meaning (nausea)... this is too overwhelmingly insecure a state to be ignored. It pressed continually upon life, interfering with living. This was existentialism, and it was too horrible to contemplate.) 


So, since the individual seemed unable to create reality, this must be done by society.

Everyone must cooperate with everyone else in this task upon which everything depends; everyone must combine to create and maintain the illusion of purpose and meaning up to the singularity when we forget that it was a created illusion and it becomes inescapably perceived reality: as real as anything can be and with no perceived alternative.

And, to be secure and dependable, this cooperation must be managed, it must be controlled, formal, systematic, and human-proof.


Political correctness aspires to an idyllic state that is fully immersive and lifelong; a virtual reality which is (according to modern metaphysics) subjectively indistinguishable from real-reality - real-reality which, anyway, is assumed to be a childish illusion, like the pastoral idyll.

PC regards itself as a mature illusion, not a childish one. The idyll of political correctness is not, therefore, an adventure playground of forests and rivers; but instead a wholly-managed, totalitarian bureaucratic state that guarantees benign diversity, among which we are free to move un-self-consciously - careless of past, future and eternity.


PC equality versus Marxist equality: status versus salary


Developed from a comment I posted at:


Political correctness is (obviously!) about equality - in some way and at some level: equality of outcomes and not equality of opportunity.

And PC is about equality of status above all else.


It is this focus on status which makes PC different from Communism (tho’ clearly from the same roots) – Marxists viewed the economic as primary and assumed that if income and wealth were equalized then all else would follow; but PC views equality of esteem as primary and assumes all else will follow.

It is the vast totalitarian ambition of enforcing this impossibility which makes PC so pervasive and so dangerous.


And obviously it is incoherent to enforce equality of status including those individuals and groups who explicitly, foundationally, assert inequality of status (i.e. their own superiority) – such as many/ all of the approved groups on-whose-behalf PC acts.

It is the vast incoherence of tolerating the intolerant which renders PC self-contradictory and self-destroying.


Political correctness attempts or intends (implicitly) to solve this incoherence by aiming/ intending (at some point) to enforce equality of status in all discourse (public and personal - as in the slogan 'the personal is political') - therefore PC is intrinsically totalitarian.

This totalitarianism is justified on a utilitarian basis: that of promoting happiness and preventing suffering; and on the pragmatic basis that anything less than total control of discourse will be subverted and ineffective.

(Of course, PC does not argue for total control of discourse; but each step towards total control of discourse is seen as necessary.)


Political correctness (implicitly) believes that it can solve any apparent contradictions because it is built on the nihilist assumption that there is no real-reality.

For PC there is no reality but many realities, reality is not given but created by human society and individual choice - and individual choice is constrained by socially-created discourse (which is in principle amenable to control).

For PC, society creates its own reality: the only limits are the limits of human imagination (and the limits of human power to enforce that imagination).


This world view is foundational to political correctness - it is the bottom line.

Reality is merely perception: that which is perceived is the only real, and the way we perceive is changeable.

To control reality, therefore, we need to control the perceptual biases.

If everyone without exception wears rose-tinted spectacles, then reality is pink.


For PC, control of discourse will control bias will control perceptions will control reality.

When perceived reality contains no basis for perceiving or mentioning or acting-upon unequal status, then equality is reality.


Friday 18 March 2011

Two superb poems: two contrasting philosophies


Aubade by Philip Larkin

I work all day, and get half drunk at night.

Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.

In time the curtain edges will grow light.

Till then I see what's really always there:

Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,

Making all thought impossible but how

And where and when I shall myself die.

Arid interrogation: yet the dread

Of dying, and being dead,

Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.

The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse

- The good not used, the love not given, time

Torn off unused - nor wretchedly because

An only life can take so long to climb

Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never:

But at the total emptiness forever,

The sure extinction that we travel to

And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,

Not to be anywhere,

And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid

No trick dispels. Religion used to try,

That vast moth-eaten musical brocade

Created to pretend we never die,

And specious stuff that says no rational being

Can fear a thing it cannot feel, not seeing

that this is what we fear - no sight, no sound,

No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,

Nothing to love or link with,

The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,

A small unfocused blur, a standing chill

That slows each impulse down to indecision

Most things may never happen: this one will,

And realisation of it rages out

In furnace fear when we are caught without

People or drink. Courage is no good:

It means not scaring others. Being brave

Lets no-one off the grave.

Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.

It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,

Have always known, know that we can't escape

Yet can't accept. One side will have to go.

Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring

In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring

Intricate rented world begins to rouse.

The sky is white as clay, with no sun.

Work has to be done.

Postmen like doctors go from house to house.


Psalm 49

Hear this, all ye people; give ear, all ye inhabitants of the world:

Both low and high, rich and poor, together.

My mouth shall speak of wisdom; and the meditation of my heart shall be of understanding.

I will incline mine ear to a parable: I will open my dark saying upon the harp.

Wherefore should I fear in the days of evil, when the iniquity of my heels shall compass me about?

They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches;

None of them can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him:

(For the redemption of their soul is precious, and it ceaseth for ever:)

That he should still live for ever, and not see corruption.

For he seeth that wise men die, likewise the fool and the brutish person perish, and leave their wealth to others.

Their inward thought is, that their houses shall continue for ever, and their dwelling places to all generations; they call their lands after their own names.

Nevertheless man being in honour abideth not: he is like the beasts that perish.

This their way is their folly: yet their posterity approve their sayings. Selah.

Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling.

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah.

Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, when the glory of his house is increased;

For when he dieth he shall carry nothing away: his glory shall not descend after him.

Though while he lived he blessed his soul: and men will praise thee, when thou doest well to thyself.

He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light.

Man that is in honour, and understandeth not, is like the beasts that perish.



Larkin's Aubade is perhaps the best English poem written over the past six decades? - well, for quite a long time. That is the opinion of many mainstream poetry critics, and it is my opinion also.

And yet, masterpiece though it surely is - when I (by chance) turned to look at Aubade after reading Psalm 49, I could not but notice the gruesome narrowing from a universal, metaphysical, prophetic perspective to Larkin's merely personal statement of nihilism.

For Larkin, death negates life, an irony that is absurd: death makes him, personally, terrified by its implications; but for the Psalmist death underpins life with a tragic ballast: death fills him with sorrow for the world.


And in particular, I felt the contrast between Larkin's apparently modest, blunt, plain man's 'no nonsense' pragmatism - and the actual, underlying arrogance, glibness and superficiality of his casual discarding of the wisdom of the centuries - discarding the perspective of prophet and common man as regards death.

For Larkin death is nothing; for the Psalmist death has tremendous, overwhelming density.

Larkin's (famous ) dismissal of religion as "That vast moth-eaten musical brocade/ Created to pretend we never die" - is that really how the ancient metaphysics of the Psalmist struck him when he said? "Like sheep they are laid in the grave; death shall feed on them; and the upright shall have dominion over them in the morning; and their beauty shall consume in the grave from their dwelling."

And if it did, what does that tell us of Larkin as a representative modern man?


The Psalmist's prophecy of Christian salvation comes only after his profoundly (in the sense of heavily, weightily) serious hymn of the existential nature of the human condition of a society for which death was the end of worldly human delusion ("They that trust in their wealth, and boast themselves in the multitude of their riches"), exchanging this for an eternal reality of Hades: "He shall go to the generation of his fathers; they shall never see light."

Larkin speaks - or reports - as an isolated, observing self.


It is the characteristic modern stance of seeing through all that rubbish from past generations which struck me so forcibly about Aubade on this reading.

Larkin's arrogance is that of the isolated self whose pride at its own autonomy is based on an habitual sneering sense of its own superiority; when the self dislikes what it has made of life, then it takes pride in telling itself how bravely it is taking the nasty medicine of life.


Just how, exactly, did Larkin see though the perspective of the Psalmist and - suddenly, for the first time in history - recognize all-that-stuff as obviously absurd?

So obviously absurd as to require no more justification than mere statement: what amounts to pointing and smirking.

And why is this supposed to be an advance in understanding?


Of course, Larkin stands for us all, he is a modern Everyman; his poem is great because it depicts with searing honesty our own habitual default state.

Yet, Larkin's poetic depiction is easy to mistake for searing honesty about metaphysical reality (that is a consequence of its poetry, the sense of a general validity).

But it is not honesty about general reality, Larkin's poem is searing honesty about personal sin; a very common but distinctively modern state of sin.

Larkin's inferiority to the Psalmist derives from the fact that he had no framework from which he could perceive this depicted terror of death as a consequence of sin: the master sin of arrogant, self-sufficient pride.


Larkin, as a representative modern, felt the consequence of sinful pride, but could not perceive the cause: his only constructive suggestion was characteristically modern: to attempt a life of continual distraction, not to think about it: people or drink.

Larkin envied those he believed to attain this state naturally: those too dumb or unreflective to perceive the human condition, those for whom life came and went without recognition of what was happening.

Larkin envied people like that! The Psalmist pitied them.


Thursday 17 March 2011

Dancing - essential to a well-ordered society?


 From Orchesographie by Thoinot Arbeau, 1589.


Capriol: I much enjoyed fencing and tennis, and this placed me upon friendly terms with young men. But, without knowledge of dancing, I could not please the damsels, upon whom, it seems to me, the entire reputation of an eligible young man depends.

Arbeau: You are quite right, as naturally the male and female seek one another and nothing does more to stimulate a man to acts of courtesy, honor, and generosity than love.

And if you desire to marry you must realize that a mistress is won by the good temper and grace displayed while dancing, because ladies to do not like to be present at fencing or tennis, lest a splintered sword or a blow from a tennis ball cause them injury....

And there is more to it than this, for dancing is practiced to reveal whether lovers are in good health and sound of limb, after which they are permitted to kiss their mistresses in order that they may touch and savor one another thus to ascertain if they are shapely or emit an unpleasant odor as of bad meat.

Therefore, from this standpoint, quite apart from the many other advantages to be derived from dancing, it becomes an essential to a well-ordered society....


I have been aware of this marvelous quotation since I encountered the 1974 folk-rock album The Compleat Dancing Master compiled by Ashley Hutchings and John Kirkpatrick.

I thought then and I think now that M. Arbeau was correct in asserting that proper dancing in couples among young men and women (for example, in a ceilidh) is indeed the basis of a "well ordered society". 

The fact that it is nowadays so uncommon and of such peripheral importance is evidence only that we don't live in a well-ordered society...


Wednesday 16 March 2011

Most powerful/ beautiful scene of Harry Potter movies - deleted: why?


This takes place shortly before Harry and Dumbledore return to Hogwarts from seeking the Horcrux in a sea cave - it is the prelude to the invasion by Death Eaters.


To me this is (by a margin) the best scene in any of the Harry Potter movies (so far); in particular for the marvellously powerful yet understated acting of Alan Rickman as Snape. If you know the back-story you will recognize that this is first-rate stuff.

Yet it ended on the cutting room floor; only being released as a cut-scene 'extra' in the 2 volume DVD.



I sometimes wonder about the competence of movie editors.

Particularly as the HBP movie was padded-out with dull 'action' sequences; and inexplicably, amazingly, failed to include the vital piece of information as to why Snape had called himself The Half Blood Prince - thereby failing to explain the movie's title.

Ho hum... 


The aim of the world according to PC: harmony and novelty


In a sense, the core value of political correctness is fashion.


Fashion is not coercive, but everybody follows it (or, at least, everybody who 'matters').

So fashion is 'harmonious' - we all cooperate to make fashion, and we do so as a result of - well - propaganda I suppose. It is discourse (mostly the mass media) which informs and persuades people to follow fashion.

People follow fashion (merely) to belong; but to follow fashion is to belong; and the only (non-ceorcive) sanction is that if you do not follow fashion then you do not belong.

It all seems very mild; but it turns-out that this combination of reward and sanction is sufficient under modern conditions to ensure the domination and perpetuation of fashion everywhere and in everything.


So fashion is social harmonious, implemented non-coercively via discourse - and of course fashion provides novelty.

So, unlike traditional societies in which social harmony is static, often coercive and aspires to be eternal; and therefore has a tendency to be boring - fashion is dynamic and interesting because new and unfamiliar.

When we begin to get sick of fashion, and the novelty starts wearing off, fashion can either become more extreme in the same direction, or else a completely new fashion may be invented, or else a more-or-less-forgotten old fashion can be revived but with some twist, or several old fashions can be recombined.


Isn't fashion, therefore, an almost-exact analogy for the world to which PC aspires?

A world where everybody believes and wants the same thing - and so is harmonious and free from conflict and dangers; but also a world where the 'same thing' is continually changing (and progressing); and finally a world where all this is achieved (potentially) non-coercively by monopolistic control of discourse, of human communications.


Of course the world of fashion (and of PC) has nothing to do with real reality, but only to do with reality as perceived in human discourse - but this virtual world does go a surprisingly-long-way to seeming like real reality.

And of course discourse is only about humans, so it can only control human-caused harms and not 'natural' dangers - but it turns out that human perceptions of harms overlie and obscure reality to a surprisingly powerful extent.

So that discourse can frame and shape our perception of reality (because discourse fills the mind hourly, and what it fills the mind with is continually changing) - so reality seems plastic, and seems under human control.

So monopolistic control of discourse feels like it can almost control everything.


The only threats come when the would-be-monopolistic harmonious-yet-changing, mind-filling discourse is threatened with disharmony or when progress is threatened with statis or reversal.

This is why PC is so vicious towards dissent in discourse. Reality threats (starvation, disease, war etc) can be reframed with more layers of discourse.

Reality can 'do what it likes' without threatening PC, so long as discourse remains harmonious and changing - so long as 'fashion' is under control.

After all PC is about perceived reality, not underlying reality (which may or may not exist - PC is indifferent on this question of underlying reality).


But non-PC discourse is the real danger - because it threatens the seamless and harmonious integrity of perceived-reality itself.

Indeed, non-PC discourse - anything inharmonious with fashionable perceptions - is infinitely-threatening to virtual reality (after all, just one single loose thread might eventually unravel the whole carpet), non-PC discourse is the ultimate threat; and therefore political correctness is utterly ruthless in crushing and deleting non-PC discourse.

Tuesday 15 March 2011

The unsuccessful mystic as ideal


In desperate times, where moral inversion dominates discourse; could it be time to try and lead lives in which transcendental priorities are inverted?

Not, of course, to stop fighting the transcendental inversions (evil is good; lies are truth; ugliness is beauty); but to fight them on a different front, where they are less defended.

Not to fight with laws and rules, but with mysticism and authority?

Not to fight claims of status and power with an attempt at the same; but to fight them with failure...


A particular horror of modernity is the legalism, its procedural quality - a pseudo-rational process of strict definition and algorithmic calculation...

Or, more precisely, its literalism.

How to combat literalism? Well, not (I would say) by an opposing literalism.

And not either by a 'post-modern' denial of reality - obviously not by that!


This could, perhaps, be fought indirectly, by refusing to enter that arena; by a focus on the mystical aspects.

Not to fight democratic politics (politics without authority - with merely the fake-authority of votes and survey) with ideas of divinely-sanctioned politics, nor pseudo-logic with real logic, nor legalism with laws... that doesn't seem to work.

Indeed I wonder if these weapons have not been turned against us?

But to fight the actually corrupt processes with the non-rational (not irrational) certainties of mysticism - and not our own mysticism, but on authority of real mystics, those much further advanced on the path.

It would perhaps be the best possible approach, in such an era - to be an unsuccessful mystic


What would it be to give the highest status to mysticism, to try to practice mysticism oneself - but to fail abjectly (of course! how could one succeed under modern conditions?).

(And, anyway, if one did succeed in walking the mystical path - how inevitably it would lead downhill: into the cut-off, self-perpetuating state of spiritual pride) be a fully-acknowledged failed mystic; but not to give-up - to continue being just that!

A failed mystic as a way of life!


One great advantage is the humour of the situation!

(Mysticism nowadays maybe needs humour, for most of us at least.)

Another could be its subversive effect - it eludes the worldliness and status seeking of modernity.

(To adapt Peter Sloterdijk's terminology) It is a Kynical stance, but not cynical - it fully honours the transcendent: more than that - it bases action on the transcendent.

Subversive of subversion.


And w.r.t. to the transcendental Goods - how if we put virtue, morality, ethics (especially social ethics) as the lowest of them?

Not of course to deny or disregard the necessity of virtue, but simply to place it lower in current priorities than beauty, and lower also than truth.

Because on the one hand, virtue is corrupted by legalism - and seems always to descend to atomistic discussions of what makes people happy or suffer - while on the other hand, beauty is surely the most disregarded of transcendental Goods in modernity.

For modernity, virtue/ morality/ ethics is the bottom-line, be-all and end-all of the human condition (or rather, the project of subversion of traditional concepts of virtue is this, anyway).

Currently and for a couple of hundred years, beauty is the Good which (deep down, or not very deep down) we believe is not really as important as virtue or truth, beuaty is (to moderns) really just a matter of opinion (or fashion, or money) - because it has no acknowledged laws.

The problem is that beauty fails to be literalizable.

Let us acknowledge this failure, with no quibbling, no excuses.


(Even when 'modern art' is accorded awards and prizes and government funding, and its practitioners are given status, money and honours - still the public refuse to recognize modern art as... beautiful! So it has given up even pretending to be beautiful. Beauty is apparently not assimilable by bureaucracy.)


So not literalism, not a virtue focus - but of course strength is necessary. (Especially if we are operating apparently 'alone' in this world - albeit in a great company at the real transcendendal level).

We must be able to draw lines and to refuse to join and cooperate in the social project of soul-destruction (whether or not this involves actually 'saying no')

We must be able to say a firm yes to the Church - but not the corrupt actual Church (although we should be careful not to oppose or damage it) but yes to the mystically pure Church.

A mystical yes to the mystical Church - and not to defend this with logic or literalism.


To refute wickedness and lies of course - but not with literalism and logic, instead with mystical beauty.


To refute democracy (managed mob rule by voting); but not with some alternative system but instead with the mystery of authority.

To defend our submission to authority, but not with logic and literalism (not with facts about the deservedness of our authority: that to which we cleave) - but with statements of the mystical authority of authority.

Not to defend authority on the basis of its incorruptibility (especially not to devise systems that are supposed to prevent corruption) but on a mystical basis of providence.


Unsuccessful mystics, focused on beauty, authority and transcendental values...


Would it work?

What do we mean by 'work'?

Do we means would it work at a socio-political level validated by literalism and logic? Of course not.

But would it work at the level of the individual?

Maybe it could.


Maybe, at least for a while, it would wrong-foot our enemies, and allow us a breathing space


Monday 14 March 2011

A note on the 'slippery slope' argument


It is often claimed that if we enforce some policy or allow some behavior; then it will not stop there but further policies and behaviours in that direction will be enforced or allowed until some undesirable end point is reached.

i.e. Once we step onto a slippery slope, we will slide to the bottom.

When does this apply, and when does it not?


It does not apply when there is a qualitative distinction which prevents further sliding.

Nepotism, or favouring family over strangers, is not the first step on a slippery slope to favouring everybody exept oneself - nepotism gets weaker (and other incentives get stronger) with reducing degrees of relatedness.

(Favouring strangers over family is a slippery slope.)

Eating animals for food is not a slippery slope on the path to eating people for food.

(Moral vegetarianism is a slippery slope.)


But there are real slippery slopes, and these occur when there is a violation of a qualitative distinction; because once the qualitative distinction is violated then there are only gradual, incremental, quantitative non-distinctions preventing descent of the slippery slope.

There are many examples from the past decades and few centuries in relation to leftism/ progressive/ Liberal politics.

When a qualitative distinction between men and women is denied, then there is a slippery slope. 

When the qualitative superiority and sanctity of heterosexual sex and marriage is denied, there is a slippery slope.

And so on.


The point is that it is relatively predictable; we pretty much know in advance when one is stepping onto a slippery slope, and when one is not.

When one is violating a natural taboo, or a religious taboo; or violating natural law or revelation, then a slippery slope has been stepped onto.

No matter how small the step - once onto the slope, the slide downward will begin (slowed only by the inertia of persons and society).


Sunday 13 March 2011

Active killing versus letting die - abandoning of infants and incapable elders


My understanding is that natural law/ spontaneous human morality apparently accepts the action of 'letting die', under certain circumstances; and the qualitative distinction between letting die and actively killing.


From my reading of the anthropology of hunter gatherer tribes, it seems very likely that passive infanticide of newborns by a mother abandoning her baby, and also abandonment of chronically incapable elderly relatives, are regarded as morally acceptable actions under some circumstances

(although certainly very regrettable and an occasion of grief and mourning which may be intense and prolonged).


Indeed, as convincingly argued by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy in Mother Nature; infanticide by neglect or abandonment is probably the fall-back method by which humans (as a species) control the number of offspring (when the normal method of spacing-out offspring by the contraceptive effect of lactation has failed).

(Other mammals fail to conceive under stress, reabsorb the fetus while it is still in the womb and have other methods of controlling the spacing of offspring according to circumstances.)

The abandonment (leaving-behind) of chronically-incapable elderly relatives seems to be the norm among hunter gatherers and nomadic herders.


It also seems that these actions of passive abandoning and letting die do not elicit a spontaneous and almost-universal abhorrence among mankind in general - in the way that active killing of newborn infants or incapable elderly would elicit a spontaneous and almost-universal abhorrence.

(Which is not to say that this abhorrence cannot be overcome - it can be overcome. Humans can, under certain circumstances, actively kill infants and elderly relatives and can regard this as morally justified. Nonetheless, there is a spontaneous abhorrence of these actions.)


In practice, the abandonment of infants and elders means (so far as we can tell) all-but-certain death; and quite likely the horrible death of being eaten, perhaps while still alive, by predators or scavengers.

(But this fate would not be known for sure; and there may well be a hope of some fortuitous rescue or supernatural intervention, and the hope that this had in fact happened.)

This suggests that - for our ancestors, and probably spontaneously for all humans - the 'mercy killing' of infants and elderly relatives was probably perceived as being morally worse than allowing horrific suffering.


Note that I am stating this as a factual observation, and not in terms of the 'naturalistic fallacy' of 'what is, is right'.

But I think these facts need to form the basis of honest moral discussion.


I regard it as simply false to assume that abandoning and letting die of of the newborn and incapable elderly is something that humans, qua humans, find morally abhorrent.

And the prohibition of these acts of letting die or passive killing is more or less specific to Christianity. It was, indeed, one of the distinguishing marks that set apart the early Christians from those who surrounded them.

If, then, it is to be argued (perhaps, although not necessarily, by Christians) that humans ought not to commit passive infanticide or 'euthanasia' of the elderly by stopping active interventions etc; then the argument cannot (in my opinion) be based on natural morality, nor can it depend on a spontaneous abhorrence of humans qua humans for these actions.


It is also false to argue that letting die amounts to the same thing (morally speaking) as active killing; since spontaneous human morality recognizes a qualitative difference between these actions.

To abandon someone to almost-certain death is not the same as murdering them - according to natural law.

Spontaneous human morality says that neglect of a person even unto their death is not the same as purposive destruction of life.


Humans are not 'naturally' inclined to regard the prevention of suffering of loved ones as a higher moral imperative than the avoidance of oneself killing loved ones.

(An exception occurs during mental illness - specifically melancholia, when it is fairly common for a profoundly depressed parent to kill their family, then kill themselves, in order to protect the family from what is perceived as an unendurably miserable world.)  


If, then, an argument is to be mounted that (probably-) fatal abandonment of infants and incapable elderly relatives is morally wrong, then the reasons for this prohibition must properly be based upon Christian revelation; and not on natural law.

Following from this, there is no coherent, truthful and rational argument by which non-Christians can prohibit the passive letting die of (for example) infants and elderly relatives.


(Non-Christians might, nonetheless, wish to prohibit these actions; what I am saying is that non-Christians would have no coherent, truthful and rational arguments by which to justify such prohibitions.)