Saturday 11 June 2016

Regular readers - what, of the things I have (ever) written is your personal favourite?


Thursday said...

I most like your old three essays on animism. Though you doubtless wouldn't write those in exactly the same way today, I still think there is a lot of worth there. They really got me thinking about religion in a new way.

You're scattered posts on the same topic have been helpful too.

Thursday said...

Your posts on creativity and art have also been quite helpful.

Jochen said...

I like this:

Sean Cory said...

I haven't read everything. Of what I have read I rate "Speculations of a Theoretical Mormon" and "Thought Prison" as my two favorites so far.

Anonymous said...

Professionally, Not Even Trying and the advice to work at the fringes helped me along on an anti-worldly trajectory and my decision to leave academia at the termination of my current task.

Spiritually, the injunctions to manage media and imagination explicitly. I'm trying to do this without being a high-modern authoritarian still, though.

Humorously, the bit a couple of months ago in which you speculatively reconstructed WW2 if LOTR had been intended as an allegory. I still chuckle occasionally about poor Orwell Baggins...

the outrigger said...

I'm with Anonymous. I am here because of Medical Hypotheses. It was one of few neuro/biomedical journals where real hard thinking, on the money and off it, had a chance to be aired.

To influential posts: Those on being an amateur, genius and personality, what thinking is, the limits of positivism, metaphysics and verification thereof - and even though I don't get it - you're Occam's Razor approach to theology, at root it must be simple and easily understood. This lead me to a belief I hold to be true even though I cannot prove it, that man is incarnated because is it makes the metaphysics easier, it makes thinking easier.

S. F. Griffin said...

I have been reading you for years. As a Roman Catholic who tends thomism I have not been able to follow you on your theological and philosophical musings. However, your constant vigil against political correctness and your ability to recognise genuine genius in the world is refreshing.

For context: I am English and completely loved reading Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. I see many of the same problems in the world as you and agree with much you say. I just cannot follow you down the path of theoretical mormonism/

Bill said...

I find myself returning to this rich reading of Tolkien.

Karl said...

The only jobs worthy of respect - according to W.H Auden.
But there aren't any at all any more, according to you.
This helped me understand my own predicament better, and was oddly consoling.

ted said...

While I am sure I could pull out particulars with some prodding, it seems to me your blog works better as a coherent whole. As such, I often don't remember specifics, but as a thread there is a deep imprint that stays.

Bruce Charlton said...

Comment from Bruce Luger: "My personal favorite is what you wrote on 5 June 2016 on "Fix your life? Fix your metaphysics". All of my futile attempts to understand philosophy of science and epistemology lead to faith: either believe that our minds are designed to know what we need to know or ....what?

"What you wrote on 9 June about Steiner's thought - about the ideas of the human mind..."

John Fitzgerald said...

I think your two recent posts - on the sophomoric nature of contemporary society and the truth of The Lord of the Rings - are as acute as anything you've written.

Overall, I think your long piece on The Notion Club Papers has had the most lasting effect on me - a fresh and valuable insight into the spiritual wellsprings of Tolkien's oeuvre.

Your piece on JK Rowling and Susanna Clark has also stayed with me - how one writer appears increasingly tainted, corrupted even, by the ruling ideas of the day, while the other does not.

I think your emphasis on the 'Mere Christianity' that should unite the various denominations is of tremendous value, especially your focus on the role of the Imagination in faith. As you have written, unless there is a Christian Renaissance then either the current secular dispensation will actively start to persecute Christians (your idea that there is no such thing as a neutral stance has been an eye opener for me) and/or another religion will arrive to fill the vacuum.

This should give urgency to all our thoughts and deeds, and I find that urgency and sense of what's essential in your blog.

Jonathan C said...

I save your blog posts when I think I'll want to reread or refer to them later; usually these are the posts that really change my thinking. (Occasionally, they're the posts that perfectly word what I'm already thinking.) Here are the titles of all the posts I've saved, what I consider to be your "greatest hits":

Psychology of an atheist
The psychology of abstract suicide deriving from secular altruism - the 'hypocrisy' of Western elites is a necessary consequence of self-destructive policies pursued by cowardly and short-termist people
Converting modern Man. Which comes first: Christianity or re-enchantment? (Or, the synergistic twin evils of nihilism and alienation)
Cultural despair evident in revealed preferences
Why do people believe the mass media, instead of their own knowledge and experience?
We cannot escape from incredible beliefs, twist and turn as we may
Is docile drug dependence now regarded as 'a good thing', and being covertly-promoted by the postmodern state?
What is education? There is no such thing.
Not noticing the consequences and implications of the end of religion
The intense, narrow-focused energy of the lapsed Christian or Jewish creative
What is behind the Climate Change/ Global Warming/ Carbon Dioxide stuff?
Mass migration: the secular debate inevitably channels attitudes into the choice between self-hatred versus other-hatred
Hope in the context of modernity
Successful Leftism is a product of status, wealth and freedom
" If God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him" - the vacuum after the Death of God
The reason and function of (my) basic (metaphysical) beliefs
Metaphysical imagination - You Are Free
Metaphysics versus the world
Inaccurate knowledge as a concept (from Owen Barfield)
Two kinds of human anti-evolutionism: macro and micro, religious and Leftist
The secular Right's recurrent choice between being good-and-ineffectual, or evil-and-strong
Sexual selection has been done mostly by the bride's parents - i.e. middle aged couples - hence it is much more economically-rational, and culturally sensitive, than is generally supposed
Super-correctness versus continuous revelation
Reader's Question: Why is poetry no longer important to Western society?
Reverse socialism: Biologically - The post-industrial revolution/ modern poor live-off the rich; the poor 'exploit' the rich
Reader's question: What is the power of prayer?
"Predicting the future" in modern secular societies
The attitude to Pride divides the Christian perspective from others
Christianity and the absorption of Romanticism
The Left are right - in practice and over the long haul, ideology/ religion trumps effectiveness/ efficiency (or Moralizing beats Modernizing)
The maladaptiveness of modern Man - what led-up-to my becoming a Christian
The sophomoric Left
The threat of disaster is a diabolical distraction - spiritual matters must come first and be the focus
You are living in the most bizarre and insane world - ever
What is the point of God? What does God explain? A personal view
The fallacy of universalism: Jesus had preferences among people
The abstract conception of God - thoughts prompted by commencing Philip K Dick's "Valis"
Diversity = Destruction
Why are secular people so reluctant to recognise evil? (Such as the concept of 'diversity')
Free will versus the Left brain - a 'fusion' of McGilchrist and Sheldrake?
What is Leftism? Four historical phases
What does it mean to say I am 'against voting' as a system?

Jonathan C said...

I'll repeat here that

was one of the pivotal readings that brought me back from Atheism to Christianity. It forced me to contemplate whether there's any good reason to believe that we moderns are right in contradiction to more than 99% of the people who ever lived. What particularly struck me was when you said that the loss of belief in the soul "was, obviously, not due to any kind of *discovery* of science or logic. It was instead due to a change in metaphysics - a change in assumptions."

I think you addressed this point even better in the subsequent post

where you wrote what I think might be your best idea ever:

"Somehow, modernity has persuaded almost everybody that 'science has discovered' that death is extinction (sorry, somehow I missed that research paper so I can't give a reference).

"What has really happened is that the metaphysical understanding of reality has changed - modernity operates on a different set of assumptions than any society in human history: that there is no human spirit or soul, that death is extinction, that the purpose of mortal life must be contained within mortal life, that there is no god/ God of any kind - and so on.

"These modernist metaphysical assumptions were not discovered - they were invented; they have not been proven - they have simply become habitual to the point that people cannot imagine anything otherwise.

"Under modern conditions, therefore, paganism is hope-less - and many types of society which used to work on the basis merely of hoping-for-hope, will not work any longer: hoping for hope will not cut the mustard under the pervasive nihilism of modernity.

"Thus, under modernity, the human race has gone mad with despair - and instead of hope there are only negative energizing motivations: pleasure seeking distraction and hate-fuelled destruction.

"Under such conditions, the only ones with hope that is strong enough to combat the all invading and aggressive despair, are those whose hope is correctly-located in the life-to-come, and whose belief in that hopeful life-to-come is strong and secure."

Unknown said...

I am a new reader. Is there a "best of" list or index to read topics mentioned above?

Nathaniel said...

I think most important is how you are honest, but remain hopeful and emphasize God's love.

The Hobbit and LoTR are the earliest books I really remember reading, and meaning a great deal to me, but as I grew older it seems I tried to constantly turn away from what I liked because it was "not real" - so you turning this on its head is very important, along with your other explanations and analysis of his works and related authors. (In my heart it always seemed like that vision was far better, and more desirable, that what is give as apparent now - the dead materialism).

Also, I can no longer stand the overwhelming negativeness of most sources which emphasize or discuss real problems. This has always been a problem with "reactionaries" and your explorations and writings are a source of hope.

Rich said...

I'm here for the metaphysical and spiritual writings.

I can't point to many specific posts, but I love how you get focused on an idea and pursue it and tinker with it until you figure it out. That is how my mind works too and it is fun to see a new idea evolve. Every now and then I will go back and reread some old posts of yours and, while I enjoy them, there is something about the new daily posts and being in that moment that I like more.

I have really been enjoying the Steiner posts lately. I'm glad that you have continued to engage with his work. I also love all of the Arkle posts.

Thanks, Dr. Charlton!

Bruce Charlton said...

Dear Readers

Thank you for these comments.

On surveying them I am surprised by the range of favourites - which I suppose provides a rationale for the blog being called (and actually being) 'notions' (or a 'miscellany', as it used to be called).

It was interesting to be reminded of some of these. One of the aspects of being a daily blogger is that I tend to live in the present and spend little or no time looking at or thinking about what I have written over the past six years. Part of this is that I make no attempt to classify or theme the blog posts (except insofar as I have retrospectively made four books mostly out of them - but I don't currently have plans to do any more books).

At the heart of the blog is undoubtedly the Christian aspect - that is what keeps me going; but I would rapidly get stale (or stale-er) and run out of things to say did I not allow myself license to write what inspires me on any particular morning.

Anyway, thank you all for the feedback, which is very encouraging.

Albrecht said...

Good question. My answer:“Subversive+metaphysics+-+the+self%2F+consciousness%2F+ego%2F+I"

Luqman said...

Your writings on the endogenous personality and about the nature of religion are unsurpassed. Your more recent writings on conclusions drawn from Rob Steiner I am reading with interest and await when they will develop into their fullness.

Leo said...

I know this is not really responsive to the question, but it is the frequency of the many striking spiritual insights that keeps me a fan of this site. In other words, not just one post, but many posts.

pwyll said...

I loved this comment of yours on voting: Shocking to see it was already four years ago!

Bonald said...

I was very impressed by a point you made years ago about how irrational liberals are to criticize fundamentalist Christians for not believing in human macro-evolution and then turning around and denying human micro-evolution in the name of race being a social construct. I put a post on the Orthosphere just quoting it, and Kristor was so impressed he shared it with Larry Auster, who quoted it on View from the Right.

Your ideas about mutation overload have affected how I think about evolution and about what life must have been like for most of history. All pretty depressing thoughts, but I'm grateful for having them. It's one of those things that once you "get it", you realize it can't not be true.

By the way, this is fun. More bloggers should ask this question.

Brandon said...

To me, your absolute best piece was "If you are not religious, you are a sex addict". Simply brilliant.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

I'd say your blog as a whole. You're at your best when writing short stand-alone articles which are linked together by common themes but not in any straightforward linear way.

It's hard for me to pick out one or a few favorite posts, though. I'd have to follow Jonathan C and list all the posts I've bookmarked or saved -- but I'm afraid I'm too lazy!

Bruce Charlton said...

@Brandon - Thanks for reminding me of that analysis, which I had forgotten (not forgotten the conclusion or perspective - but I had forgotten that specific argument); perhaps because it was an idea that came too late for inclusion in Thought Prison, where it would have found a natural home. Anyway, I re-posted it today.

AnteB said...

First it was your posts about poetry and literature (eg. LotR, Harry Potter) that I appreciated most.

Now its difficult to pinpoint any specific theme. You have many genuinely original insights/perspectives that I would never have been able to have on my own but just seems obvious once you think about them.

Also what Nathaniel said: "I think most important is how you are honest, but remain hopeful and emphasize God's love."

David Balfour said...

Your posts about William Arkle and commentaries. They never fail to lift my spirits or give me hope in an at times hopeless world. Some might say Arkles conception of the divine is naïve or childlike but there seems also a deep wisdom and sense of wholesome truth and insight that flows from his prose. I find your reflections on his work expansive and clarifying.

I think I have now read almost everything on yours blogs and your books. I think to me, the most compelling thing has been that someone from your academic and intellectual background (and specifically within professional evolutionary biology) has converted to Christianity and then speaks so eloquently in favour of it and presents it as a credible, serious and legitimate world view - this struck me like a thunderbolt when I stumbled onto your blog several years ago whilst researching academic atricles about depression for my work. I was frankly gobsmacked to discover that my old evolutionary psychology lecturer (whom I remembered as distinctly atheistic or secular in your lectures) should have become a religious person. This struck me as so entirely contrary to what I expected that I thought perhaps you had gone mad. The more i looked into it and read about you and your blog the more I found myself realising you were not a mad psychiatrist but had actually found the truth and cut through all of the usual prejudices and assumptions of modern scientific thinking. I became a Christian as well somewhere along the lines and now everyone seems to think I'm mad too if I am silly enough to tell them I think there is a God. I tend to just keep it to myself nowadays.

Kirk Forlatt said...

I will echo what David Balfour and others have said -- the Arkle posts are remarkable. Reading them is like drinking sunlight. I had never heard of Arkle until just a few months ago when you introduced me to him through this blog. His ideas have subsequently become very important to me, finding them as I did during a sustained and still ongoing season of deep spiritual sadness.

William Wildblood said...

I'm late to the party, and it's not a particular post as such, but some of your ideas I have found most illuminating are the distinction you draw between proper spirituality and the many forms of therapy that pose as spirituality nowadays, the fact that Leftism is not just incidentally anti-Christian but that is its sole purpose really and the idea that salvation is just a beginning and almost insignificant in itself without theosis. Your reach is so wide that I could go on but these are among my favourites.

pyrrhus said...

I found the discussions of Mouse Utopia among the most fascinating, and hope to hear more if Michael Woodley can repeat the experiment....But many of your posts have been quite interesting, and you are always coming up with new stuff. Bravo!

as said...

I'm a big fan, and my favorite is your post on loneliness.

I also like your posts on:

* creativity
* neoteny/permanent adolescence
* friends (for distraction, entertainment)
* distraction (internet/social media) addiction
* fashion
* psychiatric drugs.

Anonymous said...

The posts about the Inklings stand out. I had read one biography of C.S. Lewis, but otherwise knew little about the friendship between these men and their influence on each other's work. Your posts were enlightening and I found your analysis persuasive.

Like another commenter, I am Roman Catholic and do not always agree with your commentary. However, I greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness and honesty you bring to your work.

Tucker said...

Oh, I nearly forgot! Although I doubt you have mentioned in quite a while - years perhaps - I have always been struck and indeed converted by your love for the Byzantine Empire as a model society.


and others.

Bruce Charlton said...

From TUCKER: My first reaction is to say that although I know for certain that there are gems of the highest quality on this blog, gems that I haven't unearthed anywhere else... I forget what they are. I suppose that is the way of things.(...)
The highlights were already mentioned by others, anyway:

The biggest joy on the blog was in re-discovering that LotR could be relevant as an adult, and indeed even MORE relevant than it ever was as a youth.

Voting as an evil method of government, particularly because it makes personal responsibility impossible.

Mouse utopia, and the horrifying idea that humans have all the resources they could ever need and yet they breed LESS than ever, contrary to all laws of animal and nature!

I think quite often about the commenter - at least I think it was here, but it may have been at the Orthosphere - some years ago who mentioned the man he knows who was brought to Christ by the observation that the only truly happy families he knew were Christian.

I think I could pick out some more if I pored through the archives. For instance, at a glance, another general idea that has been one of my favourites is the concept of fertility as very direct measure of the health of a society. Almost nobody else argues for this, but it is true.

Freddy Martini said...

Your gift is synthesis. When I read your blog or snippets of your scientific papers, you bring concrete items of data, extract the essence of their properties, observe many other extracted properties across various areas of study, then you synthesize many extracted properties from concrete data into a new concept on the systems level (synthesis). For example, you have observed the holes in Classical Christianity, and then your studied Mormonism, and then found some of the answers to the Classical deficiencies. In your medical studies, you have observed the essence of things like depression, then studied the drugs used to treat depression, and then you formed a conclusion for the application of drugs for depression into a seemingly unrelated area (I forget the application, because it is not me area of expertise, but I can follow the reasoning as I am reading your papers.)

You are completely unafraid to create connections across seemingly unrelated areas of study. You see a pile of data that other brilliant people have been working on for years, then you see the patterns and then you create new categories and new classifications that make perfect sense - or at least better sense than the status quo.

I hope this helps. Many thanks for your work here and elsewhere.