Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Philosophical Treatise for Our Times

The dissolution of our Republic has been a play in many acts, and diverse players have strutted and fretted their hour upon the stage. We sit as an audience witnessing our nation's destruction, only vaguely aware that the direction of our demise is being orchestrated at a higher level of awareness. The actors seem replaceable, the drama unfolds in the most predictable of ways, and so we feel powerless to stop what is transpiring before us. Our nemesis is invisible, ubiquitous, and relentless. It shapes our actions, reactions, perceptions, and beliefs on what is real, true, and good.

In philosophy lay the script for our nation, the journey from darkness to freedom. It is the weapon to dispose of the superficial manipulators of our conscience, to relegate them to the annals of infamy and then obscurity.

When philosophy ceases to edify human life, and wars against knowledge itself, it is time to take mental and spiritual arms against the usurpers of our civilization. We must return to the roots of what it means to be human, to associate with our fellow man, to know and act in the world around us, and to re-lay the foundations for vibrant society and just government.

Our culture is the means of transmission of our philosophy, knowledge, and values from one generation to the next.  Yet now we tend to view culture as something anomalous and free-form, able to be creatively molded like clay into whatever our hearts desire.  This is a false notion of culture; rather, culture is the means by which we sustain, preserve, and improve human life.

In order to pierce the cultural smog that clouds our vision, we must each of us understand that our culture is not merely sick, it has been poisoned. The enemies of free will and forthright association have set their task as no less than societal dissolution, preying on the natural tendencies towards entropy particular to the legacy of The Enlightenment.

Thus unreason has been masked in the trappings of Reason, science is made but the maidservant of power, and open discourse has been perverted into mockery, ridicule, and shameless fallacies.

Such is the state of affairs in our society that men are at a loss at how to spontaneously relate with one another. Social trust is dissolved in an atmosphere of coercive mutual claims upon the life and labor of one citizen upon another. The desire for dignified autonomy and earned respect is replaced by resentment and animus. Injustice begets petty recrimination and at the extreme, vengeance. Civility dissipates and suspicion, corruption, and apathy reign.

It is in such times that men search for the meaning behind their unhappiness and the causes of injustice within their society. It is through disruption and crisis that the reason is activated from the slumber that ensues from the lagging and diminishing gains of cultural success and is put in the service of rational self-defense.

The ultimate source of philosophical tension that is exploited by the enemies of The Enlightenment is the opposition of Progress and the retention intact of the principles that animate Western Civilization. To reunite the Enlightenment notion of Progress with its concordant views of human nature, reality, civil society, and government is thus a fundamental task to re-establish a political and social order that is harmonious and successful. We must reinvigorate our shared culture.

In order to ascertain the ideas that mitigate against the ideological foundations of our civilization and their originators, we must take in a brief panorama of recent philosophical history. Three separately identifiable but interdependent strains of thought comprise the cultural monster that is sucking Western Civilization down like a giant vortex.

The first strain of thought that has warred against true Progress, as encapsulated by The Enlightenment, can be termed "the Hegelian track." The vision of Reason as the guide to the betterment of the human condition was abstracted and deified by Hegel, who is the father of modern totalitarianism. Hegel took Kant's transcendental ethics and made men the instrument of Reason, rather than Reason the instrument of men. Karl Marx, Hegel's pupil, secularized the god of Reason in his dialectical materialism, and posited Progress as an impersonal process of thesis, antithesis, and synthesis. Naturally, this view of history entails the eventual and irresistable destruction of the old and its replacement with the new. But self-appointed great men of history, like Vladimir Lenin, were in a hurry.

The second virulent strain of cultural dissipation can be termed "the Nietzschean track." This is not to say that Nietzsche advocated cultural decay, but his writings became fodder for later enemies of The Enlightenment to employ in the service of their program. Nietzsche's nihilism, which he did not advocate, begat moral relativism and, in conjunction with the Hegelian track, the cultural Marxism that is now suffocating Western Civilization.

To understand cultural Marxism, the progenitor of political correctness, we must appreciate the historical context in which it arose. Capitalism animated by the actions of rational individuals trading labor and property to accomplish their own ends is the hated enemy of totalitarians. But as much as Marx despised it, capitalism, in such specific terms, was inexplicably prosperous and more resilient in the face of the predictions of its collapse than its detractors anticipated. Thus the need arose to precipitate the "inevitable" collapse of capitalism, even if that meant destroying every institution, tradition, norm, and indeed, every mind the malcontents could reach.

The great strategician of the cultural Marxists was the Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, whose contributions to the grand strategy of the cultural destroyers cannot be overemphasized, nor much be expanded upon here. But suffice it to say that Gramsci's view of capitalism, and all its "bases," which is supported in the main by the cultural "superstructure," is the master key that unlocks one's understanding of the milieu in which the Westerner is near totally immersed.

In conjunction with Gramsci's grand strategy is the concomittant undermining of the capitalist economic base, which is accomplished primarily by the Cloward-Piven strategy of using welfare to overwhelm the public finances, while fostering economic and political dependency, as well as Lenin's dictum to sell corporations "the rope to hang them with." The organizational and propaganda tactician to carry out the left's necessarily destructive program is Saul Alinsky, whose advice is summed by assassinating the character of anyone that dares stand in the way. Alinsky referred to himself as a "radical pragmatist," which brings us to the third strain.

Pragmatism in the philosophical sense is derived from the thinking of William James and John Dewey, among others. It can be traced in some of its assumptions to Immanuel Kant, with his instrumentalization of ideals, and David Hume, with his notions of causality as a spurious phenomenon of the mind. Pragmatism's views of reality and change are informed by clumsy adaptations of the findings of particle physics, in particular, quantum theory. In light of the tangential nature of such a deep discussion, we may conclude that pragmatism provides a superficial justification to bureaucratic apparatchiks to meddle in society ad hoc without a deeper view of human identity, a proper interpretation of reality, the temporally dependent nature of causality, and the necessity of implementing public policies in the context of ongoing historical processes.

It is necessary with such bold claims to briefly remedy the "discoveries" of modern philosophy that supposedly justify pragmatism, in order to do a bit of conceptual housekeeping. We should add here that Marx's view of history is also at odds with reality, causality, and human nature. The Aristotelian view of reality as summarized in the law of identity, or "A = A," is reflected as true both in logic and confirmed by experience. Causality, when assuming the law of identity, holds that objects do not themselves change in essence in time but rather change is a reflection of the interaction of objects. Even at the subatomic and atomic levels, the predictability of the results of interactions indicate that there is a structural essence that is dictated by the unwritten laws of the universe. The Heisenberg uncertainty principle is a commentary on the limits of our perception and not the limits of reality.

Why is this important? Because the true nature of reality provides the philosophical justification for identity and therefore individualism, and thus why this philosophy is consonant with a harmonious state of human affairs. Men are not ephemeral entities that are reconfigured as the properties of atoms when recombined with other atoms, as the social chemists of our day would like to believe. Properties of people, as atoms, are manifestations of their identities, and change is the result of their actions and reactions.

Men are thus unique individuals, products of their DNA, and have an internal drive that motivates them to change their actions in response to specific times and environments. Thus people's actions are internally-dependent and motivated by their specific natures. They seek autonomy and are self-interested, in accordance with the raison d'etre of their existence: To survive, to thrive, to reproduce, to live in full. For men, life requires action of both the body and the mind.

Undermine the activities of the mind and you remove man's ability to support his life. He becomes a dependent being, vulnerable to the self-interest of others. Philosophical corruption is a threat to man's ability to sustain his life in a civil society.

Which brings us to the question of man's proper relations vis-a-vis man. The sum of such thinking in Western Civilization can be termed as "civil society," which has a rich history leading from Aristotle's definitions of the citizen "as a participant in the administration of justice," through the Scottish Enlightenment thinkers of Adam Smith and Adam Ferguson, to Hegel (though he sought to crush it by unifying the life-world of the individual and the state), to Alexis de Tocqueville. This literature breathes life into our understanding of the affairs of men by articulating the values of human dignity, a just respect for individuality, and property as the extension of the life and labor of men.

The indispensable method to oppose the cultural-statist abyss that seeks to engorge the individuals of our society is to coalesce around the values and the principles that lead to the prosperous and just society, as put forth by the philosophers of Western Civilization, and navigated by such adept minds as Edmund Burke and Ayn Rand, as presumably opposed those thinkers may appear. For it is in Burke that we find an expression of Western values with a mind towards preservation for the long-term, and in Rand the manifest justification for Western philosophy, and not just any philosophy, as something worth preserving for mankind as we move ahead into the future.

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