Sunday, May 21, 2006

The Transcendent Unity of Mankind

The prerogative of the human state is objectivity, the essential content of which is the Absolute. There is no knowledge without objectivity of the intelligence; there is no freedom without objectivity of the will; and there is no nobility without objectivity of the soul. --Frithjof Schuon

I just finished reading a lengthy piece at New Criterion, The Treason of the Intellectuals and the Undoing of Thought, by Roger Kimball (HT: Van der Leun). Like Van der Leun’s essays, this is not ephemeral bloggeralia but serious thought that should be reflected upon and not merely skimmed.

In fact, this is one of the themes of Kimball’s piece--that in contemporary culture there is no difference between high and low, trite and serious, deep and shallow. Now, with the advent of blogs, the problem is only heightened. Or let us just say that blogging is a double-edged sword. As small as my audience is, in the past, there would be no way I would have any audience at all. However, because of Petey’s meta-law--”bad ideas drive out good”--the worst people with the most dangerous ideas now have giant platforms to propagate their pernicious nonsense.

This came up in our recent drama involving a reader who writes that, “I assumed that because you and the rest of the One Cosmos community were obviously so intelligent and articulate, there would be an openness to discussion to political and religious perspectives differing from your own.” He claims that his perspective “is not readily subject to definitive labels but is fluidly transforming into something that increasingly draws from all aspects of the political spectrum,” and that “whatever one's religion or spiritual path might be, compassion, kindness, and what one famous psychotherapist called ‘unconditional positive regard’ should ideally inform one's every interaction with others, even when we don't like what they believe or have to say.” (Just so it's clear, I was not making reference to this reader with my comment above about "the worst people with the most dangerous ideas.")

This is a fine example of how the Left is always able to play the “compassion card” in order to promulgate ideas that are patently absurd and/or dangerous. For I do not say that I possess objective truth. Rather, I say that objective truth exists, and that I attempt to align myself with it. Now, to even suggest that objective truth exists places you in diametrical opposition to the entire project of the intellectual Left, which is to say that truth is relative, that no culture is better than any other, that “truth” is simply a function of power, that "perception is reality," etc.

I think I can speak for all One Cosmos readers--at least those readers who understand my message--that it is a gross distortion to suggest that we are not open to “a discussion of political and religious perspectives differing from our own.” My book alone disproves such nonsense, as it draws upon virtually every discipline and religion known to man. By comparison, leftist thought is ridiculously hidebound and parochial. What we are absolutely closed to is any discussion that suggests that truth is relative and that all points of view are of equal value.

For the most part, One Cosmos readers seem, like me, to be classical liberals (classical liberalism has an entirely different intellectual genealogy than contemporary leftist liberalism). My philosophy is precisely the opposite of this reader, who says that his “is not readily subject to definitive labels but is fluidly transforming into something that increasingly draws from all aspects of the political spectrum.” In other words, his philosophy is not grounded in anything permanent or transcendent, but simply in whatever various people happen to believe at the moment, no matter where they are in the political spectrum: presumably left, right, Marxist, socialist, radical environmentalist, feminist, homosexual activist, whatever.

Our reader is certainly free to believe any and all fashionable political ideas he wishes to believe, but he cannot do so and call himself American (and please, I do not mean this primarily in a patriotic, but a philosophical sense). For our founders most definitely believed in permanent and transcendent values that it was the purpose of government to protect and conserve. In other words, they did not cobble together an ad hoc philosophy based upon whatever ideas were floating around at the time. Rather, they deeply meditated on our human nature and our divine blueprint, and tried to design a political system that accounted for the former but facilitated the latter. They would have been appalled by any philosophy that denied antecedent truth or elevated the relative to the absolute.

But our reader is not in accord with our Founding Fathers. Rather, he holds the deviant postmodern view that “whatever one's religion or spiritual path might be, compassion, kindness, and what one famous psychotherapist called ‘unconditional positive regard’ should ideally inform one's every interaction with others, even when we don't like what they believe or have to say.”

This is leftist thought par excellence. While it sounds generous and compassionate, nothing could be more tyrannical and totalitarian, for this type of pseudo-thinking begins in amorality but inevitably ends in immorality. How can it not? To give “unconditional positive regard” to everyone? Who is worthy of such an attitude except for an infant? Furthermore, to value everything without condition is logically to value nothing, for it obliterates the very hierarchy that informs you of what is worthy of value.

This type of sinister piffle goes directly against the idea of the transcendent unity of mankind. In other words, I believe that because Truth is one, so too is mankind. Take away the notion of transcendent truth, and we are left with a bunch of warring tribes, all with their relative nonsense--as Kimball says, “African knowledge,” “female language,” “Eurocentric science,” or “the idea that history is a ‘myth,’ that the truths of science are merely ‘fictions’ dressed up in forbidding clothes, that reason and language are powerless to discover the truth--more, that truth itself is a deceitful ideological construct: these and other absurdities are now part of the standard intellectual diet of Western intellectuals.” “Whether working in the academy or other cultural institutions, they bring us the same news: there is ‘no such thing’ as intrinsic merit; ‘quality’ is only an ideological construction; aesthetic value is a distillation of social power; etc., etc.”

"Unconditional positive regard" is the Ultimate Value for a person who has none. Does it include respecting “those religious codes which demand that the barren woman be cast out and the adulteress be punished with death? What about those cultures in which the testimony of one man counts for that of two women? In which female circumcision is practiced? In which slavery flourishes? In which mixed marriages are forbidden and polygamy encouraged? Multiculturalism... requires that we respect such practices. To criticize them is to be dismissed as ‘racist’ and ‘ethnocentric.’”

Leftist thought is actually profoundly anti-Enlightenment, for it fosters a spurious freedom: “Enlightenment looks to culture as a repository of values that transcend the self, postmodernism looks to the fleeting desires of the isolated self as the only legitimate source of value. Questions of ‘lifestyle’... come to occupy the place once inhabited by moral convictions and intellectual principles. For the postmodernist, then, ‘culture is no longer seen as a means of emancipation, but as one of the élitist obstacles to this’.... In order to realize the freedom that postmodernism promises--freedom understood as the emancipation from values that transcend the self--culture must be transformed into a field of arbitrary ‘options.’”

So are One Cosmos readers intolerant? You bet--if they agree with me, they are. Intolerant of the totolerantarianism that masquerades as “unconditional positive regard,” the horizontal license that mocks vertical liberty, and the tyrannical absolutism that passes itself off as moral and cultural relativism. The unity of mankind cannot be found in its superficial diversity, only in that unchanging end toward which its diversity is converging. Mankind is one because the transcendent Truth to which human beings have unique access is One. Leftism in any form whatsoever proceeds in the opposite, descending direction: E Unum Pluribus, out of One, many. Gravity takes care of the rest.


UPDATE--Beautiful example from LGF of metaphysical gravity pulling leftist thought all the way down:

" A Keller school district parent said political correctness has run amok [i.e., exists] at her daughter’s elementary school, where the principal chose to omit the words 'In God We Trust' from an oversize coin depicted on the yearbook cover.

"Janet Travis, principal of Liberty Elementary School in Colleyville, wanted to avoid offending students of different religions, a district spokesman said. [You know, all those religions that distrust God.]

"Michael Linz, a Dallas attorney with the American Stifle Liberties Union, said the district’s move was appropriate, sensitive and constitutional. [Well... sensitive, anyway.]

"Ackerman suggested that the school could have used a different symbol for liberty, such as the Liberty Bell or the Statue of Liberty, if it was concerned about giving offense. But Gardner said those symbols may not be acceptable to everyone, either."


Lisa said...

Good Morning Bob y Bobbleheads-
It seems that many get stuck in some kind of leftist wacky circular thought that allows them to keep asking the same questions over and over again without ever pondering any answers given or searching for more truthful/accurate information independently. I hate to even call it circular thought because that would be the wrong shape. A circle is too perfect, a blob would be a better description, so let me amend that to blobby thought. It is intellectually dishonest and uses sloppy logic. I also want to add that if you don't understand my point, please do not copy part of this and put a question mark after it and say Why do you feel this way. You will just be proving my point.

R. Sherman said...

Hi, Bob. I read daily but seldom comment. Well and truly said as always.


Hoarhey said...

“unconditional positive regard,” the immoral, ego boosting, feel good refuge of the intellectually lazy and visionless.

Lord Hee Haw said...

Awesome. If they want to go on saying that 2+2=5, or there's no such a thing as 2, let 'em flunk math.

Have fun balancing your checkbooks, guys...

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, the "humanist" psychologist Carl Rogers is responsible for that bit of intellectual flatulence that has been stinking up psychology for over 40 years now. His mushy approach was a reaction to psychoanalytic models that always maintain that psychological development has a proper end and that failure to achieve that end is the definition of psychopathology. It is no more compassionate to overlook psychopathology than it is for your doctor to tell you there's nothing wrong with if you have cancer--as if all states of physical health are to be equally cherished.

jwm said...

Do we live in a morally ordered universe?
That was the question that my Shakespeare professor used to open up our study of MacBeth. Is there a transcendent authority that delineates right from wrong, good from evil. Are there true absolutes?
Well look what happens when Macbeth allows the callings of his own, and his wife's ambition to supercede what he knows in his heart to be right and wrong. It is precisely because MacBeth has that moral compas, and violates it that his story is is tragic. When the order is inverted not only do MacBeth and wife descend into depravity and madness, but the entire nation degenerates into chaos.
Friday I watched part of an utterly revolting video clip from a program at UC Irvine. "Holocaust in the Holy Land" It was a vicious islamist punk giving his wannabe Farakhan impersonation spewing the most vile anti-semtic crap since the third reich while hijab clad women and moslem students screamed alah akbar in perfect seig heil intonation. I couldn't finish the clip. I just had that murderous rage climbing up out of my gut. Why, I posted, is this tolerated on a university campus? Why do the students not chase them out? Why would the administration give this kind of vermin a forum? Rhetorical questions. These pigs are allowed to speak because there is at least a tacit nod of agreement with their viewpoint. After all, no wants to be thought of as intolerant. Such is the legacy of multicultural, everyone's groovy crapthink.
True wisdom begins with fear of God. Lacking that clarity, the king is dead and the ambition, and will to power of Lady MacBeth and her muderous stooge of a husband rule the land. The result?
As Lady M herself put it, "Hell is murky."


Petey said...

Exactly, JW--just as Bob said, wimpy amorality quickly devolves into barbarous immorality. Happens every time.

Lisa said...

JWM- The same thing happened to me when I watched it. I couldn't finish it! I also thought how can they separate Israel from Judaism so easily and deny antisemitism! Classic intellectual dishonesty and blobby logic.

Connecticut Yankee said...


It doesn't surprise me that Rogers came up with that particular piece of Dummheit after parting company with orthodox Christianity-- i.e., after deciding that Jesus is no more than an ordinary human being. I've always wondered, BTW, how many contemporary Rogerian therapists would be able to show "unconditional positive regard" for observant Jews, orthodox Christians (Protestant or Catholic), career military officers, or registered Republicans.

Rogers is only one of many thinkers who remind me of C. S. Lewis's comment that there is such a thing as truly damned nonsense.

Symba the code monkey said...

The statement that "everyting is relative" is itself an absolute statemant

ben usn (ret) said...

Excellent post, Bob!
The previous comments have been superb, as well!
Leftists fail to understand the concept of liberty.
Many think dissent is the highest orm of liberty.
Surely, a sense of twisted freedom, a tyranny, that attempts to squelch liberty.
Liberty is freedom with responsibility, that contributes to the understanding of truth, and, Bob says, the allignment with truth.
Objective truth.
High standards, that are absolute.
We. Hold. These. Truth's. To. Be. Self. Evident.
God, family, country and duty with honor.
Liberty is anathema to post-modernism.
Our survival depend on the protection of liberty.
Liberty must be fought for, to survive.

geckofeeder said...

Speaking of alligning oneself with truth, Ayaan Hirsi's book is a must read. "Much time and deliberation is invested beforehand in the process of cultivating and organizing the hatred that gives rise to hostile actions. Dissidents who are aware of the destructive nature of plans try to resist them,; they warn others and attempt to dissaude them from joining in. For this, you need a climate wtih insitutions that will guarentee freedom of speech."
And thanks, Gagdaddybob, for the elegantly witty inscriptions in the books!

Dr. Sanity said...

I especially like how you say that you do not claim to possess objective truth, but that it does exists and that you align yourself with it. To me that is the essence of intellectual integrity and honesty. The left has become intellectually and morally bankrupt because they have chosen not to align themselves with objective reality or truth; hence they circle around aimlessly, saying and doing the same things over and over--especially when that objective reality or truth won't conform to their beliefs. Postmodernism has given them a new lease on life; providing them with an epistemology that they feel can resurrect their discredited utopian ideology.

Great post.

Kerry said...

An excellent book illustrating exactly what culture is and why it must be defended is Theodore Dalrymple's Our Culture, What's Left of It. I cannot recommend it too highly. And this bit of Alan Watts I heard years ago and replay in my mind from time to time: "And there comes up someone, usually a wretched academic who says, 'No, we've discovered by measurements that birds loathe flying.' And he's very happy to have found that out, because he's smashed and ideal". Is that not the left's consciousness?

Kerry said...

Oops! "Smashed an ideal".

Anonymous said...

Bob rebutted: