The System of the Antichrist, Revealed!
"As long as we play by their specially designed postmodern--and hence, irrational, anti-western, anti-freedom--rules; and accept the underlying premise that all the values of the west are inherently oppressive and evil; then it will impossible for us to win any battle of this war."
In response, I left a little comment mentioning that I too had been thinking about "how it's like an intellectual chess match, in which we have become cornered by the many pathological assumptions that have insinuated themselves into our discourse over the past 30-40 years. If these types of ideas had entered the body politic in the 1930's, we would not be having this conversation. Or at least we'd be having it in German."
So the idea is, let's just suppose--for heuristic purposes only, mind you--that there is a demonic force in the world that seeks to undermine the possibility of the good, almost analogous to Freud's notion of the "death wish" in the individual psyche. How does it operate? What are its main methods? How do we combat it? What is its appeal? How does it hijack minds that are otherwise perfectly intelligent? Has it already colonized too many leftist minds, or is there reason to hope that we can turn things around?
All very provocative questions, but I have to leave for an appointment in Santa Barbara in less than an hour, so you'll have to figure it out for yourselves. On the positive side, whenever I'm in Santa Barbara, I always make it a point to visit the Vedanta temple nestled up in the mountains above Montecito, overlooking the Pacific. If I were ever going to be a monk, that is where I would prefer to be stationed. I'll bring my camera and take a few pictures, so you can get the idea. I'll also go into the temple and put in a few good words for bobbleheads--and even the far more numerous antibobbleheads--everywhere. And, of course, I'll make sure their bookstore carries my book.
In the mean time, to set things up, I will rebroadcast this review of Stephen Hicks excellent Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Both Dr. Sanity and I have found this book to be extremely useful in analyzing the deep structure of the Left. For me, it is a good point of departure for discussing The System of the Antichrist, because you may not be able to prove that God exists, but you sure can easily prove that his opposite exists. Or perhaps we might say, "there is no satan, and Mike Wallace is his stenographer."
Surely you have wondered why the academic left is not just foolish, but completely out of touch with reality? In a mere 201 pages, author Stephen Hicks efficiently accomplishes exactly what is promised in the title of his book, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. Not only is there hardly a wasted sentence in the book, but Hicks writes in an exceptionally clear way about some rather difficult and abstruse thinkers and concepts. For example, I have never before encountered such a lucid discussion of the inane pseudo-profundities of that uber-charlatan, Heidegger. He is a key postmodern figure, one that many of the lesser lights and dimmer bulbs fall back upon, mainly because his writing is so appallingly obscure that no normal person can see through his portentous vacuities. This kind of bluff writing usually signifies that the author either wishes to conceal the banality of his thoughts behind a cloud of jargon and neologisms, or that he is simply talking out of his hat and doesn’t really understand what he is writing about.
I don’t want to put words into his mouth, but the purpose of Hicks’ book is clearly to answer the questions: What has happened to our looniversities? Why do the humanities departments of our elite universities teach such unalloyed leftist nonsense? In short, why is the left so bereft? Hicks makes the critical point that, if we were just dealing with generic nonsense, then we might expect about half of it to result in left wing nonsense, the other half in right wing nonsense. But practices such as deconstruction result in almost 100% left wing nonsense, meaning that, whatever theoretical or methodological cover these academics are taking behind their high-flown rhetoric, it’s all just a smokescreen for the promulgation of leftist ideas.
And that is exactly what Hicks concludes. He chronicles the utter failure of socialist ideas in the past three centuries, beginning with pre-Marxist leftists such as the odious paleofrog Rousseau. But the key figure in the descent into modern irrationalism and illiberal leftism was the figure of Immanuel Kant, for it was Kant who divided the world into phenomena (what is accessible to our senses and categories of thought) and noumena (the ultimate reality behind them). By closing off the noumenal reality to reason, Kant thought he had spared religion from the onslaught of scientific skepticism, when he had actually opened the door to all the baleful forms of irrationalism that followed. For in the Kantian system, all we can really know is our own nervous system--reason and science merely toy with the phenomena, leaving the deeper reality unknown and unknowable. The next time some cliche-ridden boob says to you, “perception is reality,” know that they are a metaphysically retarded son or daughter of Kant.
As an aside, one can trace the history of philosophy in a pretty straight line from the ancient Greeks to Kant. But Kant represents the end of that line and its subsequent ramification into the many streams, creeks, drainage ditches and sewer lines that reach us today. Virtually every philosophy since Kant has been either a rational extension of his ideas (Schopenhaur, structuralism, phenomenology), an irrational exploration of his ideas (e.g., reality is absurd, we are impotent to know anything, feeling and instinct trump reason, the irrational yields more valid insights into reality, etc.), or attempts to undo his ideas (e.g., Hegel, who reunited noumena and phenomena in his notion of the Absolute Subject, and Hegel's upside-down disciple, Marx).
Postmodernism involves a smorgasbag of these various reactions to Kant. Ever wonder why leftists are so irrational and unreasonable? According to Hicks, postmodernism is “the first ruthlessly consistent statement of the consequences of rejecting reason.” This is why leftists routinely resort to ad hominem attacks, extreme hostility to dissent, speech codes, and authoritarian political correctness.
Ultimately, according to Hicks, postmodernism is “the academic left’s epistemological strategy for responding to the crisis caused by the failures of socialism in both theory and practice.” Ironically, they have an a priori and unfalsifiable belief in the moral superiority of socialism over capitalism. But since capitalism has repeatedly disproved every one of socialism’s predictions, postmodernism provides the “skeptical epistemology to justify the personal leap of faith necessary to continue believing in socialism.”
Ironically, Kant was trying to save traditional religion from being eroded by scientific skepticism, but his ideas are now used by the secular left to shield the false religion of socialism from rational scrutiny. The choice for leftists is simple: either follow the evidence and reject their utopian ideals, or hold to their beautiful ideals and undermine the notion that logic and evidence matter. Obviously they have chosen the latter course, which is why a casual stroll through the halls of academia, the editorial pages of the New York Times, or the darker corners of the internet reveals that language is no longer being used as a vehicle to understand reality, but a rhetorical club with which to beat opponents. In this context, “Bush bashing” can be seen as a completely impersonal and inevitable phenomenon, for if your only tool is a rhetorical hammer, you will treat everything as an ideological nail.
And this also explains the common observation that the left is devoid of constructive ideas, for without logic and evidence, leftism has been reduced to a knee-jerk critique of Western civilization. It is essentially irrational and nihilistic, because language is not about reality, but simply about more language. Therefore, language cannot build anything but illusions.
Moreover, this explains why the left is so incoherent and contradictory--why, for example, all truth is relative but leftism is absolute, why all values are subjective but homophobia and American exceptionalism are evil, why tolerance is the highest ideal but political correctness is higher still, etc. Leftism is simply an absolutism masquerading as a relativism.
The only problem with Hicks’ book is that he stops short of explaining how to overcome what I call the logopathologies of the left. This is because he appears to be an objectivist or secular libertarian, and seems vaguely hostile to religion. In reality, there is no defense against these destructive ideas within the bounds of common reason--as soon as you descend into mere reason, you have already given the game away, for there is almost nothing the human mind can prove that it cannot equally disprove. In a subsequent post I will explain the only way to combat the left's hijacking of the higher planes.