On the Uselessness of Freedom and the Impossibility of Truth
I apologize to those who are offended by my use of the term "left," but I use it as a shorthand to designate any philosophy that conceives of our liberty in the opposite way -- as freedom to -- say, to get an abortion, or to be paid a "living wage," or to receive free health care, or to "marry" your homosexual partner. These are not real freedoms, if only because they involve coercion of someone else. For example, a "living wage" simply means that the government must force someone to pay you more than you are worth, while "free" healthcare simply means that you want to force someone else to pay for it.
Likewise, the absolute "right" to abortion can only be grounded in a metaphysic that maintains that human beings are literally worthless. The absurd outcome for the leftist is that human rights are more precious than human beings. For the leftist, the right to abortion is sacred, while the human being to whom the right is owed is of no more value than a decayed tooth. But stranger beliefs can be found on the left, the reason being that it is fundamentally rooted in the absolutization of the relative, which is the essence of the absurd.
By the way, when I discuss leftist philosophies, I am not trying to be insulting, but simply as accurate as I can be, so I don't know why anyone should take offense. It is simply a fact that if you believe you are entitled to free healthcare, then you have a very different philosophy of freedom than I do or than the American founders did, for you believe that your fellow citizens should be forced by the federal government to pay for your healthcare. Likewise if you believe it is appropriate for the federal government to make it against the law to be racially colorblind, then you have a very different conception of liberty than I do. As Dennis Prager says, I am not interested in agreement, only clarity.
I am hardly offended if someone simply describes my views accurately, so I don't really understand why leftists don't feel the same way. For example if you express the truism that Democrats wish for us to surrender in Iraq, they go ballistic. They seem to have a fundamental difficulty in simply saying what they believe in a straightforward manner. It's not really a mystery why they are so deceptive, for if they came out and said what they believed, they could never get elected. For example, if citizens are actually given the choice, they are overwhelmingly against the idea of a few elite judges redefining the fundamental unit of civilization, marriage.
In any event, assuming we have the "freedom from," what is freedom for? This question is at the heart of classical liberalism, which has a very different answer than any illiberal leftist philosophy. Again, I do not quite understand the incredible hostility to me that is expressed by various leftists, new-agers, and "integralists" (I actually consider the latter two groups to be more or less the same -- integralists are simply new-agers with a superiority complex, or "new-ageists").
For example, the so-called integralists commonly express anger -- even rage -- at me because I am not "integral," meaning that I do not integrate left and right.
But here again, this is an utterly incoherent philosophy because it absolutizes the relative, placing "integralism" above truth. In other words, I do not consider it a sophisticated philosophy that maintains that integrating truth and falsehood somehow leads to a higher synthesis. This is not integralism, it is merely incoherence.
Here's how one new-ageist describes me, and it is typical: "Godwin is a neocon of a particular nasty variety, his blog basically a place where he spurts acid at the much-demonized 'Leftists,' who are at the root of all of the world's problems.... Godwin's vitriolic hatred is to the point that he seems a borderline personality."
Since the writer puts "leftists" in scare quotes, one can only assume that he does not believe they actually exist. On the other hand, he calls me a "neocon" (without the scare quotes) while never defining the term. I personally do not believe it means anything. Rather, it truly has become a term of abuse for anything leftists don't like -- like the word "fascist."
Do you see the writer's projection? I precisely define the term "leftist" and describe why I think it is a dangerous and destructive philosophy, while he simply tars me with the meaningless term "neocon" in order to demonize and dismiss the substance of my ideas.
And I can only assume that the writer is innocent of any psychological knowledge to recklessly hurl around the diagnosis of "borderline personality."
Elsewhere, the writer suggests that my "war against Leftism" is simply a "shadow project" representing an unconscious "hatred of where [I] once came from." Not only that, but my ego is "too densely opaque" to consider other points of view (which contradicts the first charge, since I obviously had to consider other points of view in order to slowly evolve from left to right; likewise, if I were to believe the same things I did 25 years ago, it would indeed constitute a kind of dense opacity).
Amazingly, the writer then suggests that our philosophy is "not that different from radical Islam, actually, where non-believers are infidels." So now I am a genocidal maniac who wants to murder people with whom I disagree. Again, who is doing the demonizing? Who is filled with hatred? Who is "spurting acid?" Come to think of it, who is taking acid? And can I buy some? Er, not for me.... it's for Dupree.
Finally, there is the ultimate incoherence, the inevitable passive-aggressive "namaste" that always follows the "fuck you": "Anyways, thanks for the engagement. Even if we disagree on many things, and in spite of some seemingly harsh words, I appreciate many of your views and your overall offering."
"Seemingly" harsh words? Yes, I appreciate your hateful, egomaniacal, acid-spewing, demonic, psychopathological, and genocidal offering! Namaste, dude!
I don't get it. If I am what he says I am, there is nothing to appreciate, and it's pretty weird to call it an "offering." He would be entirely justified to run away from me in the opposite, er, complementary direction.
The sloppiness and incoherence of this writer's mind is somewhat breathtaking, but again, from what I have seen, this is "par for the course" among so-called integralists. I have never read one integralist who is as angry at any leftist as they are at me. One would think that if they were truly integral, then they would either embrace my philosophy and integrate into theirs, or their anger would be split 50-50 toward leftists and classical liberals, but clearly it isn't. Show me the integralist who rages at Al Gore, or Al Sharpton, or Hillary Clinton, or Ralph Nader, or Ruth Bader Ginsburg, or the U.N., or radical feminists, or the liberal media -- who truly demonizes them in the way they demonize me, and I will eat my $95 genuine coonskin cap, even though it will break my heart to do so and will deprive me of certain mystical powers.
Now, back to our regularly scheduled pogrom. When I use the word "left" or "leftist," I mean something very precise. If it does not apply to you, then you needn't get angry. Rather, just silently say to yourself, "I don't believe those things. The B'ob is not talking about me. Therefore, I'm in the clear. I am not being demonized."
Here is what a classical liberal believes, and it is very different from what the secular leftist believes: knowledge of absolute truth constitutes the mind's freedom. Therefore, if you adhere to any philosophy that maintains at the outset that transcendent truth does not exist or that man cannot know it, then freedom also cannot exist or it is meaningless. There are people who believe this. I call them leftists because that is what they call themselves.
It is fashionable for a certain kind of shallow thinker to say that they reject labels, and that their philosophy cannot be reduced to left vs. right. Oh yes it can. The spatial image of left vs. right is actually helpful, for if you survey the history of philosophy, it can be seen as a sort of stream that split in half with modernity, each side going its separate way. You can conceptualize the split in many ways, but it ultimately comes down to realism vs. materialism, or transcendence vs. immanence, or absolute truth vs. absolute relativism.
And you cannot -- you cannot, for it is strictly impossible -- integrate absolute truth with absolute relativism. Therefore, you cannot integrate the philosophy of deconstruction (which the above writer calls the "good news" of postmodernity) with absolute truth.
On the other hand, you can do what intelligent minds have always done, which is to integrate partial, relative truths into the whole, in light of the transcendent absolute. But what you cannot do is throw these relative truths together and imagine that you have integrated anything, or that their sum constitutes the total truth. No one engaged in "deconstruction" more than a Moses Maimonides, or Meister Eckhart, or even Saint Augustine, but they always did so under the presumption that it is simply a tool for arriving at a deeper truth, not a thing in itself -- not the ultimate reality.
Once it is forgotten that knowledge of truth constitutes the mind's freedom, then we will no longer know what either word means, for freedom in the absence of truth is absurdity, while truth in the absence of freedom is hell.
To be continued.