Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Common Sense and its Progressive Alternatives

It's just common sense. If the state is not permitted to force citizens to pay people not to have children, then that's a war on women, straight up. Think of all the females who might be born as a result of this tragic policy! Do you really think they want to exist? Without free birth control?

Is there such a thing as common sense, or has it been successfully eradicated by the progressive educational establishment? If it does exist, what is it, and how does it work? Is it something a person has by virtue of his personhood, or is it something only acquired through experience? And if the latter, is it through personal experience, or the collective experience of generations who have had to face the same existential conditions? And where does one acquire such collective wisdom? From the family? Culture? Education? The state?

What if the most important things not only can't be taught, but can't even be clearly articulated? Rather, they can only be lived and maybe symbolized, but not with language per se. A passage lifted from Happy Acres resonates:

"The challenge for each new generation is figuring out what’s worth keeping and what worth tinkering with. The progressive attitude is that everything is eligible not just for tinkering, but wholesale replacement. The people who lived yesterday were idiots, but we are geniuses!"

Which goes to something Schuon said on a number of occasions: that if people prior to us were such idiots, it is impossible to explain how we could be so brilliant, given the crooked timber we're built with. It's almost as if progressives posit a kind of cognitive original sin that strangled the mentality of every man until this new breed suddenly and inexplicably arrived on the scene with their immaculate and sinless intellects.

But "The conservative attitude is to assume that our parents and grandparents weren’t fools and that they did some things for good reasons." However, as alluded to above, it is possible that these reasons were never consciously thought out or articulated. Rather, perhaps "some things our forebears bequeathed us are good for no 'reason' at all."

This is consistent with Hayek, who "argued that many of our institutions and customs emerged from 'spontaneous order' -- that is, they weren’t designed on a piece of paper, they emerged, authorless, to fulfill human needs through lived experience, just as our genetic 'wisdom' is acquired through trial and error. Paths in the forest aren’t necessarily carved out on purpose. Rather they emerge over years of foot traffic."

Which reminds me of something I read in Lawrence in Arabia. It is impossible to imagine the vastness of the desert, which is essentially like a featureless ocean of sand and rocks. However, the Bedouins don't simply wander around blindly. Rather, the sandscape is dotted with the occasional well, so if we were to map the human phase space of the desert, we would actually see well worn (but invisible) paths from well to well.

Well, it's the same with the human mindscape. One of the fondest principles of progressives is that the mind is indeed a trackless desert -- a blank slate -- and therefore infinitely malleable. Absent that dubious principle, then progressive schemes cannot get off the ground, because people are going to be people, and there's not a damn thing the state can do about it.

What this really explains is why progressive schemes do get a few inches off the ground, only to promptly crash and burn. Which then requires another progressive scheme to put out the fire and clean up the mess. Repeat ad infinitum.

Continuing with the Happy Acres passage, "In the parable of the fence, Chesterton says you must know why the fence was built before you can tear it down. But Burke and Hayek get at something even deeper: what if no one built the fence?... Or what if everyone built the fence without realizing it? What if we are surrounded by fences that were never consciously built or planned but were instead the natural consequence of lived experience?"

Do you think beavers consciously think about how to defend their practice of dam building, or that spiders wonder about the environmental impact of their webs? Similarly, "So much of what makes civilization civilized is intangible, spontaneous, and mysterious. An unknowable number of our greatest laws are hidden, our greatest wisdom is authorless, and our most valuable treasures are in our hearts. This should foster enormous humility about how to out-think humanity."

I think this explains how and why the people who try to outthink humanity are always lacking in common sense, even if they are otherwise "geniuses." For example, Albert Einstein: genius at physics. Idiot at politics. Noam Chomsky: I'll take their word for it that he's a genius at linguistics, if they'll take my word for it that he's a retard at pretty much everything else.

Bion said something about the limitations of language, to the effect that we run into trouble when we try to use this device designed to negotiate the physical world to map the psychic -- let alone spiritual -- world. Obviously, in order to accomplish the latter, we will have to use language in a different way, if we can accomplish it at all.

To cite one particularly obvious example, if you want to be perfectly literal, then there can be no name, no word, for God. As soon as you confer a name, you have placed a boundary around the boundless and signified the unsignifiable. Or, you might say that God is the (implicitly) signified with no possible (explicit) signifier.

But there are many things of this nature -- even the most important things in life. I would say that there is a kind of permanent dialectic between knowledge and mystery -- (k) and O -- and that to pretend to have transcended or eliminated the latter is to drain life of all its romance, charm, and adventure. Think about this the next time you imagine you could do a better job at creating a cosmos: how to make one that is simultaneously infinitely knowable and yet infinitely mysterious?

In my opinion, this can only be because the cosmos is personal and from the hand of a person, since a person is the quintessential case of something infinitely knowable and yet utterly mysterious and "other."

You could say that we are talking literally about embodied -- or incarnated -- truth(s).

Fine observation by Eliot, also lifted from Happy Acres, about "the decline of religious sensibility." Sensibility is not sense per se, but sensation in a higher key, so to speak -- like taste in music or poetry.

So "The trouble of the modern age is not merely the inability to believe certain things about God and man which our forefathers believed, but the inability to feel towards God and man as they did. A belief in which you no longer believe is something which to some extent you can still understand; but when religious feeling disappears, the words in which men have struggled to express it become meaningless" (emphasis mine).

Thus, there are any number of things in which human beings believe because they understand them, even without being able to explain how or why. This goes back to Paul's crack about faith being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not (yet) seen. This "substance" is the ground of being, while the evidence is its end; or, just say origin and destiny, which is where we always are, because we are in (created and personal and meaningful) being.

When we talk about the "social issues" at the root of the culture war, the problem is that we are mostly talking about pre- or trans-articulated, embodied knowledge, or common sense. In his latest G-File, Jonah Goldberg writes of how these are also connected to

"the role and authority of the family. Arguments about abortion, gay marriage, obscenity, sex ed, etc. all connect to the family directly or indirectly. Even gun rights have a lot to do with the family, and not just because 'gun culture' is primarily learned in the home. Guns fit neatly into the conception of the autonomous family and the role of parents as primary protectors of their children."

Furthermore, "no institution transmits culture more effectively than the family. We learn language, dialect, and accents in the home.... We get most of our religion and morality at home. We learn from our parents how citizens behave in a society and what they should expect from society and government. It's important to keep in mind that while parents teach their kids by telling them things, the real learning comes from watching what parents do — or don't do. Kids are wired to emulate their parents" (emphasis mine).

Here again, we're talking about incarnated and largely unarticulated knowledge, i.e., how to "be" (not what to "know"; or, the "unthought known"). Which is in turn "why progressives of all labels have had their eye on the family. It is the state's greatest competition."

Or to paraphrase Woodrow Wilson -- now, there was an honest and honestly nasty progressive! -- said, "the primary mission of the educator is to make children as unlike their parents as possible."

Which is ultimately to make them as unlike human beings as possible. Well done.

21 Comments:

Blogger Rick said...

"The conservative attitude is...

explained by Sir Roger Scruton in less than 36 seconds.

I knighted him, btw. You heard it here first.

7/01/2014 10:03:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

I would say that there is a kind of permanent dialectic between knowledge and mystery -- (k) and O -- and that to pretend to have transcended or eliminated the latter is to drain life of all its romance, charm, and adventure.

This touches on what bothers me so much about the culture of divorce as exemplified in Mushroom's example yesterday, of the woman who decided after twenty years of marriage that she's really a lesbian. Assuming he was a decent husband, for her to be able to crush him and her family so completely, she had to stop seeing him (or her kids) as a person, someone worthy of her continued love and respect, and worthy of the effort it would have taken to redirect her affections to where they rightly belonged.

People are people, and hearts are strange things. But love in the long term is a lot more possible when we hold on to the truth that the people we marry are real humans, and not merely props in our personal drama to be set aside as soon as someone more seemingly entertaining happens along. Loyalty and keeping promises seem to be rather unpopular these days; probably because our culture is so caught up in the culture of "me" that we forget that other people are really people, too.

To the point of this part of the post, eliminating the dialectic between knowledge and mystery - perhaps especially in the realm of relationships - does indeed drain life of all charm, romance and adventure.

7/01/2014 10:20:00 AM  
Blogger JP said...

"What if the most important things not only can't be taught, but can't even be clearly articulated? Rather, they can only be lived and maybe symbolized, but not with language per se."

It would have been helpful to know this years ago.

Granted, I only believe some things once I have lived them.

I'm a little better at life now.

"This touches on what bothers me so much about the culture of divorce as exemplified in Mushroom's example yesterday, of the woman who decided after twenty years of marriage that she's really a lesbian. Assuming he was a decent husband, for her to be able to crush him and her family so completely, she had to stop seeing him (or her kids) as a person, someone worthy of her continued love and respect, and worthy of the effort it would have taken to redirect her affections to where they rightly belonged."

I've basically lived (a portion) of her experience.

Not the lesbian part. That would be really expensive for me to do.

This is the relevant part of the story:

""My eyesight was deteriorating," she explains. She has a degenerative eye condition that was diagnosed in her teens and now has only 10% of her sight left. When she first sought help with childcare in 2002, her vision had begun to fail suddenly and rapidly. She stopped driving.

...

In this case, because of Macfarlane's condition, it wasn't an average au pair's job: the au pair was required to drive her everywhere and take her by the arm when she walked."

She experienced the close caretaker as a potential romantic option due to the simulacrum of companionate love.

7/01/2014 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yes, I almost touched on that part but didn't want to go on for too long. In her case, I doubt that she's even really a lesbian. It's that being in that kind of intimate proximity to someone, day in and day out, can of course result in very powerful feelings, especially when there's a lot of physical contact involved. In fact, I have quite a bit of empathy with her feelings under the circumstances. People fall in love over much less.

What gets me is how she - and so many people today - handled the situation. I believe there are ways to deal with such circumstances that don't result in, essentially, the utter destruction of the other people involved who love and depend on one the most.

Notably, after she acted on her feelings, that relationship failed after two years, which makes me wonder what she had learned about actual love - good old caritas - by that point.

7/01/2014 11:09:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

On our farm was (and still is) a huge white oak down in one of the draws, and it had a branch low to the ground and running horizontal for three feet then turning up at a near-90 degree angle. When I was too little to ride a horse by myself, I would sit on that branch and pretend it was a horse.

So years later, I saw a thing about Indians making marker trees. I realized that limb pointed to a natural pond in a field about half a mile away that was prime ground for finding stone arrowheads. Some ancient Osage had marked the path to water and game. To me it was just an interesting place to sit and play.

7/01/2014 11:10:00 AM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I'm considering Lawrence in Arabia. I assume it recapitulates a lot of what is in Seven Pillars with some expansion and explanation. Some of the low-star reviewers are dismissive because Anderson apparently finds one or two of Lawrence's more fantastic scenes questionable. He was a bizarre little dude, but he was a bad-ass.

7/01/2014 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Magister said...

Rick, come again?

Roger certainly deserves to be knighted. I've drunk to his health on more than one occasion. He's the sort of man one wishes would live to be 150 years old.

7/01/2014 11:19:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I can't give L in A an unqualified racccoomendation. It was a page-turner for sure, full of shadowy characters in a strange and exotic world, but I'm not sure what I learned in the end. You still can't figure out what motivated this Lawrence guy, and there is no doubt that he embellished and exaggerated some things in Seven Pillars. But to what end? No one knows. Strange bird. And definitely traumatized by his war experiences, making him doubly strange.

The book also shows how so many of our current problems in the Middle East can be traced to WWI, but on the other hand, you could just say they're intrinsic to Islam and Arab culture. The author, BTW, has the usual politically and academically correct condemnations of imperialism, even while describing a barbarous culture badly in need of the tutelage of the White Christian Man.

7/01/2014 11:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

News you can use: casual sex is good for you so long as you're the sort of person for whom it's good. Apparently, it causes no problems at all for narcissistic, untrustworthy, sensation-seeking, impulsive, manipulative and coercive liberals.

7/01/2014 11:55:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Magister, I knighted him. You said he deserved it. I agree with you.

7/01/2014 11:58:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Julie, her love for the other (if it was love) could have been an end in itself. I often think of the love between the disciples. Could they have expressed it any better?

7/01/2014 12:03:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

That's well and truly said, Julie.

It sounds like Macfarlane had what's called an "emotional affair." She craved the trappings of emotional intimacy but was probably the last to give real intimacy herself. Selfishness, not lesbianism, was the root of it all.

The opposite is balance. In marriage, you have to learn how to let things roll. Sometimes intimacy is deep, sometimes you get overwhelmed with kids and job and just have to marry marriage itself for a bit while you wrestle your relationship back into health. It takes sacrifice and commitment. You don't despair. You don't turn outside the marriage for emotional connection. You continue to work to make it work and seek to understand where your spouse is at. Why? Because you made a vow, and your spouse is probably struggling and suffering just like you. You balance your own psychological freight with this other person's -- both equally deserving.

I also think the fear of death has something to do with it. Marriage is a spiritual school. If you don't accept that, if you think your "soul" is just a fiction, then your bodily life is all you've got, and it's pretty temporary. Ergo, ditch the husband, have sex with the sympathetic au pair for a while, rinse and repeat. Pack in as much of this as possible before nature hits your stop button.

Marriage ceases to be a spiritual condition. I suspect this mentality is pervasive.

7/01/2014 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Rick, excellent, another opportunity to drink to his health and yours.

Speaking of soul, there's a new band around called St. Paul and the Broken Bones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z7s9A3s8iv8

They take it to church at around 2:00. They have several good things up on Youtube.

7/01/2014 12:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not a big Woodrow Wilson fan, but that quote smelled fishy to me, so here is the correct and contextualized version. He was talking about educating the sons of the American aristocracy at Princeton in the early 1900s -- if I had to deal with that lot I'd probably feel the need to give them a conceptual kick out of their inherited ruts myself.

7/01/2014 01:02:00 PM  
Blogger katzxy said...

Re Bob at 11:55
see http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=12883
for a take down.

7/01/2014 01:22:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Psychology is just dominated by such stupidity, thanks to the left.

7/01/2014 01:36:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

Seems like they're happy to commit to any idea to avoid the idea of commitment.

7/01/2014 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

For one night, at least.

7/01/2014 01:45:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Casual sex is good for you?
That imbecile might as well say crack is good for you just as long as you love it.

In the same vein of justification based on no reason whatsoever other than 100% narcissism, one can say murdering people is good for psychopaths.

7/01/2014 02:03:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

From the casual sex article:
"Not unexpectedly, the types of people who constantly desire casual sex sound a bit insufferable. They are generally “extroverted,” sensation-seeking, “impulsive,” “avoidantly attached” males, who “also invest less in romantic relationships and are more likely to have cheated on a romantic partner (perhaps because monogamous arrangements are less well-suited for them),” Vrangalova says. “Among men, they are also more likely to be physically strong, and especially among college men, also more sexist, manipulative, coercive and narcissistic.” They also tend to be “unconventional, attractive, [and] politically liberal.”"

Now that's a shocker, said no one.

7/01/2014 02:50:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"This is consistent with Hayek, who "argued that many of our institutions and customs emerged from 'spontaneous order' -- that is, they weren’t designed on a piece of paper, they emerged, authorless, to fulfill human needs through lived experience, just as our genetic 'wisdom' is acquired through trial and error. Paths in the forest aren’t necessarily carved out on purpose. Rather they emerge over years of foot traffic.""

Brings to mind How a free market works (or would work without State interference) .

Of course, lefties think they know better which is why they are always trying to "fix" what isn't broken until they break it.

7/01/2014 03:16:00 PM  

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