Advanced Viral History
Rather, "there will be some fundamental assumptions which adherents of all the variant systems within each epoch unconsciously presuppose."
Thus, just as there is an unconscious "emotional" mind, there is an unconscious intellectual, or philosophical, or metaphysical, or moral, or even political mind. The problem is, people no longer know what they are assuming, "because the assumptions appear so obvious" and because "no other way of putting things has ever occurred to them."
And in my experience, the people most susceptible to this are the tenured (and by extension, journalists), especially those who have spent their entire lives in academia, and therefore have no idea how the world actually works. As such, their unconscious assumptions are not subject to any critique, neither from other minds nor from reality.
Another factor in their conformity is the narcissistic need for confirmation, prestige, and acceptance; between university administrators and Hollywood executives, it is difficult to say which population is the most craven.
One thing that is so provocative about Inventing the Individual is that it goes directly to a number of those "fundamental assumptions" alluded to by Whitehead, and shows how flimsy they are, for the contemporary secularist who calls himself "liberal" is unwittingly "paying tribute" to the Christian "origins of [his] moral intuitions."
It is just that these intuitions have become detached from their proper object, with the result that we see this dangerous combination of religious zeal in the absence of the channels provided by religious tradition. We may discern the same pattern in every revolutionary movement from French Revolution to the recent mob violence around the country: moral righteousness without morality, or "immoral morality"; in a word... or two, moral insanity.
It would be difficult to find the committed liberal who doesn't imagine that "historical progress" involves the struggle to found a secular society out of an illiberal religious past. Siedentop (and he is far from the only one) shows that the progress vaunted by liberals is unthinkable in the absence of deeply Christian assumptions.
But because enlightenment thinkers were motivated more by hatred of God than love of truth, they concocted a new narrative that made religion the enemy of reason and progress. It is bad enough what this did to history, but it also maims the soul, because it deprives it of its deep historical continuity and contributes to the resultant cosmic alienation. From there it is but a step to the perpetual resentment of the left.
As Siedentop puts it, "We no longer have a persuasive story to tell ourselves about our origins and development." Rather, "things have just happened to us," as in the accidents of natural selection. Thus, the liberalism that was once a positive philosophy grounded in religious principles "has come to stand for 'non-belief' -- for indifference and permissiveness, if not decadence."
How did this happen? How was this positive philosophy drained of meaning and transformed into the unholy trinity of relativism, envy, and entitlement?
In order to answer that question, we must first ask whether it is "mere coincidence that secularism developed in the Christian West"; or in other words, whether we are dealing with continuity, or whether there has been an ontological rupture along the way.
One of the things those enlightenment thinkers did was to fabricate a new continuity with the ancient past, with Greece and Rome. In seeking to "minimize the moral and intellectual distance between modern Europe and Graeco-Roman antiquity," they maximized "the gap between the 'dark' middle ages and the 'light' of their own age." As a result, "the millennium between the fall of the Western Roman empire and the Renaissance became an unfortunate interlude, a regression in humanity."
But is it true? Or is it just a flattering narrative, a collective neurosis for the purposes of self-aggrandizement? This leads to another question, "just how free and secular were ancient Greece and Rome?" Because if the modern secularists are correct, Christianity must represent a dark departure from that idyllic world.
In the book, I discussed this, starting on p. 142, under the heading Viral History 101. I would consider Siedentop's book Viral History 201, or whatever the next level would be. He looks at some of the same things, only, you know, in a sober and scholarly way instead of in the mischievous and freewheeling manner of the Raccoon.
Bottom line, when we look at that world -- really look at the average mentality, not the geniuses and luminaries -- "we find ourselves drawn back to an utterly remote moral world." It is so remote that I personally find it impossible to imagine what it must have been like, any more than I can imagine what it is like to be a frog. I mean, it's weird. And yet, for them, they did not regard it as such. In fact, if anything is weird, it is this recent and unexpected emergence of the individual in the Christian west. No one saw that coming.
"To recapture that world -- to see and feel what acting in it was like -- requires an extraordinary imaginative leap." For starters we must de-Christianize ourselves, which is probably impossible, as impossible as removing the yeast from the bread.
To begin with, not only was the family a religious institution, it was the religious institution, with father serving as priest, magistrate, judge, law enforcement, and executioner if necessary. Not only was there no separation of these domains in society, there was no separation in the individual, which, as we shall see, is a key point about the eventual impact of Christianity.
And now I'm out of time. To be continued....