Friday, January 16, 2015

Liberal Distinctions and Leftist Conflations

One thing that comes through in Inventing the Individual is how the so-called middle ages ushered in so many vital cognitive distinctions that we take for granted. But man didn't always have these distinctions, nor do all men have them even today. To put it mildly.

In fact, Fried says much the same thing, although neither author devotes a separate section to the subject. Rather, the evidence is scattered throughout both books, so I'll attempt to pull some of it together here.

This probably sounds like a slightly dryasdust subject, but it definitely isn't, because it goes directly to our vision of the world. Without the proper tools, that vision can only be so deep, complex, and comprehensive.

Consider what happens when we chuck religious tools from our cognitive bag of tricks. It is not as if a hammer can replace the work of a wrench or screwdriver. But if that's all you have, you'll end up trying to pound religious screws into place with a hammer, which makes for an ugly and probably dysfunctional end product, like a half-assed home repair done by me.

A big one is the distinction between secular and spiritual authority. Prior to this distinction there is only authority -- or power -- period.

But there is more to it than just keeping these two domains apart, because for one thing, they cannot be kept apart. That is to say, they are complementary, not "opposite." To imagine the latter is be a leftist.

But the leftist only pretends to deny spiritual authority while actually usurping it. In short, he regresses to a state of mind in which the two are still fused, and then subsumes the religious into the secular, thus ending up with either the omnipotent state or the cult of personality (or both, as in Castro or Kim). Put another way, he denies a primordial complementarity and then subsumes one side into the other.

As Hartshorne has explained, this is a common strategy for all kinds of tenured foolishness. You might say that pre-Christian neo-Platonists tended to default to the spirit side, while post-Christian sophists default to the material side. But how can one even begin to describe reality without including both?

And while it is possible to regard one side of a complementarity as the more fundamental, these folks always choose the wrong side, as, for example, Marx did to Hegel; a pox on both, but at least Hegel gives spirit its props, since it can theoretically account for matter while the converse is impossible without millions of corpses.

Again, once there is a distinction between the secular and religious realms, that is not the end of their interaction. We are still left with the question of what constitutes legitimate authority, and that is a question that cannot be answered by mere power, i.e., the secular arm.

Rather, that is always a spiritual question, for which reason the American founding is thoroughly grounded in, and legitimized by, spiritual principles, i.e., nature and nature's God. While there is of course secular authority, if it should become divorced from spiritual authority, the founders say that this invokes the natural (i.e., God-given) right of rebellion.

The purpose of government is to secure our God-given rights. And if government becomes "destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them." Again, secular power is not self-justifying; rather, power is grounded in transcendent truth.

While we (conservative liberals) take this for granted, it took a very long time for mankind to draw these distinctions and to work out the political implications. As Fried writes, as of 1000 AD, "lords did not think in 'political' categories," for "the habit of thinking in categories was still only in its infancy then."

Thus, "There were no conceptions of 'domestic' or 'foreign policy,' or of 'politics' and 'the state.'" Indeed, "nobody would have understood them as templates for interpreting the world or for acting in a particular way, nor could anyone have associated a particular attitude with them or have advocated such a mind-set." Among other things, man had yet to recognize a clear distinction between mind and reality, or God and world.

As such, rulers looked to the world for signs and augurs; these "were everywhere to be seen for those who knew how to read them"; think of them as the pundits of the premodern world. Like our pundits, they all had opinions, usually wrong and immediately forgotten. They looked "to the sun, moon, and stars in the sky, in the natural world and among people, and even animals." The wrong decision might bring on the object lesson of a natural disaster, which "skillful interpreters could always be relied upon to proclaim their import with hindsight."

As man slowly individuates from the womb of nature, language undergoes a profound change, "engendering whole new sets of differentiating terminology, and bringing about advances in perception and an increase in the sum total of cognitive capacity." A new mode of thought emerges; you could say that this mode is capable of being critical because of the critical distance between subject and object.

Now, this critical distance between subject and object is a kind of "space" through which "new perspectives on and approaches to the complexity of the world and cosmos opened up." "[T]hings that had never even been imagined came into peoples' purview, while familiar things were seen in a new light" and "placed in a new relation to one another" (Fried).

From our privileged perspective, this space is "everything." Eliminate it and what's left, obedience to the state, or adherence to some state-funded ideolatry? Or perhaps a pre-political life of simply obeying one's impulses.

One implicit point made by both Fried and Siedentop is that freedom tends to emerge and flourish in the interstices between competing powers. It is almost as if these powers, because they are so preoccupied with one another, overlook little pockets here and there where people are left the fuck alone.

But it took until the American founding to make this principle explicit and put it the fuck in writing. That is, the framers recognized that freedom is only safe when power is dispersed among competing interests. Collapse these interests and powers, and we end with a freedom-usurping Obama. "The bigger the state, the smaller the citizen," as Dennis Prager says.

Which is precisely why the left sells us chains it relabels "freedom," as in "you're not really free if you don't have health insurance, therefore the state has a right to your body." To which we respond: why can't we have health and freedom? Why revert to a time when there was no space between ruler and ruled? Why deprive us of our God-given slack?

28 Comments:

Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"The purpose of government is to secure our God-given rights. And if government becomes "destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them." Again, secular power is not self-justifying; rather, power is grounded in transcendent truth."

Precisely. And now we have a govt. that employs the James Taylor diplomacy:
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2015/01/strangest-diplomatic-initiative-ever-youve-got-a-friend.php?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+powerlineblog%2Flivefeed+%28Power+Line%29

Ugh. That is pathetic.

1/16/2015 03:20:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Which is precisely why the left sells us chains it relabels "freedom," as in "you're not really free if you don't have health insurance, therefore the state has a right to your body." To which we respond: why can't we have health and freedom? Why revert to a time when there was no space between ruler and ruled? Why deprive us of our God-given slack?"

I reckon since the left doesn't believe the lessons of history, or believe they can somehow change reality they are doomed to repeat it.

1/16/2015 03:58:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Consider what happens when we chuck religious tools from our cognitive bag of tricks.

I was reading earlier today about the boy behind the "Heaven is Real" book recanting his story, now that he's old enough to own up to the truth. Judging by various comments I've seen the fabrication probably helped to destroy faith for some, and cement atheistic convictions for others. Lots of people saying, "sure this kid lied, but the Bible is a lie, too! Only idiots believe!" Notably, the people making such comments did nothing to make atheism seem wise or appealing, either. Pretty clear they've only left themselves with intellectual hammers.

1/16/2015 07:14:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Why revert to a time when there was no space between ruler and ruled? Why deprive us of our God-given slack?

Why, indeed? For some, the freedom of others is unbearable. Other people can't be trusted to know what's good for them! For others, their own freedom is equally unbearable, but the only way to ensure their own slavery is to demand other people act as master, will they or nil they. Envy, greed, condescension... Hatred of anything that reminds them of terrible freedom, which contains within itself the possibility of their own failure...

So many reasons, so little slack.

1/16/2015 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Shock and Awe:
http://www.steynonline.com/6757/shlock-and-awe

1/17/2015 06:15:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Or rather mock and awe.

1/17/2015 06:17:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Good points, Julie, and I concur.
Leftists want guaranteed success for everyone (except for conservatives of course).
I'm not an actor but if I ever decide to become one I deserve a starring role, and I deserve an Oscar too.
And at least twenty million per film.

That's the only way there canbe "equality."

1/17/2015 06:24:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Thomas Sowell:
"Barack Obama's vision of the world, both at home and abroad, is one in which some people and nations are undeservedly far better off than others in many ways.

In the Obama view of the world, those who are undeservedly thriving ("You didn't build that!") are to be forced to pay for benefits to those who are not thriving, whether the latter are people on welfare, community college students or immigrants from poorer nations, who are to be let into the United States to take a share of Americans' prosperity.

On the international stage, it is the same principle, where the problem is seen as Western nations being undeservedly better off than other nations, both economically and in terms of greater military power. Here too, Obama is for redistribution, even at the expense of his own country — if someone with such a "citizen of the world" viewpoint really thinks of America as his country, rather than a staging area for his world-changing, ideologically-driven crusades."

1/17/2015 10:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is fashionable and facile to bash Hegel. It is quite a different matter to enter into a serious discussion with him.

1/18/2015 03:40:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Ben, along those lines, here's someone discussing myths about capitalism.

1/18/2015 06:33:00 AM  
Anonymous Petey said...

It is facile for someone who pretends to understand Hegel to sneer at someone who does understand him and who rejects him. It is quite a different matter to enter into a serious discussion with him. So bring it on. I'm sure it will be illuminating.

1/18/2015 07:37:00 AM  
Anonymous Barry said...

We all have our favorite quotes from the master, but mine is "Man owes his entire existence to the state."

1/18/2015 08:00:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, Hegel is the intellectual godfather of both Communism and Nazism. Don't worry, though. These two antitheses will surely resolve into the higher synthesis of a transnational, total state which will combine the moral authority of the UN, the competency of Obama, and the social justice and economic wisdom of Al Sharpton.

1/18/2015 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I guess this is my request from France when we get hit.

1/18/2015 08:53:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Yep, that would be fitting.

There must be some part of the lyrics that got cut off. I just can't imagine wanting to be, however briefly, beautiful and stupid at the same time. Was there something to explain that at the beginning?Missed opportunity, maybe?

1/18/2015 09:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There's always the Scott Walker version.

1/18/2015 09:10:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe it's a desire to escape the intellect. Like the old French saying about nostalgia for the mud.

1/18/2015 09:13:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

Maybe that's it.

Ha - or maybe you just have to be smart in the first place, to long for a time when you were young, dumb, and...

I do remember the Scott Walker version, now that you link it. Still have no idea what I think of Scott Walker.

1/18/2015 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Definitely a genre unto himself. As was Jacques Brel.

1/18/2015 09:26:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

For Muslims, this universe isn't big enough for Israel.

1/18/2015 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Been watching the NFL playoffs, and it seems like every call for unsportsmanlike conduct is against a black player. Just looked it up, and it's true: blacks are 60% of the NFL, but receive 90-95% of the unsportsmanlike calls. Why isn't Al Sharpton all over this?

1/18/2015 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

And then of course, while rude cartoons about mahomet are absolutely out, assaulting someone in the midst of prayer before a statue of the Virgin Mary, smashing the statue and urinating on it, that's totally A-OK.

Very likely there's some sort of thesis, anti-thesis, sinTheistick that legitimizes the whole thing.

1/18/2015 02:59:00 PM  
Blogger Jules said...

I see both the left and islam as suicidal death cults.
The left consistently champions laws , welfare and behaviour that leads to failure, poverty, death, suicide, drug addiction and economic collapse.

Its why people who have worked hard to better their bodies and or prosperity are rarely leftists. Think of Arnold Schwarzenegger.

And tenured professors are often fat, unhealthy and have a big chip on their shoulder re happyvsuccesful people





1/20/2015 06:03:00 AM  
Blogger Jules said...

Actually the book is " the boy who came back from heaven"
Colin burpo, of " heaven is for real " stands by his story.
A good one is Alexander Eben, a neurologist who had an NDE and wrote about it in " proof of heaven" he was shown quite a few things , amongst which that there were parallel universes. This is echoed in the spiritual experience of Akiane, child prodigy who painted her visions. See the interviews of both on YouTube - very convincing


1/20/2015 06:15:00 AM  
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