Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Great Disentangling

I'd like to wrap up Inventing the Individual before moving on. One theme that emerges from the book is that while it took centuries for the individual to be disentangled from the group, it has been the work of less than a century for the left to re-entangle us.

For both Siedentop and Berman, 1075 is a truly revolutionary, world-historical turning point, for that is when Pope Gregory insists on the independence of the church from secular authorities. As a consequence, the king, at least in theory, is demoted to a mere layperson instead of combining spiritual and temporal power in his person. Indeed, he can't do that, because only Jesus does.

As always, timelessness takes time: "Gregory's vision of a social order founded on individual morality" instead of "brute force and mere deference, had taken centuries to prepare" (Siedentop). You know, like the way a person goes bankrupt: very gradually and then all of a sudden.

So, suddenly "relations of equality and reciprocity are now understood as antecedent to both positive and customary law." Thus, law is disentangled from custom, and seen more abstractly as a universal category. This constitutes a "reversal of assumptions," such that "instead of traditional social inequalities being deemed natural... an underlying moral equality was now deemed natural."

This Great Disentangling "freed the human mind, giving a far wider scope and a more critical edge to the role of analysis. It made possible what might be called the 'take off' of the Western mind" (emphasis mine), vaulting mother Europe "along a road which no human society had previously followed." Vertical liftoff!

Here we can see how the left's retarded project involves a Great Re-entangling: again, it took thousands of years for "individuals rather than established social categories or classes" to become "the focus of legal jurisdiction." But now, thanks to the left, the individual is subsumed into race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and we're back to where we started: post-Christian necessarily redounds to the pre-Christian.

"The papal claim of sovereignty" furthered the transition to the "meta-role" of the individual "shared equally by all persons." Seen this way, the self is the essence, while social roles become mere accidents instead of being in the nature of things.

It seems to me that this idea of disentanglement is key; it reminds me of how the fertilized egg first divides into two, then four, eight, sixteen, etc., becoming more complex and specialized along the way. There is still unity, of course, but it is a deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on a higher level.

Just so, once the secular-spiritual cell divides in two, this initiates further divisions and distinctions. For example, philosophy becomes distinct from theology, and more generally, "logical studies" develop "with astonishing rapidity during the twelfth century."

Likewise, a new distinction is seen between the moral and physical elements of crime. Because of the new interiority, the concept of "intent" or motive comes into play: "intentions had scarcely been distinguished from actions in 'barbarian' justice." "Degrees of guilt" are perceived, and punishment becomes distinct from mere retaliation.

Marriage changes too, as measures are adopted to ensure that it is "based on consent rather than coercion." Politics too: instead of authority flowing in one direction only, from the top down, "The authority of superiors thus became a delegated authority. Authority is again understood as flowing upwards."

If we stand back and look at the overall arc, we see that "under way was nothing less than a reconstruction of the self, along lines more consistent with Christian moral intuitions." This ushers in "a new transparency in social relations," for now we relate to another person, not just his role. Conversely, "in societies resting on the assumption of natural inequality," this interpersonal transparency is obscured.

Another major development is the distinction between free will and fate, choice and necessity. If human beings are personally accountable to God, then this emphasizes not only our moral freedom, but the need for political freedom so that we are free to exercise moral choice. In other words, nothing less than eternity is at stake, so the freedom to do good becomes a matter of urgent necessity; for what is free will but "a certain ability by which man is able to discern between good and evil"?

Note that if people are fundamentally unequal, then we can make no generalizations about them: there is one law for the sheep, another for the wolf; or one law for us, another law for Obama.

With this new self, there is a kind of interiorizing of the logos: instead of the logos being only a sort of exterior reason that controls events, it is "understood as an attribute of individuals who are equally moral agents." Here again, in the post-Christian world we see a regression to determinism, for example, the idea that we are controlled by genes, or neurology, or poverty, or race.

The empirical becomes distinct from the general, induction from deduction: "The Christian preoccupation with 'innerness' and human agency," or "between the will and the senses," leads to "a growing distrust of the coercive potential of general terms or concepts, if an extra-mental reality is attributed to them."

Conversely, leftism is always rooted in the projection of an abstraction onto the world, thus giving it the illusion of an "extra-mental reality" or self-evident fact. Scientism, materialism, metaphysical Darwinism -- each elevates an uncritical naïveté to the highest wisdom.

Come to think of it, this is one of the major themes of The Great Debate: conservatives begin with the world as it is, whereas the left begins with the world as they wish it were. We'll be hearing a lot about this tonight, but it all comes down to an atavistic desire on the part of the left to undo the work of centuries and re-entangle mind and world, individual and group, state and citizen, time and eternity, freedom and compulsion, messiah and politician, executive and legislature, class and guilt, etc.

42 Comments:

Blogger julie said...

One theme that emerges from the book is that while it took centuries for the individual to be disentangled from the group, it has been the work of less than a century for the left to re-entangle us.

I'm reminded of something like ferrofluid, which has amazing properties in the presence of the right kind of charge. But remove the charge, and all you have is a puddle of goo.

Back to reading...

1/20/2015 09:53:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"Come to think of it, this is one of the major themes of The Great Debate: conservatives begin with the world as it is, whereas the left begins with the world as they wish it were..."

Yep, and the first strep in that wishing, is the disintegration of those higher connections, that "...deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on a higher level..." and the result is a collapse into an entangled heap. A heap which, happy coincidence, requires someone who knows what's best, to direct its every move.

Tune in tonight to see the very latest in Pro-regressive devolution.

1/20/2015 10:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The evolving -- or devolving -- language of the State of the Union:

The word freedom "has flourished" since 1941, "but with a noticeably partisan tilt: the four presidents to use it the most are Eisenhower, Reagan, and the Bushes. To date, Obama has used it less frequently than any president since Warren Harding."

Looks like Obama mentions "liberty" less than any president since Buchanan, which is appropriate.

1/20/2015 10:02:00 AM  
Blogger ted said...

Seen this way, the self is the essence, while social roles become mere accidents instead of being in the nature of things.

That's the key: The left sees essences only in the social, or accidents everywhere.

1/20/2015 10:06:00 AM  
Blogger EbonyRaptor said...

This has been a very good study. The discovery and evolution of the individual from the group with historical context has been enlightening. It helps to understand how we got here and to recognize how leftist ideology would drag us back.

1/20/2015 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

"If we stand back and look at the overall arc, we see that "under way was nothing less than a reconstruction of the self, along lines more consistent with Christian moral intuitions." This ushers in "a new transparency in social relations," for now we relate to another person, not just his role. Conversely, "in societies resting on the assumption of natural inequality," this interpersonal transparency is obscured."

That reconstruction of the self, or at least the remodeling of it around that core, seems to be key. For degrees if guilt had been known at least since Aristotle had dug into numerous shades of it in his ethics, and Cicero had made the connection between Reason and God (so much so that at least one Rabbi (Maimonides?) had remarked how amazing it was that a Gentile had nearly discovered the core of Torah), and that no law could truly Be Law, if it could not stand up to higher Reason. But none of them had any real issues with the enslaving of another, and even where they occasionally showed some squeamishness about it, they never entertained the idea that all people were of equal value before God, that they were of more importance than their role, and that the Truth lives equally in all.

I've been a bit annoyed at Siedentop here and there as he often heavy handedly browbrushes things as coming into existence only after The Church; many of those very much did exist, and in detail that wasn't rediscovered for centuries after the Church, but those discoveries never fully gelled, were never fully Realized, until The Church provided the interior and higher means for integrating them. And even other areas, particularly the eastern ones, which had the church but rejected (or at least greatly demoted) the Greco-Roman, couldn't get it together either.

But lacking that Keystone, the great classical structures could never really get off the ground.

1/20/2015 11:11:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

... or lacking that Keystone * And all the parts * the great classical structures, and the new understanding, could never really get off the ground.

1/20/2015 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Well, Siedentop relies a lot on Berman, who argues that 1075 is the Big Turn. He thinks it's the most consequential revolution in human history...

1/20/2015 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger julie said...

... it reminds me of how the fertilized egg first divides into two, then four, eight, sixteen, etc., becoming more complex and specialized along the way. There is still unity, of course, but it is a deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on a higher level.

...

But now, thanks to the left, the individual is subsumed into race, class, gender, sexual orientation, etc., and we're back to where we started: post-Christian necessarily redounds to the pre-Christian.


In a way, leftism also acts as an inverted version of the fertilized egg. Or maybe, more like a cancer, inasmuch as leftists, upon reaching any particular goal, must then create divisions within divisions, until one is not simply an American, one is an African-disabled-dyslexic-feminist-trans-cisboi-rapesurvivor-insertnextvictimclass(es)here-American. Like a mental tumor of self-pity and victimhood that grows exponentially while taking resources away from the processes that would otherwise be devoted to personal development.

1/20/2015 12:02:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer, questioning, asexual, ally... It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of gender and sexual minorities.

"Important."

1/20/2015 12:07:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The left begins with denial of the obvious. The rest is easy.

1/20/2015 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Might wanna start on page one.

1/20/2015 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Re. the sexual minorities, and of course it's "important" to know their preferred personal pronoun. To fail to do so is to court the wrath of the hopelessly entangled.

1/20/2015 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

This is one of the crazier things I've read lately. Shows what a master's degree in writing is worth.

1/20/2015 02:16:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

He's really gonna blow his top when he finds out Shakespeare didn't have a degree in writing.

1/20/2015 02:28:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

I have a brother with a PhD in political science, who is every bit as dumb as that guy. The college bubble is indeed very much like the real estate bubble, in that more and more buys less and less, until the whole things collapses. Or, it's like inflation: a PhD in social studies is worth less than an 8th grade education in logic.

1/20/2015 02:36:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Wow. That's seriously warped right there. It's so crazy I almost don't know what to say. Even crazier, though, is the commenters who aren't explaining to him what a figure of speech is. They're too busy agreeing with him.

o.O

1/20/2015 02:38:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Maybe he'll sue the school of hard knocks for misrepresentation. Or work to outlaw schools of fish.

1/20/2015 02:45:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

There is still unity, of course, but it is a deeper form of organic unity because the diversity is unified on a higher level.

That's the way the Body of Christ ought to work.

As Van is saying, the Church becomes like a jig on which all these previously disjointed pieces can be assembled.

1/20/2015 06:01:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

Good grief. I just read the DK link on Walker. I call those people maroons because they don't think. It actually looks like maybe they can't think. Reading comprehension is a really good skill to have.

1/20/2015 06:04:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Atavistic" is a brilliant and accurate description of the leftidoloolooology.
Or an atavisticult.

1/20/2015 07:21:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Went to see American Sniper yesterday. I Highly recommend it. Excellent film. I also highly recommend the book, which covers a lot more than the film can.

It's really pathetic how many on the left are outraged that so many people rightly think of Chris Kyle as the hero he is, and the terrorist savages he killed as the savages they were.

I've also seen some gutless wonders apoplectic that anyone could feel remorseless for saving American and Iraqi lives by killing evil terrorists.

It's heartening to see American Sniper doing so well because it shows there still is a significant number of liberty lovin' Americans out there and around here.

1/20/2015 07:30:00 PM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"Note that if people are fundamentally unequal, then we can make no generalizations about them: there is one law for the sheep, another for the wolf; or one law for us, another law for Obama."

Indeed. Chris Kyle was a sheepdog, which is why so many lefties hate him. They prefer a wolf to watch over them.

1/20/2015 07:35:00 PM  
Blogger John said...

Agree, Ben. The movie was amazing-even made my son consider becoming a Seal.
Lesser known is Kyle's sheep dog work at the Superdone post Katrina. Hero.

1/21/2015 05:38:00 AM  
Blogger Rick said...

Why is it "important to note"?

It is important to note, because...

The "because" is missing, no? Otherwise it's obviously a commandment or incantation.

1/21/2015 07:42:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/21/2015 07:48:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

1/21/2015 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

In a week in which those inspired by the Bible (Islam is an unorthodox branch of Judaism) have been throwing homosexuals off a building to the delight of the mob below may I suggest you lay off gays for a bit.

You are right about the Berman books though, masterpieces, although of course producing great work is no guarantee of getting much attention, as the examples (with regard to the Middle Ages) of Duhem and Jaki demonstrate.

1/21/2015 07:49:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Wild:
No, muslim terrorists are inspired by the koran not the Bible.

1/21/2015 07:57:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

"freed the human mind, giving a far wider scope and a more critical edge to the role of analysis. It made possible what might be called the 'take off' of the Western mind"

Misses out the (positive) contribution of the Ancient Greeks and the (negative) contribution made by the Inquisition

1/21/2015 07:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Reductio ad absurdam said...

And while we're at it, we better not suggest that committing adultery is wrong, since the Saudis had some woman decapitated in the street for adultery. And just to be safe, we probably shouldn't oppose anything immoral, since the Muslims tend to punish "immorality" - real or perceived - to a horrific extreme. After all, they practically believe the same thing we do; therefore we must distance ourselves by purporting not to believe anything even remotely similar.

1/21/2015 08:00:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

"The Christian preoccupation with 'innerness' and human agency," or "between the will and the senses," leads to "a growing distrust of the coercive potential of general terms or concepts, if an extra-mental reality is attributed to them."

The Via Moderna was Christian and yet at the same time the root of (existentialist) nihilism. Is something good because God wills it or God wills it because it is good?

1/21/2015 08:12:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

May I suggest you read what the punishment for adultery is in the Bible.

1/21/2015 08:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Reductio ad absurdam said...

May I suggest you consider what Christ had to say when said punishment was about to be meted out in front of him?

Notably, he didn't tell the woman to keep on fornicating, everything's groovy.

1/21/2015 08:15:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

1/21/2015 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Misnomer said "may I suggest you lay off gays for a bit"

In the interests of truth in anonymity, might I suggest that you change your nom from 'wild' to 'cower'?

1/21/2015 08:23:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

In the interests of truth in anonymity, might I suggest that you change your nom from 'wild' to 'cower'?

Why?

1/21/2015 08:26:00 AM  
Blogger USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

Perhaps you can provide a link to the tens of thousands of Christian fundamentalist terrorist acts againsts adulterers and gays each year.
Oh wait, it's only muslims doing that.

1/21/2015 08:52:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

Perhaps you can provide a link to the tens of thousands of Christian fundamentalist..acts against adulterers and gays each year.

Does the law in the USA refrain from persecuting adulterers and homosexuals because of Christianity or because of the Enlightenment?

1/21/2015 09:04:00 AM  
Anonymous Reductio ad absurdam said...

No.

You are attempting to make an equivalence where there is none.

1/21/2015 09:14:00 AM  
Blogger Van Harvey said...

Stepping over the mildlife, an odd thought popped out of a few minutes of enforced boredom (work stoppage waiting on a reply), reading a not so good fiction novel last night, a sort of DaVinci Code for Pythagoras, and it had a mathematician getting worked up and stating that absolute randomness is the norm, and that regular solutions are but small islands in large oceans of chaos. I had to pause there, but it seemed like that was supposed to be some sort of stunner.

Why? And then I started thinking that out of chaos is what reality is, regularity, balance predictability From chaos... pie r squared famously trails off into an infinite sequence of utterly random numbers. Could there be a greater statement than that? From out of chaos comes our first and most elegant geometric shape, the circle, and it does it With, using, putting to use an infinite chaos, to construct our most infinitely regular form!

And regarding archetypes, take a handful of pebbles, start arranging them and see what forms seem to spontaneously form out of them. A point, a line, a triangle, square, tetraktys... from out of chaos, Form, and forms that are found Everywhere. From out of chaos, and unavoidably Utilizing randomness and chaos, our choices lead to ever more elegant regularities - what could be clearer?

Except maybe "In the beginning...."

(Swiping in mini comment window, pardon the probably unavoidable spelling and grammar and thought typos)

1/21/2015 09:34:00 AM  
Blogger wild said...

Meanwhile, back to the topic, the topic that is of the origins of individualism (and the practices which sustain a free society).

1/21/2015 10:41:00 AM  

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