Friday, August 19, 2016

Liberalism and the Propagation of Mind Parasites

This book on Polanyi I'm randomly rereading is quite good. Polanyi is definitely one of the fondling fathers of our cult, in that his thought ranges from metaphysics to science to economics to politics, in a completely intellectually consistent manner.

Furthermore, he offers a cogent critique of pretty much everything that is wrong with the world, philosophically, politically, educationally, and economically. Perhaps I don't mention him often enough, because I have long since internalized his ideas as my own. I playgiarize with them all the time.

It reminds me of what Stevie Ray Vaughan did with Jimi Hendrix. Vaughan so mastered the Hendrix style that it became just another color in his musical pallete. He incorporated Hendrix without slavishly imitating him.

If there were a Gagdad University -- like Prager University -- then Polanyi would be one of the core courses.

As Prosch writes, "no one other than Polanyi has in recent years been so assiduous in ferreting out and criticizing those attitudes, beliefs, and working principles that have debilitated the modern mind by undermining its trust in its own higher capacities; nor has anyone else offered more pregnant suggestions for a truly new philosophic position free from these difficulties."

His philosophy is simultaneously revolutionary and restorative, or liberal (in the true sense of the word) and conservative; you could say that it is classically liberal, underlying the permanent revolution that is the quest for truth. Science always "rebels" against what it knows by trying to see further and deeper.

One refreshing thing about Polanyi (to put it mildly) is that he was not a philosopher per se. Rather, he was a highly accomplished scientist, and only began dabbling in philosophy around mid-life. Nor did he ever immerse himself in philosophy as such. He didn't read everything that came before. As far as I recall, there are few if any references to past philosophers. Given his age, I don't think Polanyi had the time to both study philosophy and conduct it. Therefore, there is a freshness to his approach, as he takes nothing for granted, and is always dealing with fundamental issues.

In this regard he is similar to Whitehead, who also came to philosophy late in life, after a career as one of the most eminent mathematicians in history. In neither man did mere academic knowledge interfere with their not-knowing. And it turns out that this very principle is one elucidated in Polanyi's philosophy.

For the philosopher, it is a question of whether one "should be a physician or a servant -- whether he should continually try to improve the minds and souls of his fellow citizens, or try to serve their existing tastes and interests" (Prosch). Like Socrates, Polanyi is clearly a physician of the soul. And his prescription is pro-biotic, pro-psychic, and pro-pneumatic. He activates Life on all levels, without saturating or stifling it with pre-digested dogma.

Several key principles come to mind when I think of his philosophy: freedom. Exploration. Adventure. Discovery.

His philosophy disposes of contemporary liberalism in such devastating fashion, that it is surprising how long it took for me to abandon it. In other words, I read and was influenced by Polanyi long before I discovered the truth about the left, and switched sides. How is this possible? What about the cognitive dissonance?

Well. There are pro-abortion and pro-redefinition of marriage Catholic Democrats, so we should never be surprised at the contortions of which the mind is capable. Look at all the liberals who insist we should discriminate on the basis of race when it comes to college or employment, but not practice common-sense affirmative action in policing or airport security.

I first read Polanyi in the 1980s, while working on my masters degree (not for my masters degree; rather, just for future blogging material). I didn't know anything about economics at the time, nor did I have any interest in it, so I must have just skipped over those parts. And so stupidly confident was I in the self-evident truth of leftism, that it is possible I simply hallucinated Polanyi's agreement with me.

Again, we shouldn't be surprised at such feats of ignorance. For example, Justices Ginsburg, or Sotomayor, or Kagan are no doubt 100% convinced they are defending the Constitution. They have read the document as surely as I have, and yet, somehow think it agrees with their positions. So, I wasn't exceptional, just a typical deluded liberal.

Cognitive dissonance. I can't stand it, on any level. Rather, the Raccoon demands complete consistency. The other day, Dennis Prager was saying the same thing. He wondered out loud if there are liberals who have listened to him for a long time, and yet, remained liberal, asking any such specimens to call in. I only heard one before I reached my destination, and he very much reminded me of me, back in the day. A lot of disconnected left-wing talking points were lodged in his head like rocks in a machine.

If you want to see a real-time example, then read the comments of our recent troll, whose mind has been entirely infiltrated and hijacked by self-replicating left-wing talking points. Speaking from personal experience, these memes take over the host in the same way viruses enter the nucleus of the cell and begin reproducing themselves.

Is a virus alive or dead? Has that question been decided by biology? At least on the psycho-spirtual plane, it is a kind of negative facsimile of life: it resembles a living process while promoting death and disease. Likewise, a liberal indoctrination surely resembles an education. But it serves death, not life.

Speaking of which, I ran across an article by Anthony Esolen called Exercises in Unreality: The Decline in Teaching Western Civilization. It's a little turgid, but he does point out how the left wrecked education, ruined everybody's lives, and ate all our steak. He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who

"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."

Hidebound innovator. That is a good encrapsulation of liberalism, in that it is regression masquerading as progress, or barbarism dressed in Pajama Boy's clothing. It is tyranny disguised as liberation, mobocracy as democracy, discrimination as equality, stupidity as wisdom, and cruelty as compassion.

By the 1960s, Dewey's methods had produced a cohort "well trained in his democratic scorn. Out with the notion that the academy is not a place for political recruitment, precisely because it is to be devoted to the truth. 'What is truth?' said the serious Dewey, and he could not wait to give us all his answer: truth was only what could be ascertained by empirical observation and measurement. That meant that only the hard sciences could rest upon their foundations. Every other building could be commandeered by the politicians, or blown to bits."

It is this hideous, anti-human philosophy that Polanyi tears to shreds. But liberals continue their insane project:

"They began to turn arts and letters into instruments of politics, or to blow them to bits. Thus the demand that literature be 'relevant.' Homer is relevant to me because Homer is relevant to man. But once you deny that there are stable truths to be learned about man by studying his history, his philosophy, and his art, what is left for Homer but to be adopted by a few curious souls who happen to like him.... And there are nearer ways to go to burn down buildings than by struggling over Homeric verbs. So in a few short years, centuries of learning were merely tossed aside. The central pier cracked, the bridge buckled, and the waters came crashing through."

Which is why a liberal indoctrination leaves its recipients all wet. A few weeks ago I was talking to our son's tutor, an extremely bright college graduate. She must be about 22, and has been accepted to graduate school. I don't recall how we got on the subject, but I mentioned the founders and their vision of a limited government.

Long story short, it was all new to her! Because she is bright, she was extremely interested in what I had to say, but I was telling her things she should have learned by the 6th grade.

For the left, it is not that such things are simply "not taught," i.e., ignored or overlooked. Rather, they are aggressively untaught and displaced by un-American principles like "diversity," multiculturalism, and state-imposed "equality," i.e., illiberal leftism.

That reminds me. Another listener called into Prager's show that day, and said that her son's high school history book has a chapter on the Cold War. In it there is no mention of Stalin, but a helpful chart that lists the pros and cons of communism vs. capitalism!

I would no sooner send my son to a public school than let him walk around uninoculated from disease.

19 Comments:

Blogger Van Harvey said...

"...He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who

"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."

Hidebound innovator. That is a good encrapsulation of liberalism, in that it is regression masquerading as progress, or barbarism dressed in Pajama Boy's clothing. It is tyranny disguised as liberation, mobocracy as democracy, discrimination as equality, stupidity as wisdom, and cruelty as compassion...."

Yep, pretty much sums it up.

8/19/2016 11:00:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Amazing how one pompous asshole's bad ideas can become so destructive.

It is vital that an education provide the person with the means to detect and reject bad ideas. This is just as important as learning and assimilating the good ones.

I don't understand why a course in logic isn't mandatory in high school, especially in logical fallacies.

Oh, wait. I do understand. Basic self-interest.

8/19/2016 11:14:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Princeton University Banning the Word Man. Might as well. They've already banned men.

8/19/2016 11:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Finished Why Race Matters. He ends with a hypothetical presidential address on race, which falls rather flat and is entirely unrealistic in thinking that a president could ever speak that frankly about the subject.

I'm with Happy Acres, in that I think it is a tragedy without any policy solutions. It doesn't have to be a tragedy, any more than it is a tragedy I can't play basketball as well as Michael Jordan. But people have so much emotional investment in reality being a certain way, they won't give it up.

I can imagine a religious solution, albeit in a perfect world. But in that world, government would scarcely be necessary to begin with.

I am not optimistic. But nor am I pessimistic. Reality is what it is, and I just try to hover above it. I take some consolation in the principle that what cannot continue will not continue, because reality gets the last word.

8/19/2016 01:00:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Actually, there are certain obvious policies that would help, for starters, educational vouchers... Then again, that wouldn't necessarily erase the gap, if both whites and blacks benefit from them.

8/19/2016 01:03:00 PM  
Blogger mushroom said...

I don't know where to begin. This covers so much of what we're seeing these days. I woke up a little after 3:00AM this morning and couldn't go back to sleep because, I guess, I needed to pray.

I am convinced there is no political solution. I don't think the world has to be perfect for a religious solution just vastly and almost unrecognizably different. The bright side is that more people are beginning to get that governments are failing massively and are already too big to succeed.

8/19/2016 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger John Lien said...

" And his prescription is pro-biotic, pro-psychic, and pro-pneumatic. He activates Life on all levels, without saturating or stifling it with pre-digested dogma."

That was particularly good. Now, back to the post.

8/19/2016 03:04:00 PM  
Blogger julie said...

Dewey was a sower of tares. Though instead of sneaking in during the night, he came out in broad daylight and claimed that what he was sowing was even better seed than the wheat he was raised on.

8/19/2016 04:14:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

Protect kids by not having them. Orwell call your office.

8/19/2016 05:35:00 PM  
Blogger Ann Kellett said...

If you all haven't read "Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age," by Eugene (Fr. Seraphim) Rose, you are in for a treat.

8/20/2016 06:34:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

We've blogged extensively about that one. For example,

As Father Rose writes, “Worship of fact is by no means the love of truth; it is, as we have already suggested, parody. It is the presumption of the fragment to replace the whole; it is the proud attempt to build a Tower of Babel, a collection of facts, to reach to the heights of truth and wisdom from below. But truth is only attained by bowing down and accepting what is received from above. All the pretended ‘humility’ of Realist scholars and scientists... cannot conceal the pride of their collective usurpation of the throne of God...” Such an individual “becomes a fanatical devotee of the only reality that is obvious to the spiritually blind: this world.”

8/20/2016 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

More: Father Rose points out that the fall into vitalism is at the heart of the reverse utopias of the left, which immanentize Christian hope and try to create a “vital heaven” on earth. For if higher truth is eclipsed as a result of “realism,” then leftism results from the flight from despair that such an erroneous and infrahuman metaphysic entails.

Bear in mind that while the spiritual impulse remains, it is no longer guided by traditional channels. It becomes “unhinged” so to speak.

As Father Rose points out, “there is no form of Vitalism that is not naturalistic,” which again goes to the many pseudo-religions that are an expression of vitalism.

Because of their vast influence, there may come a point when vitalism swamps the light of the collective higher mind, as it has already done in academia and the mass media. The prospect of an awakened multitude animated by the “terrible simplifiers” of the left is not a sanguine one... then again, "sanguine" comes from the French word for blood.

8/20/2016 09:24:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

And: Father Rose, who wrote his piece on nihilism in the late fifties, prior to the vast explosion in crime caused by lenient liberal social policies and a forgiving attitude toward evil, observed that “Crime in most previous ages had been a localized phenomenon and had apparent and comprehensible causes in the human passions of greed, lust, envy, jealousy, and the like; never has there been anything more than a faint prefiguration of the crime that has become typical of our own century, crime for which the only name is one the avant-garde today is fond of using in another Nihilist context: ‘absurd.’”

The absurd sadism of so many contemporary crimes matches the absurdity of an art that celebrates ugliness or “authenticity” and an educational system that promulgates the lie that truth doesn't exist and only the left has it. When your elites spend several generations creating an absurd world, don’t be surprised if you end up with absurd people and meaningless crimes.

8/20/2016 09:27:00 AM  
Anonymous DougieFranklin said...

He focuses on the philosophically and spiritually retarded John Dewey, who

"was classically trained but would have none of it for the ordinary democratic masses. He had no use for the useless things -- that is, the best and noblest things: no use for poetry, flights of imagination, beauty, religion, and tradition. He was a hidebound innovator."


You know this touches upon thoughts that have been bubbling up regarding the current sensitivities over race and gender that seem highly significant but I've read no one state explicitly.

I ask my self, what motivates the current SJW ideology of the left? Well, at bottom it is clearly fear. But fear of what? It seems to me of economic consequences of biological inequality. Cause, well if me or my people are less capable than others in a competitive situation, then won't I and mine starve?

More to the point, with the death of God, new religious obsessions have plagued the modern west. Chief among them is an obsession with economic competition. It seems we reduce the value of individual men and women to the economic value they provide. As if the point of why we are here is to serve the economy.

Is it possible that we could reduce the shrill whining of the SJW crowd by promoting other values as higher than material security? Art, beauty, and so on - things that transcend the physical.

Also it seems like it would help if it were easier to escape the economic system in modern western countries. But cost of living is a bitch and all the institutions seem designed to keep us all on a treadmill. Certain economic assumptions made by economists seem sacrosanct to the zietgeist but also seem to promulgate fear. As if a rising GDP is the prime indicator of a healthy society.

Anyways, I'm not sold that simple solutions exist (and that this line of thinking could lead to something like Marxism), but I find it odd that no one seems to be addressing the basic fears that seems to lead to a shrill denial of a very real human bio-diversity. Do the wise folks here agree or disagree?


8/21/2016 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

--Is it possible that we could reduce the shrill whining of the SJW crowd by promoting other values as higher than material security?

Absolutely. That's what I meant about a religious solution.

--Also it seems like it would help if it were easier to escape the economic system in modern western countries. But cost of living is a bitch and all the institutions seem designed to keep us all on a treadmill.

True, but look at what is expensive and why. For example, Why are Luxury TVs Affordable when Basic Health Care Isn't? Anything heavily regulated and subsidized by the state soon becomes unaffordable.

8/21/2016 02:57:00 PM  
Blogger Magister said...

"Several key principles come to mind when I think of his philosophy: freedom. Exploration. Adventure. Discovery."

Sign me up. What's the first book you'd put on the list?

8/22/2016 05:45:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

The book we're discussing might be a the best intro, but we won't know until I finish reviewing it. Of Polanyi's books, the best would probably be his last, which attempts to summarize everything, Meaning. Another good intro is Michael Polanyi: The Art of Knowing. It's brief but hits all the highlights.

8/22/2016 08:18:00 AM  
Blogger Gagdad Bob said...

There are cheaper used editions of this edition of Meaning. I just scored a hardbound version for only $1.99, since my existing paperback is so marked up with my notes and highlights.

8/22/2016 08:23:00 AM  
Anonymous DougieFranklin said...

True, but look at what is expensive and why. For example, Why are Luxury TVs Affordable when Basic Health Care Isn't? Anything heavily regulated and subsidized by the state soon becomes unaffordable.

I dunno Gagdad Bob. This point smacks of facile talk radio rhetoric. TVs have gotten cheap for lots of reasons that don't apply to medical care, regulated or not. You also imply that the state acts unilaterally to keep prices high. Not true at all. Special interests shape the laws in ways favor themselves. The banks (among others) benefit from high home values and high education prices. Members of the insurance industry benefit from ACA - in fact, the law essentially mandates that they get more customers. Corporations benefit from everyone's retirement money being invested in the stock market. Such things are lobbied by the few for the benefit of the few at the expense of and for the control of the many. Follow the money.

8/22/2016 06:53:00 PM  

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