Tuesday, September 23, 2014

A Manichee in the White House

People correctly intuit that truth must be simple, which is why they so often seem to organize themselves around a simple -- but incorrect -- truth.

But "incorrect truth" is an oxymoron, so it is equivalent to ordering oneself to error, i.e., failing to discriminate between appearance and reality. And if you don't do that, you can't even get to first base, let alone back home, which is only the whole point of the game of life.

Islam is famous, for example for simplifying religion to the point of gross distortion. True, "there is no God but God," but such a formulation goes way too far in excluding the non-God, i.e., the good old Many, and if we reduce the Many to the One, then there is pretty much no point to existence -- at least our existence. God may have some weird point, but it is utterly unknowable to us, not even by analogy.

Chesterton wants us to retain three simple but extremely fruitful principles from Aquinas, and let the philosophers argue over the details.

For what is a philosopher, anyway? Among other things, he is someone who is not only "trained to put up with philosophers," but "patient with clever people when they indulge in folly." But a Raccoon does not suffer academia gladly, so he doesn't look back, and lets the dead bury the tenured.

These Three Things are 1) the goodness of creation, 2) moderate realism, AKA the vindication of common sense, and 3) "the primacy of the doctrine of being." To appreciate these Three is... well, it is to be sane. It is also to be human. And ultimately it is to turn the world right-side-up -- that is, if you have inherited the inverted world of the left and are in need of reorientation.

And most of us can't help assimilating some of this inverted world, because it is the world we are expected to live in. Or in other words, it's Barack's world, we just pay taxes in it (and we are merely using Obama as a symbol for the much wider and deeper pneumapathology he represents).

Dennis Prager touched on this during his program yesterday. He mentioned the absurdity of a nut like Paul Krugman accusing conservatives of "living in a bubble." If only! It is quite literally impossible for a conservative to get through the day without being drenched in liberalism. Obviously it is everywhere, in the news media, in the educational establishment, in entertainment. You would have to live like the Amish to somehow avoid it.

However, a New York liberal such as Paul Krugman can easily lead an intellectually friction-free existence, encountering no serious opposition. One suspects that this is at the heart of his and Obama's incessant deployment of the Straw Man. It is the closest thing to disagreement in their perfectly insulated bubbles.

With respect to the goodness of creation, Thomas was especially eager to shoot down Manichaeism, which continues, like a virus, to mutate into ghastly new forms.

At its root, Manichaeism is always dualistic and, one might say, excessively Platonic. It denies the intrinsic goodness of creation, and therefore of embodiment and humanness. If its doctrine is dualism, then its method is "ascent," i.e., fleeing up and outta here, a la Plotinus, over the wall of flesh and into the pure land of transcendental idea.

One sees an example of modern day Manichaeism in the climate fantasists who regard man as a cancer on the planet, or in the neo-Marxian class warriors who conflate wealth and darkness (except when they don't), or in black Muslims who think a big-headed scientist named Yacub created whites to be a "race of devils." But enough about Eric Holder.

"The exact problem" with these idiots is the identification of "purity with sterility, in contrast to Thomas Aquinas who always identified purity with fruitfulness" (from the introduction). What he means is that the Manichee withdraws into kind of transcendental world of perfect ideas -- which is precisely what ideologues such as Obama do.

As the old joke about economists goes, "sure it works in reality, but will it work in theory?" One could say the same of the climate fanatics: "sure, the planet isn't warming. But that's only in the real world. The question is, does it agree with our models?" Or, one could say it of metaphysical Darwinists: "true, there is an infinite gap between animal and man. But how does that square with these bones we dug up?"

Now, Manichaeism shouldn't even be thought of as any ideology per se, because beneath that it is simply a universal temptation, or one might say intrinsic cosmic heresy. It is an error just waiting to happen, every time and to everyone. We are always free to go down -- or up, rather -- that path, but it will guarantee that we end up infertile eggheads.

The modern scam, for example, is predicated on people such as Descartes, who famously divided mind from matter, or Kant, who went one step further and divided mind from reality. How can this not guarantee infertility or monstrous pneumacognitive birth defects somewhere down the line?

Monstrous? Yes, of course. Look at Hitler, dividing Jew from Aryan, or Stalin, dividing bourgeois from proletariat, or Obama, who has managed to create more division than any president in our history because of his fundamentally divisive ideology. Before all else he is a Manichee, as evidenced, for example, by his membership in that heretical gnostic Christian sect, e.g.,

"It is this world, a world where cruise ships throw away more food in a day than most residents of Port-au-Prince see in a year, where white folks’ greed runs a world in need, apartheid in one hemisphere, apathy in another hemisphere… That’s the world! On which hope sits!"

Such is the audacious hope of the political Manichee. Has this hope bore fruit? If so, what kind? You first. Looks rotten to me.


Gagdad Bob said...

Sowell elucidates the principle: "But all this make-believe has come back to haunt [Obama], as make-believe often does.

"Make no mistake about it, make-believe wins elections -- and winning elections is Obama's thing. The big problem is that the things that win elections are not the things that win wars."

mushroom said...

Division is where it's at. Politics, as far as acquiring power, it about division.

The demagogue says, X is cheating you. X is going to do you in. But if you vote for me, I will stop X.

I love the NRA; I'm a member of the NRA. My dues are paid up through 2019 when I will likely become a Life member. But the NRA couldn't raise money hand over fist without the gun-grabbers.

Obama gets elected promising to go after the 1% when the 1% is funding him because they understand the division game as well as anybody.

You sell shoes, cars, phones, and politicians with division.

And that man comes on to tell me
How white my shirts can be
But he can't be a man
'cause he doesn't smoke
the same cigarettes as me

Gagdad Bob said...

Ace: "The Progressive Cult: If we really pray hard enough that imaginary premises are real, they become real. Our hearts are so pure and full of feeling that they can conjure an alternate reality to replace the defective one we live in."

julie said...

Also at Ace:

"David Brooks went all-in on Obama. Obama's failures are therefore also David Brooks'.

Rather than confront these failures and deal rationally and honestly with them, David Brooks invents, get this, a self-pleasing mythology wherein the people at fault are the, well, People.

The problem is not that Obama, Brooks, and the rest of the stultifyingly mediocre yet viciously arrogant "Leadership Class" has failed.

No, the problem is You -- for noticing that they've failed."

ted said...

Brooks is hit or miss, but the only thing I can still read it in the NYT. But he off the mark here. This is what Charles Murray was pointing out in Coming Apart. It's the elites who have failed in their moral insecurity, resulting in their shirking any responsibility on leading others on virtue. Instead, they espouse egalitarian non-judgmental values that get us nowhere.

julie said...

The funny thing about the Brooks piece is that, if he really wants to mingle with men of various socioeconomic backgrounds, there are tons of ways to do that. He doesn't need a camp, he just needs to go out in public, or maybe join a mainstream church. But that might be uncomfortable; why, you never know what kind of people you might have to deal with!

EbonyRaptor said...

The philosophical projection of the left would be quite entertaining if it wasn't so dangerous to the rest of us.

EbonyRaptor said...

Going on retreat with David Brooks sounds like great fun. I mean what could possibly more stimulating than sitting around a campfire with strange men discussing Obama's pants?

julie said...

Plus, you just know he'd be the guy who stands around telling everyone what to do, while managing to do absolutely nothing himself. Except maybe make a chore chart, which will promptly be found to be either completely useless or just plain confusing, and will be the source of much irritation and discussion. But hey, at least everyone will be talking about him.

neal said...

Still Life with Rotten Fruit. In the real world, rotting still counts for something useful. Freeze a lie, and steal your own soul. Man, that is hard for others to live with.

mushroom said...

Davey, go get your shine box.

julie said...


USS Ben USN (Ret) said...

"These Three Things are 1) the goodness of creation, 2) moderate realism, AKA the vindication of common sense, and 3) "the primacy of the doctrine of being." To appreciate these Three is... well, it is to be sane. It is also to be human."

That's a good way to put it. Leaves a lotof room for coontemplation...

John said...

"Obama, who has managed to create more division than any president in our history because of his fundamentally divisive ideology."
No fan of Obama, but historical nonsense of the highest order.
I'd say the country was far more divided in 1776 and 1860. The 600,000 dead from the divisions in 1860 prove it. I marvel at our political uninimity, in fact. Let's bomb Iraq!

Gagdad Bob said...

Yes, but Lincoln didn't create that division, create being the operative word. Rather, he tried to heal the division, but the south rejected the olive branch.

Captain Obvious said...

Yeah - I'm pretty sure Lincoln wasn't flipping the bird at his opponents.

I doubt very much that any of his addresses would boil down to "I won. (So suck it, losers, what I say goes!)"

Pretty sure that even when talking about Southern plantation holders, at no point did he condescend to tell them, "You didn't build that."

Nor was his argument for going to war that at some point, plantation owners had made enough money.

Cousin Dupree said...

Didn't Lincoln say "plantation owners' greed runs a world in need?" Rosie O'Donnell said so.

Captain Obvious said...

Maybe his plan to end slavery should have been to invite even more people over from Africa then give them free healthcare, housing and education. In exchange, they could take very low-paying jobs doing menial labor for people who had more important things to do, like lobby Washington or put on theatrical performances.

John said...

I see. I was confused, because I thought you meant we currently have the largest division in American history.
You meant, other than previous divisions, ones that were many more violent and divisive than today, Obama has created the biggest division in American history.
thanks for the clarification.

John said...

I also think your being a bit too sweet to Lincoln, and the olive branch notion.
The south seceded, they didn't declare war. Arguments can be made as to the validity of secession, or the right to secede, but war to reunite was certainly not an absolute necessity.
Further, he certainly did not go to war to end slavery. That idea became politically expedient as the war went on.
Don't misunderstand, however. I think Lincoln did the correct thing, though many of his policies were, in fact, progressive in nature. One can draw a fairly straight line from Lincoln to Wilson in terms of strengthening the federal government, and all the ills that go along with it.
It's hard not to sympathize to some degree with the southern states. Lincoln was not even on the ballot in most of them. That would be hard to take.

Gagdad Bob said...

I don't know if they declared war, but they certainly made war, e.g., against Fort Sumter. Also, there was the little matter of all the federal property they expropriated by illegally seceding.

Gagdad Bob said...

I would also disagree that the Emancipation Proclamation was politically expedient. Rather, it was expedient to the end of military victory. In other words, it was a war measure, not a law.

Gagdad Bob said...

And Lincoln was the polar opposite of a Progressive, in that he wasn't a historicist, but rather, an undying proponent of the timeless principles enshrined in the Declaration and Constitution. See Jaffa's wonderful A New Birth of Freedom for details. The "progressive tyrant" canard is routinely thrown out by the Lincoln haters. Lincoln was indeed a vocal proponent of progress, but via individual merit and effort, as in his own life. He did not want the state to pick winners and losers, hence his opposition in principle to slavery.

John said...

Well, I certainly am not a Lincoln hater in the slightest, but I can't help but notice that jailing government officials and opponents and closing down newspapers is what we would typically call tyranny.
I find Jaffa's views particularly Hamiltonian in nature. In other words, as with most writers, he lets his ideology determine the facts he chooses to bring to light. It's a bit like what most of us do when we look at our children, or parents. Lincoln had many conflicting views, as with most people, especially politicians. Indeed, he was a consummate politician.

Gagdad Bob said...

Well, I revere Hamilton too, so there you go. Nor would I confuse temporary wartime measures in an existential war with some kind of lust for power.

Gagdad Bob said...

And maybe if Lincoln had taken a few more wartime measures, he wouldn't have ended with a bullet to the head. His death was a disaster for the south.

John said...

Well, all I mean by tyranny is something like a king would do. In other words, his actual political powers did not grant him the authority to do these things. He had to circumvent them. And, yes, an argument can be made for its validity in times of war.
Problem is, these "war" powers are rarely scaled back in times of peace. Or, wars and enemies can be conjured up to keep them going.

Van Harvey said...

John said "I find Jaffa's views particularly Hamiltonian in nature. In other words, as with most writers, he lets his ideology determine the facts he chooses to bring to light."

Why so intent on putting yourself in the position of 'most writers'? If on the one other hand you'd like to free your keybored from being driven by ideology, you only have to cite what he did say, and perhaps what you think he failed to say, and give your reasons for it. To criticize one writer, by comparing him to another, whose writing you've called bad names, is simply a multi-level marketing approach to making ad hominems.

I'm still playing catch up for the week, but it looks like you have the potential to asking some good questions and maybe even making some good points... my suggestion would be that you try a little harder to make them your points, rather than ones borrowed from others.

"Problem is, these "war" powers are rarely scaled back in times of peace. Or, wars and enemies can be conjured up to keep them going."

Without reopening the Lincoln issue (which has been fought here many a time), the South engaged in war, and for the basest of reasons. Lincoln found himself fighting not only a war, such as WWII, but a Civil War, where the actions of some, politicians included, had direct affects upon the waging of that war, and as such his war powers directly applied, and IMHO were appropriate for that context.

Those war powers ended with the conclusion of the war, as all just war powers do. Those powers that manage to persist past the duration of the war which was fought, can usually be shown to follow from and for reasons other than just war powers, and from evasions of there being a "War" properly declared.

... and to stray a bit OT, the one unjust power that was taken up by the Govt during the Civil War, and the one criticism I do have for Lincoln, is one that is very rarely even associated with the War, and that was the "Morrill Act for Land Grant Colleges" (actually a series of acts), which created the Dept of Education (as well as the Dept of Agriculture) as a 'war measure', to educate the rebelliousness out of the rebels. It was proposed and vetoed before Lincoln was elected, but when Morrill (a ProRegressive Republican) re-spun it as a war measure, he got Lincoln to sign it. Our expanding federal Govt, and the chief means of its expansion, dangling fed funds for state compliance and 'co-operation', and the destruction of our system of education by which all the rest has followed, has followed from that.