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What's it all about?

The Left (which in most important respects includes liberals and “moderates”) thinks about things technologically. Leftists may talk about the evils of logocentric thinking or whatnot, but that sort of thing answers no questions, and when something actually has to be decided scientism cuts in. As a result, all principles that matter have to be universal, wholly public, clearly defined, and designed for implementation through a definite system of command and control.

Once that point is understood, others fall into place:

  • The Left considers personal morality private and subjective. It’s improper to comment on it or suggest that one version is better than another. That would cause bad feelings, and more importantly it would distract attention from social justice, which is now understood as absolute morality. Such views do make sense if the only rational way of organizing social life is through formal public systems of control and command run on universal demonstrable principles.
  • When the Left hears religious traditionalists say that God ought to have a place in public life, or that America is a Christian nation, they think the idea is that a comprehensive Christian code of conduct ought to be forced on all human relations everywhere by administrative means, the way the Left enforces nondiscrimination. Christianity in public life, in the eyes of the Left, therefore means “Christofascism” or some such.
  • When the Left hears concerns about multiculturalism and immigration what they hear is hatred of the Other and a demand for “monoculturalism.” To the Left, the only standards that matter are universal standards. To say that cultural coherence is good is therefore to say that some particular set of standards must be enforced everywhere on everyone and everything, and to say that boundaries are necessary is to say that those on the other side of the boundary aren’t really human (since standards that can only be universal don’t apply to them) and can be dealt with however one chooses.

People don’t understand each other because they assume that others think the way they do themselves. They hear what others say, think of what that would mean given their own assumptions, and become outraged. They explain themselves, and their explanations make no sense to the other party. What traditionalists need to do in presenting their views and answering objections is to bear in mind the background assumptions of the Left, which are those of present-day public life generally, and respond to them as well as to the specific point raised. They should never accept how the issue is posed, or the accepted understanding of the setting in which it arises.



I agree with much of what you say, but I will add that a premise of the universalist worldview is that all moral statements or positions are meaningless as a rational matter and therefore inadmissible into the public square.

Because all moral statements and positions are meaningless, no moral position can be preferred over another and the inevitable result is the universalism of non-discrimination (“social justice”). To oppose this result is to claim that some moral positions or statements have binding meaning for political purposes, which to a universalist is preposterous.

For a traditionalist to “understand” the background assumptions of the Left, this is the most difficult and the most likely to provoke disbelief. While a traditionalist may think the Left disagrees on the issues of abortion or gay marriage, the Left sees no issue at all; there’s nothing to disagree about. That’s how wide the gulf is; it doesn’t divide along the lines of issues, it defines what issues are in fact issues at all.

Although most live within and observe the effects of a positivist, empirical culture, they fail to grasp (or even know) its fundamental tenets (which aren’t widely advertised). One notable aspect of liberal culture is its covertness; while it is a fundamentalist creed, it doesn’t publish its Ten Commandments (although they, and the great Prophets, are taught at most universities).

Your point seems to be that I should have made my point more boldly. I might for example have emphasized more that trad positions simply make no sense to libs, which is why they’re thought monstrous and whatnot, and it’s not likely that further discussion of underlying assumptions will make much of a dent because at bottom what’s in dispute is the nature of rationality.

All that is worth saying. Still, it seems to me that there are some wafflers and articulating what the issues really are is helpful to them. Also, it helps clarify the thinking of our own side. And to the extent the power of the liberal cause is its ability to avoid saying what its fundamental positions really are, and therefore maintain the fiction it is all-tolerant, clarification of the competing positions is extremely important.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.