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Merry Christmas!

[Tiepolo - Visit of the Magi]

How to remember 9/11?

The current issue of First Things has a piece by R. R. Reno that’s worth reading on The Failed 9/11 Memorial at the World Trade Center. The basic issue it raises is that it’s odd to have a large impressive memorial in a location that’s as prominent as the WTC, only to have the memorial dissolve the event commemorated into 3,000 private events of a kind (murder) that’s very traumatic but happens quite often every year in America.


Liberal Values and the Seduction of the American Right

The following is a talk delivered at the 2011 Conference of the H. L. Mencken Club.

Why has American conservatism been such a flop? It finds it impossible to define what it wants, stick with it, and defend it. The result is that it never wins and never even stands its ground.

To understand what’s happened you have to go to basics.


Liberal theosis

Modern thought can’t make sense of man. Science wants to treats him as part of single system of cause and effect, and liberalism also takes that approach when considering social policy. The problem though is that science and liberalism need scientists and liberals as they understand them—that is, they need thinkers, observers and agents who are autonomous and therefore outside the system of material causation.


Every spring has its fall ...

Larry Auster notes an odd unexplained shift in the New York Times coverage of the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath: it used to be unproblematically good, because Arabs of course can’t be distinguished from Eastern Europeans, whereas now it’s suddenly an issue, because the Arabs of course mostly support Islamic politics.


Two films with food mysticism (spoiler alert!)

A blogger’s complaints about foodies put me in mind of a couple of award-winning and actually quite good movies I saw recently about food and drink as religion, Sideways and Babette’s Feast.


Propositioning the nation

Princeton professor Robert George gives a remarkably pure presentation of the “America as proposition nation” thesis here. If you want to know what that thesis is, watch the clip—it’s only a couple of minutes, and it’s a collector’s item.

Here are a few obvious issues the thesis raises:


A fragment on democracy

The world is run by people who run things. Liberalism eliminates the principle of authority and puts the individual and his desires at the center of concern, so it makes it important for people who run things to be able to claim that the people at large have agreed to what they’re doing—they approved the particular measure, or the basic principle. or the decisionmakers, or anyway they could vote everybody out and change the constitution if they’ve really got a problem.


Empire and the crisis of American conservatism

I have a piece in a symposium on conservatism and empire at the University Bookman.


Reason and religion

Four religions:

  1. Liberalism: A single human world ordered only by reason, based on pure (content-free) concepts. Freedom says you ignore the content of human goals and promote all of them simply as such, and equality says you ignore the content of human qualities so you treat all men as equal in value. Put them together and you get liberalism.

Response to a reader's question about environmentalism

Environmentalism has several aspects. The most justifiable is the view that the natural world is a complex evolved system that we depend on but can’t understand and control completely, so we should respect it the way a traveler respects local customs or someone sailing a small boat respects the sea. The point can be extended a bit: we can view the natural world as an object of admiration that we should respect for its own sake, somewhat as we respect historical remnants or works of art.


Salingaros interview

I interview the mathematician and architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros at the Philadelphia Society website. He goes into a variety of topics relating to his recent writings, including the evolution of living form, the cluelessness of modern man, the perfidies of the evil oligarchs. and what it all means for politics and religion.


How is Professor Epstein unlike the Pope?

Richard Epstein has an online piece entitled How Is Warren Buffett Like the Pope?

It seems that on the way to Spain for World Youth Day the Pope said that the economy “cannot be measured by the maximum profit but by the common good,” and that it “cannot function only with mercantile self-regulation but needs an ethical reason in order to work for man.” Epstein has major problems with that.


Liberalism and its meaning for Christians

[Originally published in the Spring 2005 issue of The New Pantagruel]

Liberalism has enormous power as a social reality. When liberals call themselves “progressive” they make it stick. Their views dominate all reputable intellectual and cultural institutions. Judges feel free to read liberalism into fundamental law, even without historical or textual support, because it seems so obviously right.


Another review

There’s another review of my book, this one by Brett Stevens at the Amerika weblog.


Breaking from the PC prison

I’ve been reading the manuscript of Bruce Charlton’s forthcoming book on PC, Thought Prison, which grew out of posts and discussions at his weblog.

It’s a good book, I’m writing a blurb for it, and I hope it catches on.


From scientism to PC

Conservatively-minded people who favor the scientific outlook to the exclusion of other sources of knowledge point out that PC, the insistence that human differences don’t exist or don’t matter or shouldn’t be allowed to matter, is anti-scientific.

That’s true, of course. It’s also true though that scientism—the view that knowledge is not knowledge unless it’s scientific—leads to PC, basically by causing impossible difficulties on the mind/body front.


From living order to transcendence

I mentioned marriage as an example of the antiliberal implications of the new science of complex order developed by writers on architecture such as Christopher Alexander and Nikos Salingaros.

There are of course many other examples, because the new science goes to basics. It helps make sense of living systems, explains how their specific qualities are tied to their ability to function in the adaptive way they do, and insists on the severe disadvantages of simpler and seemingly more rational systems.


Figuring out our situation

I’ve been reading Nikos Salingaros’ Twelve Lectures on Architecture: Algorithmic Sustainable Design. It’s a somewhat expanded set of notes for a series of lectures he gave a couple of years ago on architecture and urbanism.


Alas, no panel at the convention ...

Another recommendation for my book, this one from the president of the Modern Language Association: “a book that gets right to the core of the matter: immanent tyrannical elements in the political philosophy that first challenged tyranny” (it’s in the next-to-last paragraph on the linked page). The review Berman refers to is unfortunately not available for free online.



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