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Political theory

Catholicism and public order

Another part of the appeal of Catholicism today (apart from its truth) is a sort of this-wordly extra ecclesiam nulla salus: outside the Church there’s no satisfaction now and no hope for the future.

The problem can be stated briefly: the West now stands publicly for secular liberalism. The latter has reached a philosophical, moral and social dead end that manifests itself in things as diverse as the state of popular and high culture, the collapse of the birth rate, and the devolution of Europe into the EU. Our official teachers, the writers, scholars, statesmen, educators and mainstream religious leaders of the West, can tell us only to respect “diversity” and “tolerance”: do what you want, but stay away from each other’s throats. Young people have nothing to look forward to but insecurity or the treadmill of career and consumption, mitigated by the sentimental hope for love and the more solid availability of various dissipations. Meanwhile, Western civilization has become world civilization, and emptied of humanly sustaining goods propagates itself everywhere through global markets, electronic communications, and the whole apparatus of international politics and law. The secular totalitarian ideologies that once resisted it have effectively disappeared, leaving local tyranny, corrupt nationalism, and totalitarian Islam as the remaining principles of opposition.

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Why Radical Traditionalism in Politics?

Because conservatism as normally understood is not possible in America today. Conservatism stands for loyalty to what is settled. It presumes that one belongs to a culture and civilization that is basically well-founded and coherent, so that it will return to type if a few errors are debunked and excesses suppressed.

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Awakening from reason's sleep

Here is the text (plus or minus a few ad libs) of a lecture delivered at the Roman Forum conference in Gardone, Italy, on July 3, 2008.

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The building of tyranny

If our built environment is an image of what we believe about the world generally, then the ways the modernist ideology is imposed and maintained in architecture must be part of a more general process. With that in mind, this short essay by a Norwegian urbanist with a legal background takes on considerable interest even apart from its particular concern: why architectural modernism is so dominant when everybody hates it.

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A headless world

Some data points:

  • Anthony Esolen notices that at places like Netflix users make normal critical comments on films based on natural distinctions like good, better and best, while in formal literary studies such concerns have been edged out by clunky political posturing.
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Reason gone mad

I gave a talk about reason, scientism and liberalism at a recent conference put on by the Roman Forum. Here’s a *.pdf of the talk’s written form.
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The outlook for the bobo ascendency

One issue raised by Brooks’s “bobos” (bourgeois bohemians, his new hip yuppie ruling class) is how long they’ll last in power. They do have some advantages:

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On stupid ideas

When people complain about stupidity they mean that someone is willfully ignoring—or mindlessly oblivious to—the obvious. Whether something is obvious depends on your general understanding of things. So to say something is stupid, when it’s something other people insist on, is to say that (1) it’s based on an understanding you reject, and (2) there’s something immediately untenable about the understanding, so much so that someone who claims to hold it is either lying, or refusing to think, or has something seriously wrong with him.

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The headless Right

I’ve been reading Paul Gottfried’s recent book, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right.

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The historical dice are loaded

Peter Brimelow begins his book Alien Nation by calling current immigration policy “Hitler’s posthumous revenge” on America.

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Moral points of view

Here’s an interesting graph showing how liberals (blue), conservatives (red), and one self-described libertarian (green) test on a survey of “moral foundations”:

Basically, liberals emphasize “harm” and “fairness” and don’t care so much about “loyalty,” “authority” or “purity,” while conservatives give more equal weight to all five dimensions. (The libertarian can speak for himself.)

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Can Sacks sack multiculturalism?

Jonathan Sacks, Britain’s chief rabbi (whatever that is), has come out with a book saying that multiculturalism threatens democracy.

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A note on politics

Alexander’s outlook has definite implications when applied to society. It rejects the idea of imposing concept and image on reality, and so is anti-constructivist. It favors particularity of position and so is anti-egalitarian and anti-inclusivist. It accepts that patterns that reappear in a variety of traditions very likely have something to them that rationalism should not be allowed to trump. And it treats both subsidiarity and hierarchy as necessary features of any acceptable system.

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Contemplation and social order

I’ve been talking a lot about contemplation—what it is, why it’s needed, and why it’s at odds with the modern spirit. I should note down a few thoughts on what happens if you don’t have it.

To get rid of contemplation is radically to subordinate truth to action, word to deed. That tendency has developed in a variety of ways:

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    The power of contemplative thinking

    The modern viewpoint tries to do away with obfuscation, so it tells us that reason has to do with things that are clear, distinct and verifiable. To know is to know such things, and everything else is fantasy that is not to be trusted. That view is often presented quite forcefully, and it’s led to great advances in the physical sciences, so it must be taken seriously and dealt with.

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    More comments on liberalism, Christianity, Ellul and what not else

    While composing my post on Ellul and rummaging around other things I had written, I ran into some comments I had made in in a discussion thread regarding a short essay of mine on liberalism and Christianity. The comments were extensive enough that I thought I’d edit them a bit and post them here, for preservation if nothing else.

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    Ellul and the techno-state

    I’ve also been reading a bit of The Technological Society by Jaques Ellul. He’s good on presenting technology as an increasingly all-embracing system with its own demands. He tends though to view technological rationality as solely concerned with the ever-greater perfection of means.

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    How liberal is technocracy?

    An objection to the view that advanced liberalism is simply an expression of the technological outlook is that technology can be turned to any purpose. The Nazis had a technology of war and oppression, Islamic terrorists have a technology of terror, and televangelists (it is said) have a technology of making money while spreading the Word. One might even claim that advanced liberalism is a reaction against some applications of technology, in particular the Holocaust, and is motivated in large part by concern for technology’s victims.

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    More metaphysics

    Another example of how people act when their metaphysics are challenged: Status of Catholic Church in Spain Threatened. The Catholic Church in Spain has protested a citizenship education program that promotes full normalization of homosexuality.

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    Ideas continue to have consequences

    People say religion is irrational and religious people are crazy. Sometimes that’s so, of course, but the same could be said of secular people and their views. The truth of the matter is that everyone has metaphysical principles that determine how he understands the world, and when someone insists on something without evidence, or even in the face of obvious crushing objections, there’s usually some such principle behind it. The result is that there can be a huge amount of craziness and stupidity even though there aren’t that many crazy or stupid people.

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