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Merton's "Unspeakable"

A correspondent sent me the following passages from Raids on the Unspeakable by Thomas Merton:


Existence as violence

A correspondent referred me to a post by a “progressive Christian” blogger as a sign of a new frontier in inclusiveness. The post picked up on another blogger’s claim that “the self is inherently violent.” The example used was blogging, which involves self-assertion that comes at the expense of other bloggers.


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.


How to live in accordance with reason?

The mathematician and architectural theorist Nikos Salingaros has written a useful account of “seven tactics for denying the truth”: Cognitive Dissonance and Non-adaptive Architecture. (PDF here.)


Addendum for inquiring minds

A note related to my recent entry on homosexuality:


The Mohammedan mind and ours

I just finished an advanced review copy of The Closing of the Muslim Mind: How Intellectual Suicide Created the Modern Islamist, by Robert R. Reilly. It’s a clear and informative book that quotes lots of primary sources and deals with basic issues in an intelligent way.


Christianity: Metaphysical boon or bane?

Some commenters at Alternative Right have seconded the complaint of the European New Right that Christianity is responsible for our current metaphysical problems. The reason, they say, is that Christianity separates soul and body, universal and particular, Christ and Caesar. The result in each case is that the latter gets debunked in favor of the former, and we end up with a global undifferentiated scheme of nothingness. For that reason we ought to go back to paganism, or the pre-Socratics, or do what non-Western societies do, or whatever.

My response (consolidated and edited) was pretty much as follows. It’s a bit choppy and unresearched, and I’m sure there are people who could improve it, so do comment!


The One, the Many, and the alternative right

The respectable right is respectable because it accepts the principles of liberalism and can’t offer serious resistance to liberal conclusions.

That’s why a less respectable “alternative right” is needed. But what is the alternative that would do better? People have been looking for a good way to resist liberalism for a long time, and judging by results they haven’t gotten very far.


Stereotype and individual

We describe things by their roles, but they are more than their roles. Iron, for example, has a role in the functioning of the human body, the earth, and the universe as a whole. To describe it is to say how it acts in connection with other things. On the other hand, it is also a substantial thing that does not reduce without remainder to what it does.

What applies to a chemical element applies all the more to human beings. We cannot identify, describe, or deal with people without reference to their participation in systems larger than themselves. We nonetheless recognize that they are more than the sum of their relationships. That is what makes them real.


Bacon in the fire

Real Physics, the weblog of an Aristotelian physics PhD, has an interesting post on Climategate as a manifestation of Baconian science—that is, of “science” oriented toward control rather than truth.

My take on the problem is that modern scientific thought emphasizes experimental verification and tries to pare down references to things that can’t be observed. That approach has led to extremely effective methods of dealing with the physical world, so it’s evidently a good approach in some settings.


From humanism to inhumanity

There are any number of decline-of-Western-Civ books. Since I just wrote one myself, I ought to talk down the competition. In the case of John Carroll’s book, The Wreck of Western Culture: Humanism Revisited, I just can’t. It’s too brilliant.


Word and reality

In my discussion of Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition I commented that “functional pattern” (my usual term) seems to cover the same ground as Thomistic “formal cause” and “final cause” taken together. In each case the point is to describe the thing missing in modern thought that makes it go haywire, most strikingly in connection with human affairs. If you’ve only got material and efficient cause, or atoms and the void, you can’t talk about how things work (functional pattern) or what they’re about (final cause). You’re not going to get anywhere.

Marriage, functional patterns, and stuff

Rod Dreher sent a note asking how trads should argue with “gay marriage” proponents, and posted my reply at Beliefnet.


Smiting the Philistines

I just finished reading Edward Feser’s The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism. In spite of its title, the book is less a discussion of the “New Atheism” (Dawkins, Dennett, et. al.) than a wonderfully clear overview of Thomism.


Secularity, objectivity, and reason

Razib Khan, a.k.a. “David Hume,” responds to my comments on the mission statement of the weblog Secular Right. His basic rejoinder is that a “morality grounded in the reality of God” may indeed have more consistency and power than one based wholly on this-worldly human inclinations, but only if it’s already admitted that God exists and has the right qualities.


Same rant, continued ...

What we see around us, and my last entry points to, is a perfect storm of compulsory unreason:


More on faith and reason

A blogger offers comments on my talk on Reason and the Future of Conservatism, concluding that the talk opposes faith to reason and comes out on the side of faith.


More on the death of reason

In my last entry I moaned and groaned a bit about how the kind of reason that enables us to live reasonably has become an archaic concept, since the principles of scientism, commercialism and bureaucracy can’t make sense of it, and in comments to an earlier entry I touched on one aspect of its decline, the disappearance of social settings and positions that support intellectual independence.

I suppose it’s worth the effort to list a couple more aspects and causes of that decline:


Rebecca and Reason

Mark Richardson makes an interesting point in his discussion of the British writer Rebecca West: she may have been a feminist socialist, but she had a much more civilized mind than you’re likely to find today. In particular, she was able to enter into, and take seriously on their own terms, the several types of thought—scientific, religious, and humanistic—that have entered into the making of the Western mind.


More on gullibility

Here’s another reason for the docility of the post-60s generations: they’ve had more schooling, and a study of people who quit smoking shows that educated people are more easily influenced by others.



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