The once and future rant

I’m revising the lecture mentioned in the last entry for another conference. Here’s a *.pdf of the current draft. Basically, I’m abbreviating the first part (scientism and liberalism are bad, tradition and Catholicism are good) and expanding the second (what do we do about it). I intend to do more, and any comments would be welcome.

8 thoughts on “The once and future rant”

  1. Stimulating critique of scientism
    I think this is one of the clearest and most accessible presentations of your politics (it helps that you bring all the threads together).

    I’ve tried to work through some of the ideas in an article of my own. I hope I’ve represented your ideas tolerably well.

  2. Irony of Descartes’ “Cogito Ergo Sum”
    I have only read the first page of your lecture as I post (must sleep soon!) so I don’t know if you touched on this irony later in the lecture.

    I was struck that Descartes “could not doubt his own experience” yet scientific materialism tells us today that we are essentially automatons. We might experience a feeling of making free will decisions, but in fact we are just firing neurons according to the sum of our genetics and past experience. Our intuitive feeling of possessing free will is just an illusion. The materialist has to profess to believe that which he cannot experience or truly feel. He must that which seems absurd, which contradicts his actual experience of life.

    Which means that Descartes might have felt that he was thinking or reasoning, but he was just firing some neurons according to his programming at that point in his life. His sudden feeling of thinking, his self awareness of reason, which he found to be profound and real, could be just the same kind of illusion as all of us allegedly experience when we think we are making free will decisions.

    In a world without the transcendent, without free will, without a soul and a mind that are separate from material neurons, what distinguishes Descartes’ neuron firings from those of an earthworm? How could Descartes be sure he was “thinking,” and what does “thinking” mean in such a world?

    • I touch on it very briefly:
      I touch on it very briefly: “The movement that started with “cogito ergo sum” ends by denying consciousness.”

  3. Prospects for the fall of liberalism
    Other forms of modernity, like communism, have turned out not
    to work and have mostly been abandoned.

    What are the prospects for liberalism being perceived as something that does not work, and hence declining?

    I can think of factors working against this happy decline. One is that liberalism is less likely to have an extreme collapse a la communism, because it is less extreme and totalitarian than communism.

    Another factor is that liberals have a deep capacity for emphasizing their good intentions and ignoring their results.

    A follow-up question might be: If liberalism is perceived as unworkable, will it only be because it has ruined the entire society, making recovery from liberalism almost impossible? Witness the attempts to recover from communism in the former Soviet Union.

    • Liberals and good intentions
      Clark Coleman writes: Liberals have a deep capacity for emphasizing their good intentions and ignoring their results.

      Perhaps the liberal road is paved with good intentions. But an impartial critique of liberalism should acknowledge that liberal activists are sincere in their determination to do good – as they see it. Liberal measures to reform abuses and relieve the suffering and oppression of the ‘victim classes’, spring from an admirable moral impulse. Political correctness is explained as the expression of a humane desire not to offend powerless minorities. So what’s wrong with liberalism? Does it fail to observe some ‘golden mean’?

      Kenneth Minogue says that during the twentieth century the liberal conscience has become a network of thoughtful people agonizing over the purported iniquities of capitalism and Western imperialism. A few years ago, the alleged destruction of the environment was added to the miscellany of concerns that disturb the liberal sensibility. But what’s wrong with such attitudes? Doesn’t almost every educated person share them?

      • You only confirm the point
        I comment that liberals emphasize their good intentions and ignore results. You defend them with a litany of phrases that only prove the point: sincere in their determination to do good … spring from an admirable moral impulse … the expression of a humane desire … what’s wrong with such attitudes? .

        I can list many desires and goals I have as a conservative that are also praiseworthy. However, if the net result of my policy prescriptions is harm for millions, will liberals give me a free pass because of my good intentions?

        • Jumping to conclusions
          My litany of phrases wasn’t really defending liberalism – as you put it. I know very well that good intentions are not enough and what counts are results. You have jumped to a wrong conclusion.

          In the interests of objectivity, my comments suggested that liberal sentiments – or some of them – are shared by many people who would describe themselves as conservatives. In practice, there isn’t always a clear boundary between liberal and conservative attitudes. We can avoid mechanical responses to the ‘liberal bogey’ by keeping this ambivalence in mind.

          In many cases, it would probably be more accurate to use the word ‘socialist’ rather than ‘liberal’ in discussions of the political philosophy and/or social morality that are dominant in Western societies right now. (Classical liberalism is at odds with current definitions of liberalism).

          In my opinion, one of the best explorations of the roots and influences of liberalism is Kenneth Minogue’s The Liberal Mind.

    • Liberalism is seductive.
      Liberalism is seductive. That’s how it got where it is. Also, it results from a narrowing of reason that induces a sort of sleep from which it’s very difficult to awake. “If the light within you has turned into darkness, how great is that darkness” and all that.

      Still, blindness leads to overreaching, and there’s no limit to how far overreaching can go, so liberalism will come to an end. How bad things have to get before it goes away I just don’t know. How long recovery will take is also unpredictable.


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