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:
- Egalitarianism. In the earlier entry I noted that traditional cultivated reason is normally connected to a combination of social responsibility and social independence. The combination suggests a propertied ruling class, which egalitarians don’t like, and in any event humanistic culture confers a superiority that (unlike money, scientific knowledge, or bureaucratic authority) is not a function of an impersonal system and so is personal and therefore invidious.
- Multiculturalism. You can’t reason if you can’t say what things are and mean. If something can’t be scientifically observed and measured then it requires the authority of a particular cultural tradition to say what it is and means. Multiculturalism destroys the authority of particular cultural traditions and so makes it impossible to talk about the things (the good, beautiful and true) with which humanistic reason concerns itself. The result is something like the current Harvard understanding of the humanities: they study differing views of such topics, but not the topics themselves. The purpose is to enable future apparatchiks to deal intelligently with such views from an apparatchik’s and to some extent consumer’s point of view.
- Decline of public religion. Humanistic culture doesn’t make much sense unless educated men can assume without much argument that the world is a moral cosmos of some sort. Otherwise there’s nothing for the culture to be about. But they won’t be able to make that assumption in a public order that’s turned against religion.