Monday, December 13, 2021

Western cultural suicide as apostasy (Updated)

In his classic book Suicide of the West, James Burnham famously characterized liberalism as “the ideology of Western suicide.”  I’ve been meaning for some time to write up an essay on the book.  This isn’t it.  But Burnham’s thesis came to mind when reading Michael Anton’s essay “Unprecedented” in the latest New Criterion, because the phenomena Anton cites clearly confirm Burnham’s analysis. 

Ours is a civilization in decline, and at a rapidly accelerating pace.  That isn’t new in human history.  But the precise manner in which it is disintegrating seems to be unprecedented, which is the reason for the title of Anton’s essay.  What has effectively become the ideology of the ruling classes, which goes by many names – political correctness, “wokeness,” “critical social justice,” the “successor Ideology,” the baizuo mentality, and so on – manifests a perverse self-destructiveness and nihilism that, as Anton argues, appears sui generis.

This ideology, now embraced wholeheartedly by our elites and propagated by them in all the major institutions of society, teaches hatred of their own country and their own civilization as somehow uniquely malign and oppressive.  It encourages foreigners and immigrants to regard the United States and the West in general with the same hostility.  Affluent left-wing whites have also adopted an ethnic self-hatred that is unparalleled in history, enthusiastically embracing the demonization of their “whiteness” as the source of all evil in the world.  Yet these forms of oikophobia or hatred of one’s own are prescribed by them only for Westerners and white people – non-Westerners and non-whites, however bloody or oppressive the histories of their own people, are encouraged only ever to celebrate their heritage.

Even more radical, though, is this ideology’s attack on the very foundation of all social order, the family, and the distinction and relations between the sexes that is the family’s own basis.  Every form of sexual degeneracy is celebrated, and even the most timid criticism of it shrilly denounced as “bigotry.”  The rarest kind of sexual activity may be that which actually results in children – despite that being what sex exists for in the first place – and marriage rates and birthrates are declining significantly.  Norms governing the roles of fathers and mothers and the relations between the sexes are condemned as “patriarchal.”  Many are alienated even from their own sex, “self-identifying” instead as one of up to 63 imagined alternative “genders.”

As Anton notes, outright ugliness is aggressively promoted in all areas of culture, from architecture to the arts to advertising.  Movies and music endlessly obsess over the deviant, the disordered, and the criminal, while ridiculing the normal.  Bodies are ever more thoroughly tattooed, pierced, and clothed in amorphous garb that smothers rather than enhances femininity or masculinity.  Obese or emaciated models stare out from advertisements with expressions of sullen defiance.  Conventional standards of beauty, like those of morality, are condemned as “oppressive” and “bigoted.”

Basic law and order too is condemned in the same terms.  Police are demonized, defunded, and demoralized.  Many offenses are decriminalized, many laws that remain on the books are left unenforced, and many who are arrested for breaking the laws that are still enforced are let back onto the streets without bail.  Looting and vandalism are excused or even approved of.  Drug addicts and the mentally ill are permitted to take over sidewalks and defecate in the streets, though this benefits neither them nor anyone else.

The educational system inculcates into the young this nihilism and oikophobia, and condemns standards of excellence as (you guessed it) just further examples of “oppression” and “bigotry.”  “Progress” is conceived of in terms of the endless ferreting out of yet further norms that might be subverted, and the death spiral that this entails now seems to be reaching its inevitable climax.

It is the societal self-hatred that all of this evinces that in Anton’s view makes it unique in the annals of civilizational collapse, and it is what brought Burnham’s analysis to my mind.  What accounts for it?

Part of the story is that we are victims of our own success.  The truth, of course, is that modern Western society is not oppressive (except, now, toward those who resist the cultural decline just described and try to shore up traditional standards).  It is freer and more prosperous than any society in history.  The fact that it tolerates even the odious malcontents who spread “wokeness” like a cancer through the body politic, and indeed has now adopted this ideology as its own, itself demonstrates how free it is.  The fact that the entire system, though highly dysfunctional, has not yet collapsed from this cancer shows how prosperous it is.  A society needs a high degree of affluence in order to limp along, at least for a while, as the family unit and basic law and order crumble. 

But liberty and affluence breed decadence.  The wealthier and freer people are, the more they tend to find unendurable any residual discomfort or restraint on the indulgence of desire.  Elsewhere I have discussed in some detail Plato’s account of how oligarchical societies tend to decay into egalitarian licentiousness.  And as Nietzsche observes in Beyond Good and Evil:

There is a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and does this quite seriously and honestly.  Punishing somehow seems unfair to it, and it is certain that imagining “punishment” and “being supposed to punish” hurts it, arouses fear in it.  “Is it not enough to render him undangerous?  Why still punish?  Punishing itself is terrible.”  With this question, herd morality, the morality of timidity, draws its ultimate consequence. (201)

If this is true even of criminal activity, it is naturally going to be true of non-criminal forms of deviance.  A “pathologically soft and tender” society cannot endure the thought that people who do shameful things might be made to feel shame.  Hence it will frantically lower or abandon standards in order to pander to every weirdo or pervert who whines that his favorite brand of deviancy has not been afforded sufficient respect.

Yet while this accounts to some degree for the extent to which norms have collapsed, it does not explain the visceral hostility of those who work to undermine them.  For that we need to factor in the deadly sin of envy, and what Nietzsche called ressentiment, which are the concomitants of radical egalitarianism.  As Aquinas teaches, “hatred may arise both from anger and from envy… [but] arises more directly from envy, which looks upon the very good of our neighbor as displeasing and therefore hateful.”  The envious person wants to destroy what he cannot achieve or live up to himself.  Thus the “woke” are not satisfied merely to have the liberty to flout the standards upheld by “normies.”  They want to do dirt on those standards, and indeed utterly to annihilate them.  Nietzsche had their number in Thus Spoke Zarathustra:

You preachers of equality.  To me you are tarantulas, and secretly vengeful…

“What justice means to us is precisely that the world be filled with the storms of our revenge” – thus [the tarantulas] speak to each other.  “We shall wreak vengeance and abuse on all whose equals we are not” – thus do the tarantula-hearts vow.  “And ‘will to equality’ shall henceforth be the name for virtue; and against all that has power we want to raise our clamor!”

You preachers of equality, the tyrannomania of impotence clamors thus out of you for equality: your most secret ambitions to be tyrants thus shroud themselves in words of virtue.  Aggrieved conceit, repressed envy – perhaps the conceit and envy of your fathers – erupt from you as a flame and as the frenzy of revenge…

Mistrust all who talk much of their justice! … [W]hen they call themselves the good and the just, do not forget that they would be pharisees, if only they had – power…

Preachers of equality and tarantulas… are sitting in their holes, these poisonous spiders, with their backs turned on life, they speak in favor of life, but only because they wish to hurt.  They wish to hurt those who now have power.  (The Portable Nietzsche, pp. 211-13)

Now, such hatred naturally has a tendency to subvert reason.  But as Plato and Aquinas teach, it is sexual vice, among all vices, that has the greatest tendency to destroy rationality.  Sexual desire can seriously cloud the intellect even in the best of circumstances, but when its objects are contra naturam, indulgence makes the very idea of an objective, natural order of things hateful.  Wokeness, which marries the deadly sin of envy to that of lust, must inevitably give rise to ever more bizarre manifestations of outright irrationality. 

So, affluence breeds softness which breeds egalitarianism which breeds licentiousness which breeds madness.  This is all just good old fashioned sociopolitical analysis in the classical tradition (Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Aquinas, et al.).  And it is a very large part of the story we see playing out around us.  But I submit that even this does not quite explain what Anton calls the “unprecedented” nature of our cultural collapse. What I have been describing are entirely natural processes of cultural decay.  But there is something beyond the natural order at work here – something truly diabolical in what is going on.

After all, even the pagans of old had some significant understanding of the natural law.  That is why the Church could find kindred spirits in the likes of Plato and Aristotle.  By contrast, the modern West has largely lost even the moral knowledge that the pagans had.  Deviancy was, in the days of the old paganism, largely confined to the affluent upper classes.  Today it permeates the whole of the social order. 

What happened between their time and ours?  Christianity, of course – and then apostasy from Christianity.  And it is this character of apostasy, I submit, that accounts for the unprecedented and diabolical character of the cultural collapse we are witnessing.  The pagans of old had a rough understanding of the natural law.  The Catholic faith perfected it, and added to it knowledge of our supernatural end – the beatific vision – and the possibility of the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity that allow us to achieve that end.  But the modern West has abandoned the Faith, and lost, along with it, even the natural virtues, along with these supernatural gifts.  The higher one has been raised, the further he has to fall.  Or as Christ warns those who do not do well with what he has given them: “For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 13:12).

Now, where does liberalism fit into the story?  Liberalism, I submit, was bound to give way to nihilism of the kind embodied in wokeness.  As I have argued at length elsewhere, liberalism is essentially a Christian heresy, and its heresy involves a distortion of the Christian conception of nature.  In particular, it requires a conception of nature that strips from it any inherent teleology or purpose, and thus yields a distorted conception of natural law.  It also makes of the supernatural an alien imposition on nature rather than the completion of it.  And as I have also argued, liberalism’s denuded conception of nature leaves the individualist self the sole arbiter of value.  Whatever the self does not consent to must come to seem oppressive.

It is true that there is also, alongside its radical individualism, a strongly collectivist element in wokeness, particularly in Critical Race Theory.  But this does not undermine the point that wokeness is the fruit of liberal individualism.  For one thing, modern forms of collectivism (whether socialism, communism, or the racist collectivism of Nazism and CRT) have arisen precisely as an overreaction to liberal individualism.  For another, the collectivism of CRT is highly attenuated by its emphasis on “intersectionality.”  When one defines oneself as (say) an undocumented low-income trans lesbian plus-sized person of color with disabilities, who is the victim of oppression by everyone outside this intersection of categories, group identity isn’t doing much work anymore.  It’s just another novel expression of individual grievance.

As Nietzsche emphasized, the egalitarianism of modern liberalism and socialism is an inheritance from Christianity, and lacks any rational basis in the absence of its original foundation.  But modern forms of egalitarianism are also grotesque distortions of what Christianity says about human equality.  Christianity teaches that all human beings are equally made in God’s image by virtue of their rational nature, and have all been offered the supernatural end of the beatific vision.  Wokeness says, contrary to traditional Christian teaching, that human beings are or ought to be equal in every significant respect and that all “inequities” per se are unjust.  Christianity teaches that all sinners are equally offered the opportunity for forgiveness, if only they will repent.  Wokeness teaches that no repentance is necessary because the things Christianity offers forgiveness for are not really sins.  Indeed, the only real sinners are those who uphold the old norms.

In other ways too, wokeness amounts to a counterfeit Christianity that aims to subvert and replace the original.  In particular, and as I have argued elsewhere, it has the character of a Manichean Gnostic cult that shares many traits with earlier Gnostic challenges to the Church. 

Where will all of this lead?  Contra those who worry (or hope) that the woke “successor ideology” will have its boot on our throats for generations, Anton says:

If forced to bet, I would have to place my chips somewhere between imminent collapse and drawn-out decline.  I occasionally read theories of triple bank-shots and four-dimensional chess – they really know what they’re doing! – only to marvel.  Our regime cannot, at present, unload a cargo ship, stock a store shelf, run a clean election, handle parental complaints at a school board meeting, pass a budget bill, treat a cold variant, keep order in the streets, defeat a third world country, or even evacuate said country cleanly.  And that’s to say nothing of all the things it should be doing, that all non-joke countries do, that it refuses to do.  If our ruling class has a plan, it would seem to be to destroy the society and institutions from which they, at present, are the largest – one is tempted to say only – beneficiaries.  Do they think they can benefit more from the wreckage?  Or are they driven by hatreds that blind them to self-interest?  Perhaps they’re simply insane?

End quote.  My own answer to Anton’s last three questions is “All of the above.”  And I think that those who suppose that the current woke hegemony will last indefinitely are deluding themselves.  The world is breathtakingly different from what it was even just five decades ago, when I was born.  If norms that persisted for millennia can seemingly disintegrate in a single lifetime, why on earth does anyone have the confidence or fear that what has replaced them will last?  Especially when it involves an attack on the very cell of society, the family, that is even more radical than what the communist regimes attempted?

In fact, this sick new disorder of things is so utterly contra naturam that it cannot possibly last.  The real questions are: How chaotic will its end be?  What comes after it?  And might the successor to the successor ideology involve a revival of the Faith, apostasy from which has led us into this crisis?

Related reading:

The Gnostic heresy’s political successors

Tyranny of the sovereign individual

Plato predicted woke tyranny

The rule of lawlessness

District Attorney Michel Foucault

Psychoanalyzing the sexual revolutionary

The politics of chastity

Socialism versus the family

Envy cancels justice

Adventures in the Old Atheism, Part I: Nietzsche

Liberty, equality, fraternity?

Continetti on post-liberal conservatism

UPDATE 12/15: Some relevant further reading: Michael Lind on "How American Progressives Became French Jacobins," at the Tablet; Chad Pecknold on "Therapists of Decline," at The Postliberal Order; and Scott McConnell's "Is Wokeness Almost Over?" at The American Conservative.

201 comments:

  1. All I can say is that Nature will always have her vengeance, but Nature's vengeance is God's mercy.

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  2. In before Papalinton swoops in with his standard "If it's popular among the smart people, then of course it'll succeed! Silly Feser, this isn't decline."

    Just pointing out that we're seeing the collapse in family formation and birthrates, a collapse in social trust and social cohesion, an increase in violent crime, the collapse of the middle class, a steady decline in happiness correlated with record-high suicide rates, decline in American health and life expectancy driven by drugs, obesity, and the aforementioned suicide, a general inability serious racial divisions, and, to add insult to injury, widespread corruption and political bias in the very academic disciplines and managerial institutions we'd expect would address these issues.

    To all those out there who look at all of this and think these aren't signs of decline, then what would you consider decline?

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    1. This comment is misguided. The Left would acknowledge 99% of everything you mentioned but attribute them to different boogeyman (Capitalism/Neoliberalism being the main one).

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    2. Anonymous,

      To which I would reply "What do you mean by 'capitalism' or 'neoliberalism'? Depending on what you mean by those things, I may agree with you."

      While I agree with you that many Leftists would acknowledge these problems, there are also a lot of people on the Left who do deny that deny them. Papalinton and J'accue are two good examples of this in this very comment section.

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    3. At the risk of sounding like an overly-discriminating scotsman, I tend to think of Papa L. as more of a Steven Pinker-tonian centrist liberal than someone on the left. But relative to Feser and most of you all I suppose that would indeed place him on the left.

      I haven't read enough from J'accue to speak about them.

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    4. I personally would consider that a left-wing position.

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  3. Let's hope that it will soon be the time for Our Lady's Immaculate Heart to triumph.

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    1. Amen!

      Thank you for this beautiful meditation on what ails our society. As an immigrant I've long admired American ingenuity and this hatred of the self is strange and puzzling to observe. The fact that you believe there's something diabolical going on leads me to believe only our Lord and our Lady can save us through some supernatural means. We are too weak to do this on our own. I believe restoring the family is the first order of business, what's in our power. As goes the family, so goes society.

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  4. Terrific and very needed observations! Thanks a lot, Ed! Btw it is nice to see you're still posting close from Christmas!

    In any case, I would like to wish you a Merry Christmas anticipated just in case you take a break from posting.

    May God bless us all!

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  5. Are all those different elements linked to an extent that they have to coexist? For example the tendency towards the rule of lawlessness, anticop sentiments and rhetoric, our states' inefficiency are things that are not supported and may well be effectively dealt with by a lot of center left or center right European governments, while they, at the same time, accept and advance the LGBT agenda, abortion etc. Does the second necessarily lead to the second? I get that the irrationality of sexual disorder tends to spill over other areas too, but someone may be irrational in the sense that he can't see what is good for him, yet remain rational enough in the more limited and perverted way of using efficiently means to achieve what he falsely has taken as good. So, is it not a possible case that we will have societies that keep advancing materially, with relatively good rule of law, while also continuing down the path of depravity and individualistic hedonism? Is that the slow decline scenario? And will that, unavoidably lead to a general decline in the other areas too, but just a bit later?

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    1. The particular deviations from reason and common sense will vary by culture and, not a little, will be quite accidental. There will be a strong tendency toward sexual deviancy, but WHICH KINDS of sexual deviancy will vary. Etc. There will be an increase in ugliness, but there are an infinitude of different forms of ugliness and which becomes common will be accidental.

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  6. Yeah, none of this is an accurate portrayal of what young liberals believe.

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    1. From Anton's article:

      "Examples are so numerous today that cataloguing them all would be a full-time job for an entire think tank—but a pointless one, since the Left will in the same breath deny and affirm their own words quoted back to them: 'We didn’t say that, and it’s good that we did.'"

      I guess now all we have to do is wait for the second part...

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    2. So he knows that he's setting up a strawman, which means he's not making a mistake or succumbing to cognitive bias but actually lying.

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    3. Infinite Growth,

      So, what do young liberals believe in, in your view?

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    4. As a young adult who knows a lot of college folk... what I see as the most destructive thing happening is an overwhelming societal pressure to distinguish oneself from others. While the vast majority of people don't see themselves as belonging to any of the identity groups that are in the news a lot lately, I think the most obvious thing is that they are moving away from their families and sacrificing their well-being for academic success. So many of my friends put dating and social life second-place to their career and education, and some of them belong to programs where it is commonplace to take ADHD medication in order to meet the unrealistic deadlines of their college program, or work insane amounts of overtime for awful pay simply because their career opportunities with no prior work experience are limited.

      Ultimately, this has made it very difficult to interact with a lot of them as they have moved out of state, don't have free time, and usually suffer from depression and anxiety.

      Seeing this, it's no wonder that young people are looking to non-traditional labels as a means of distinguishing themselves from the pack. We've created a culture where being special is important, where religion and raising children are associated with an outdated generation, where financial success is required to feel good about yourself, and where speculation is driving up housing prices to the point where having a life similar to that of our parents is impossible without moving to less urbanized areas. The goals of working on one's career and sacrificing oneself for the sake of family are diametrically opposed, but it only stands to reason through simple biology that humanity will die out without enough people choosing the latter.

      While our host perhaps places a little too much emphasis on the ideology and not enough on the culture of success, he still makes a good point that it's the fragmentation of families and lack of finding purpose in traditional avenues (i.e. religion) that's causing a lot of the newer generation to grow up broken and distressed. One can only find so much stimulation from hobbies and media, sexual or otherwise, and eventually after investing so much in one's career it becomes pretty clear that the traditional corporate structure does not have your best interests at heart and look only to squeeze as much productivity out of people as possible. A lot of the inclusivity stuff is just platitudes to make people feel less bad about spending the first decades of their adulthood paying into the system, individual teams don't really give a crap about it unless their manager specifically tells them to.

      I haven't got a clue to the solution, but perhaps it involves a realization that our societal focus on money and financial success has pushed the younger generations to a breaking point where they're sacrificing everything in order to outdo previous generations. I think one of the advantages of traditionalism, from a societal point of view, is that rather than fetishizing money and sexualizing media, it fetishizes the family life, which is an inherently less financially viable route that is nonetheless required for any semblance of a functioning society. The obvious result is probably going to be labor shortages and a social security crisis considering the level of debt many young adults are stuck with, which is a little less flashy than me saying "the collapse of society" but overall I think COVID lockdowns have given us a good example of what life is going to be like in a future with less people and more distance between generations.

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    5. ChoirOfAngels,

      I get that all of those things are factors, although I think this doesn't quite explain how widespread the problem is and I think those are just further symptoms of a bigger problem.

      For instance, I don't know your friends, but from my experience, those forgoing relationships and social interactions more often use education or financial pursuits as an excuse and really they already had social issues and issues with anxiety and depression before this. I don't think most college students are taking ADHD medication.

      As far as I can tell, these same people you think are overwhelmed with pressure for financial success are also reasonably passionate about being part of some global social movement or other, whether its fighting climate change, the "systems of oppression", poverty, or the "right-wing agenda". This seems to be why there is such an interest in having a big overarching govt which can tackle these big picture problems. There seems to be the assumption that morality only involves these big picture issues, and at the individual level, its just about consent and everything else is a general free for all. For instance, its quite clear that from a very young age, its presumed by basically everyone that no one has any duties or obligations to oneself at all. You can do whatever you want, as long as it doesn't conflict with some big picture moral duty or violate anyone's consent. You can degrade yourself, and (consensually) degrade anyone else. Many see no problem with a man who spends all his free time in his room playing video games and masturbating to porn, or with women consensually making themselves merely sex objects for money (except when it comes to wanting a relationship with these people). It seems the only degrading thing you can do to yourself is to participate in some perceived "system of oppression", such as working long hours with bad pay for some massive corporation. Many young liberals see just participating in a capitalist economy at all as somehow degrading.

      It seems that from a young age, our society generally teaches moral obligations backwards. Young liberals in particular perceive no moral obligations to themselves, only mild ones to their families, and a strong obligation toward some big picture movement, whether political, environmental, or whatever it may be. They don't really have any interest in developing any personal virtues, but heap scorn on anyone who is perceived to show any slight opposition to their favorite perceived social issue.

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  7. Look back at 1968. Riots in the streets. MLK and RFK assassinated. The beginning of the Counterculture, Feminist movement, LSD, marijuana, etc. Well, we survived. What I fear are the Far Right extremists who believe they need to destroy our Republic and subvert the Constitution in order to "save" the West.

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    1. "It's been a few decades since the countercultural 60s and our society hasn't collapsed yet. So I guess everything said above can be safely downplayed and there's nothing to worry about... oh, besides those scary 'Far Right extremists' who disagree! The villains, they seek to 'destroy' our Republic!"

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    2. The nihilism and flagrant disregard for the Constitution and traditional social institutions by the left is on constant display, but the big problem we have is a couple dozen dumb-ass rednecks who broke some windows and stole Nancy’s lectern?

      OK.

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    3. The counterculture started in the sixties never ended. The hippies of that generation are now the university professors of this one. Because they are so eager to continue their fight against the system they teach the critical theories that make the society hate itself. We may have survived so far but we are on the path to destruction.

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  8. Well, let's just find the most eligible Hapsburg and crown the dude (no ladies will be up to the job) as Holy Roman Empire and include the USA in the outfit. I just want a little imperially certified concession on the side.

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  9. Excellent reflection, dear Edward, thank you.

    The self-hatred as a cue point of this involution's process analysis is perfectly chosen as well as its interpretation as societal apostasy from the Christ's Good Novel.

    Nonetheless, I would like to point out to what, in my opinion, is the hidden root or this process of self-destruction: root which does not lay in the secular world which is informed by the Church even though in a symbiotic relationship with Her.

    The very root of this self-destruction process is much more ancient than what happen nowadays, simply, nowadays, as motus in fine velocior, things do appear in all their consequences and cannot be ignored anymore.

    The very root of the problem appears when the Church Herself, in Her human institution moved away from teaching the radical necessity of conversion, to enter in the sacred sanctuary which is the Christ himself, i.e. the call we all have to sanctity with the Grace of God, the Holy Spirit to a new kind of teaching: the casuistic.

    Casuistic is not aimed at sanctifying, which is God's justification, it is aimed towards self-justification: the first one requires heroism, i.e. human and theological virtues, the second one is just the bed for pusillanimity and tepidness.

    Looking for good, human, reason not to say yes/no, when there is yes/no to say in the eyes of God we do not pave the way to sanctity but only to mediocrity. And this is what, de facto, the Church, or more precisely the Churchmen, have taught to their pew since decades if not centuries, lately.

    To the layman, these churchmen at all level of the Hierarchy have been teaching that we are justified at the eyes of God by this human casuistic, being mediocre is what saves us. Even a document like Humanae Vitae which is a document that, yet, served as a litmus test to show the depth of apostasy of so many lay Catholics and so many of their bishops in the 1960s and 1970s, actually it is a guide for some mediocre behavior opening the door to casuistic considerations of any sort.

    A human being to whom one takes away the possibility to reach his only End, the Sanctity of the Christ, and whom we confine to mediocrity, needy greedy consideration about how to deal with his vices and sins instead of getting liberated from them, can only experience self-hatred.

    And, if the Mother, through her churchmen, damns Her children to self-hatred these latter only possible outcome is to kill everything coming from Her and from the Father.

    We must have no doubt that the only possible answer to the present situation is just to go back to what the Church teaches us, which is what Christ teaches us, i.e. rise up and sin no more with the help of the Holy Spirit, even at the cost of personal martyrdom.

    Allow me, dear Edward, to end this comment up by recalling once again your citation “For to him who has will more be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who has not, even what he has will be taken away” (Matthew 13:12).

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  10. American society is not failing. It is not doomed. It is changing. And it is changing for the better.

    Take note:
    "The institute’s (Claremont) best-known scholar is Michael Anton, author of the infamous “Flight 93 Election” essay. The essay, published pseudonymously on the CRB website, provided a rare intellectual defense of Trump and was promoted by Rush Limbaugh in the months leading up to November 2016. Its premise was that Democrats posed a threat to the country analogous to the 9/11 terrorists, and that the election of Hillary Clinton would mean certain death for America (“a Hillary Clinton presidency is Russian Roulette with a semi-auto. With Trump, at least you can spin the cylinder and take your chances”). After the election, Anton spent a little over a year in the Trump White House, but when that didn’t pan out, he joined the Claremont Institute (which, in addition to Hillsdale College, he described as his “first love and second family”). Now a Claremont senior fellow and a lecturer at Hillsdale’s Kirby Center in Washington, D.C., Anton helped to propagate Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign last year."

    Read this brilliant report about the central role Anton has played in TRUMP WORLD America

    As noted in the above report:
    "Like think tanks from time immemorial, Claremont hoped that it could influence the president and his administration. But the lines of influence mostly pointed in the other direction: Claremont’s encounter with Trumpism left Donald Trump unchanged—he did not become enamored of America’s highest ideals—while the Claremont Institute was remade in his image. Not just nativist and racist. Not just illiberal and prone to conspiracy theories. But even post-truth. And now, explicitly anti-democracy."

    This is one of a number of investigative reports tracing Michael Anton's involvement as a fully-initiated Trumptard.

    Feser would do well to reconsider his support of Anton's perspective in favour of protecting his intellectual and academic credibility and reputation.



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    1. @Papalinton
      "American society is not failing. It is not doomed. It is changing. And it is changing for the better."

      Homicide rate in the US is now twice that of Russia (8 vs 4 per 100000 people). It used to be the other way around just a few years ago (5 vs 10 per 100000 people). And this is just one example among many. How can you say America is changing for the better??

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    2. There is none so blind as he who will not see. You remind me of the character of Winnie in Beckett's Happy Days, buried up to her waist then up to her neck prattling the while about what a happy day it is.

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    3. Do you see the collapse in family formation and birthrates, a collapse in social trust and social cohesion, an increase in violent crime, the collapse of the middle class, a steady decline in happiness correlated with record-high suicide rates, decline in American health and life expectancy driven by drugs, obesity, and the aforementioned suicide, a general inability serious racial divisions, and widespread corruption and political bias in the very academic disciplines and managerial institutions we'd expect would address these issues as positive changes to American society?

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    4. @Franz

      Surely it's due to the Boogaloo Movement and all the guns in the streets going out and killing people /s

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  11. Laudator Temporis ActiDecember 14, 2021 at 2:36 AM

    As shown by this very post and the responses to it, part of the problem is that people are scared to name names and venture onto territory that will get them labeled by the Christophobic left with certain terms. It's puzzling that such fear exists among those who profess to believe in God and an afterlife whose nature, for each of us, is dependant on the choices we make in the fleeting moments of our earthly existence. The spirit of St Stephen isn't very widespread among modern Christians. But if I say any more, this comment will certainly not get through.

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    1. Well, you must be scared to name names too, because I don't see any. What are the names you think should have been named and weren't and why?

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    2. Laudator Temporis ActiDecember 16, 2021 at 1:54 AM

      "Well, you must be scared to name names too, because I don't see any."

      Well, you must speak German, because you don't speak Italian. Can you see the logical error? I explained why I wasn't "naming names" at the end of my comment.

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  12. So what's the solution? A Catholic dictatorship?

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    1. Whatever solution does occur will be perceived as a theocratic tyranny by some very vocal sections of the population, much like how drug addicts see the people who take away their drugs as tyrants.

      Delete
    2. Well Alex, from the OP, adherence to the natural law would be a good start, yes? What article did you read?

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    3. And if people can't agree on what the Natural Law requires, then what?

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    4. Alex, that would be a marked improvement from our current state of affairs, no?

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  13. What explains this decline? The same solvent thread runs back to the rise of "Marxists" 100-150 years earlier. There exists a very large percentage of elites - irrespective of which Western country we are talking about - who are genuinely a foreign people with a raison d'etre that is explicitly hostile to Christ, Christianity and Christendom, having no loyalty except to themselves and their individual and group interests.

    Following the destruction of WWII came the end of oikopilia and the establishment of vapid internationalism, multiculturalism and egalitarianism, consistent with the objectives of this group. It is indeed noteworthy that these phenomena are not taking place outside of the Christian West, because this group is parasitic on the naiveté as well as the goods created by Christian civilization that do not exist elsewhere. They have succeeded.

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    1. I thought the article was clear about the origins of the decline, namely, (Lockean) liberalism. Well, I suppose you can't ignore the demonic participation here either.

      I will note that Protestantism is rapidly declining in the US (Catholic decline has more or less stabilized, if Pew is to be believed). Protestantism, too, was an overreaction to the corruption in the Church, and Luther himself was a slave to his passions (as was Henry VIII). And liberalism sprouted in Protestant England. So I view this less hysterically as a course correction. 500 years of bad theology and philosophy is enough. Let it burn itself out and may the Truth enter the void. I cannot expect New Age-y, Marxist, eastern, or scientistic "competitors" to succeed for very long. Evil must sometimes be starved by letting it run its course. Like all evil, it is parasitic on good and without a host, it will shrivel up and die.

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    2. To what passions was Luther a slave?

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  14. A remnant will always remain. Here is one of the readings from today mass (Dec 24, 2021).

    Reading I Zep 3:1-2, 9-13
    Thus says the LORD:
    Woe to the city, rebellious and polluted,
    to the tyrannical city!
    She hears no voice,
    accepts no correction;
    In the LORD she has not trusted,
    to her God she has not drawn near.

    For then I will change and purify
    the lips of the peoples,
    That they all may call upon the name of the LORD,
    to serve him with one accord;
    From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia
    and as far as the recesses of the North,
    they shall bring me offerings.

    On that day
    You need not be ashamed
    of all your deeds,
    your rebellious actions against me;
    For then will I remove from your midst
    the proud braggarts,
    And you shall no longer exalt yourself
    on my holy mountain.
    But I will leave as a remnant in your midst
    a people humble and lowly,
    Who shall take refuge in the name of the LORD:
    the remnant of Israel.
    They shall do no wrong
    and speak no lies;
    Nor shall there be found in their mouths
    a deceitful tongue;
    They shall pasture and couch their flocks
    with none to disturb them.

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  15. I don't believe there is a single empire in history, and America is an empire, that ever managed to reverse its decline. Meaning, if you want to place bets, then it is probably safer to bet that something else will replace the US rather than bet on some renaissance. Whatever the case, whatever takes the place of the US will not be a return to the American of its liberal founders'.

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    1. The Five (pretty) Good Emperors came after Nero and Caligula.

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  16. "There is a point in the history of society when it becomes so pathologically soft and tender that among other things it sides even with those who harm it, criminals, and does this quite seriously and honestly.[...]“Is it not enough to render him undangerous? Why still punish? Punishing itself is terrible.” With this question, herd morality, the morality of timidity, draws its ultimate consequence."
    --Nietzsche (quoted by Feser above)

    "When the death penalty is applied, people are killed not for current acts of aggression, but for offences committed in the past. Moreover, it is applied to people whose capacity to cause harm is not current, but has already been neutralized, and who are deprived of their freedom. Today capital punishment is unacceptable, however serious the condemned’s crime may have been."
    --Letter of Pope Francis, 20 March 2015.

    "Likewise, the Magisterium of the Church holds that life sentences, which take away the possibility of the moral and existential redemption of the person sentenced and in favour of the community, are a form of death penalty in disguise"
    --Address of Pope Francis, 17 Dec 2018.

    You know things are bad when Nietzsche needs to lecture the Pope.

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    1. Only an American Catholic, under the syncretism of the dominant Protestant culture, would dare to criticize the Pope. It reminds me of what Our Lady said in her apparition to Adele Brise in Wisconsin.

      Gather the children in the wild country to teach them what they need to know for their salvation.

      Americans are Our Lady's "wild children" indeed.

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    2. Or St Paul? Or St Catherine? Or Dante? Or... ?

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    3. "Only an American Catholic, under the syncretism of the dominant Protestant culture, would dare to criticize the Pope."

      Is this some kind of Protestant caricature of Catholicism? Ever hear of fraternal correction? Papalatry, something too many low information and low common sense Catholics suffer from, possibly because they misunderstand papal infallibility and have an unhealthy, obsequious, and borderline idolatrous relationship with authority?

      Of course you can criticize the pope.

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  17. Wow. Ending prejudice and tribalism is a sign of decline. Ending entrenched disadvantagement is a bad thing.

    As a gay man, all I can say is that if what you imagine my sex life to be as so threatening, perhaps you aren’t quite as safe and secure— or heterosexual— as you are desperate to appear.

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    1. If you think tribalism is decreasing, I daresay you haven't been paying attention. To give just one example, CRT is nothing if not tribalistic.

      Delete
    2. Oh, the old "if you don't approve of my behavior you secretly enjoy it too". Also known as the Kindergarten Response.

      That all prejudice is bad is nothing more than a baseless prejudice. Prejudice can be justified or unjustified. I'd argue that prejudice against acts that go against the telos for which the exist is perfectly justified, just like prejudice against logical contradictions is justified.

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    3. J'accue,

      I'd like you to explain how the collapse in family formation and birthrates, a collapse in social trust and social cohesion, an increase in violent crime, the collapse of the middle class, a steady decline in happiness correlated with record-high suicide rates, decline in American health and life expectancy driven by drugs, obesity, and the aforementioned suicide, serious racial divisions, and widespread corruption and political bias in the very academic disciplines and managerial institutions we'd expect would address these issues are in any way positive. Are these all simply an acceptable cost of ending "prejudice" and "entrenched disadvantagement"?

      Delete
    4. I don't think tribalism is decreasing. Reducing prejudice against minorities is a good thing, but I don't see bigotry going down as a whole. Lots of people I know who claim to be less bigoted seem to just be bigoted toward different things, like Christianity, having children, abstinence before marriage, etc.

      Like, it's really no surprise to anyone that the same people who grandstand about progressive politics also say pretty much nothing about the commodification of sex or the sexualization of media. We're not quite at the level of Japan and China yet, but it's rather frustrating how in politics you can only really find loud voices arguing for either extreme. You have rightwingers discussing in detail how gay marriage is a sign of the downfall of our society, and yet people have been having sex on date nights for decades and they say nothing. You have leftwingers who talk about how republicans are at fault for stonewalling every good reform that would make society better, yet I live in a city (Seattle) where republicans havent held a majority in decades and yet the homeless problem is getting worse and every reform feels like a halfhearted dumpsterfire (like the CARES act that taxes retiring workers for benefits they'll never get, and gives an exemption specifically tailored for people working high-end jobs with good benefits and better insurance plans). And don't even let me get started on how utterly ridiculous it is that people can talk about charging white people reparations in public, yet I (an immigrant from eastern europe) have to fear for my job when pointing out that there are people who use past prejudice as an excuse for their own bigotry.

      And for the record I'm probably in the minority on this blog thinking homosexual behavior isn't a sin. There's a lot of bigotry on the right but I struggle to see how the left-leaning communities I'm a part of are any better as a whole. It feels like regardless of which discord I'm on there is always some kind of drama.

      Delete
    5. ...dang, I typed all that and then read again to see that this is one of those trolls who thinks "hur dur anti-gay bigots are secretly gay"

      Delete
    6. So, anyone who thinks that some given behavior might be wrong is an insecure bigot. OK.

      Delete
    7. ...dang, I typed all that and then read again to see that this is one of those trolls who thinks "hur dur anti-gay bigots are secretly gay"

      Not only is it obvious nonsense, but if taken literally, such comments actually backfire in a significant way. All of a sudden, you have a large contingent of closeted people with same sex attraction who are either (a) living chastely, or (b) living in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex. And at that point, the entire idea that it is simply beyond the pale to ask those with same sex attraction to not act out on their desires loses steam given that there is, apparently, no small population of same-sex attracted persons who are functionally able to do just that.

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  18. Rejection of classical philosophy is what is causing the decline of civilization per se. The rejection of Christianity leads to this decline only per accidens insofar as classical philosophy is often implicitly taken (incorrectly) as formally inseparable from Christianity. Thus, the solution should focus on education in classical philosophy not on a revival of traditional Christianity.

    Whether Christianity should revive should be based on arguments specific to Christianity. That Christianity helped develop and perfect classical philosophy is something we should all be grateful for, but is irrelevant to whether Christianity itself should revive (I don't think arguments for the truth of Christianity based on its relationship with philosophy are very effective).

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    1. The West that got wrecked by what came after the Renaissance was a Christian civilisation born in late Antiquity. It appropriated the best elements of Classical philosophy of course, but is not existentially dependent on it in the form produced by pagan classical civilisation. Of course the Church has encouraged Thomism in the revival of our civilisation, but first comes Christianity. As long as agnostics rule the roost our societies will decay.

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    2. Classical philosophy doesn't lead to agnosticism. On the contrary.

      Now I do think teaching classical philosophy is enormously helpful in cultivating a rational and wise habitus, among those who have the maturity and capacity to grasp it. While this might grant elites a saner view of life, it will not do on its own. Reason is not enough. Our own strength is not enough. Where is grace? Where is the absolution of sin? Without the sacrifice, without absolution, without grace, scapegoating and all manner of vice will rule the day...as it does today. The ressentiment, the envy, rooted in pride and insanity as they are, project fault on another. They bay for the blood of another because they cannot look in the mirror and see the monsters that they are. "Someone is at fault for my misery, for my guilty conscience, but it cannot be me!" Without grace, reason stands no chance against the effects of original sin and the guile of the demonic.

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    3. @Albinus

      Interesting point, a western pagan culture would be levels above what we have now.

      But how good would it be? Classical philosophy only became more popular with the elites, the average folk back them could really only understand or care about the religion part and i doubt that this changed. Philosophy will never really be good to the masses, so they need some sort of pratical part.

      On top of that, how good classical philosophy would be at generating the values and atitudes we want? Perhaps one could make a argument for humans having intrinsic value using the classical thinkers, but could they motivate as many people as taking care of the poor and abandoned as the christian faith does? The pagan world was quite brutal.

      Asking more by curiosity, the viability of a pagan society today is something that i do wonder about myself. I also agree with Dom Colacho that a christian only really cares if christianity is true, not its consequences, so don't read my post as a argument(this argument is the lame thing that a anglo-conservative would do).

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    4. Miguel is right enough to say classical philosophy never led to religion, though it can be a great companion (or servant, as St. Thomas said) to it.

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  19. "Feser would do well to reconsider his support of Anton's perspective in favour of protecting his intellectual and academic credibility and reputation."

    Ah, the smoke of fascism rises from Down Under.

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    1. DNW @ 12.04PM

      You do indeed seem to be reading something into the tealeaves which is simply not there.

      Trump, Trumpism, and now, unfortunately, Republicans are the very symbols of authoritarianism and fascism by which, and through raw power alone, they thought to thwart the election process and install a dictator, the most reprehensible and sickening scourge to have ever been coughed up by the evils of American polity.

      Feser can equivocate all he wants but if he does not outrightly condemn Trump, Trumpism and Trumplicans, he is an abettor and enabler of the worst spiritual and civil decline in American history.

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    2. Franz @ 6.18AM
      You say:
      "Homicide rate in the US is now twice that of Russia (8 vs 4 per 100000 people)."

      This bull$#@%.
      "The 2020 homicide rate of 7.8 homicides per 100,000 people was 22% below the rate of 1991 (10 homicides per 100,000 people) and far below the rates recorded in much of the 1970s and 1980s, according to the CDC.
      27 Oct 2021"


      Get your facts right before before peddling conspiracy statistics. It's embarrassing to have to combat utter nonsense simply because one could not find the time to research before committing a lie. It shows a person of compromised intellectual and moral character that cannot be trusted to tell the truth.

      Delete
    3. lol are you serious? The "progressive" hysteria of the last couple of years managed to cause a 50% increase in the murder rate from one year to another, but we are supposed to think it's not a problem because some decades ago the rate was even higher. And given that many american cities are breaking thier yearly homicide record, the figures for 2021 are likely to be even higher, probably 9 or 10 per 100000, we'll find out in a few months. But yeah, everything's fine.
      I guess there's none so blind as those who do not want to see.

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    4. Feser can equivocate all he wants but if he does not outrightly condemn Trump, Trumpism and Trumplicans, he is an abettor and enabler of the worst spiritual and civil decline in American history.Feser can equivocate all he wants but if he does not outrightly condemn Trump, Trumpism and Trumplicans, he is an abettor and enabler of the worst spiritual and civil decline in American history.

      Papalinton, I'm no Trump fan. But I thought you didn't believe in the spiritual? ��

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    5. "You do indeed seem to be reading something into the tealeaves which is simply not there."

      I was not reading tea leaves. I was reading what you wrote: You were trying to menace and intimidate Ed Feser with your punk-a--ed suggestion that he distance himself from any intellectual stances which Anton might have taken, so that his (Feser's) career not be jeopardized.

      Yeah, your stance is clear enough. And maybe he ought to donate money to BLM through you: "So that like, you know, Ed, maybe your kids' bedroom windows should not somehow mysteriously break during the middle of da night ... or sometin' "


      "Feser can equivocate all he wants but if he does not outrightly condemn Trump, Trumpism and Trumplicans, he is an abettor and enabler of the worst spiritual and civil decline in American history."

      Ah, now it is "failure to denounce".

      Quite an intellectual and moral pedigree you've got there, "Papa Linton", obvious son of "Uncle Joe" ... party leader and man of steel.

      But of course, it may be that you are part of another "mind your mouth" tradition and sensibility too; one much closer to home than Moscow.

      https://www.lifehacker.com.au/2021/01/australia-does-not-have-freedom-of-speech/

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  20. I can't help but think it significant that the Great Awokening happened at the same time as gay marriage was making big strides across the West. It's like the recognition of marriage as the normative context for childrearing was the last thread joining the West with reality, and once that was severed, everything just started getting increasingly crazy and unhinged.

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    1. By my observation, it started happening a little before then. Obama's presidency was viewed as a progressive messianic moment and proof of the viability of a soon-to-be overwhelming majority coalition of non-white Christian minorities. He precipitated this madness. At least, I don't think its a mere correlation that the termites seemed to sally out of the woodwork during his second term. Social media has also played a huge part in accelerating the degradation of public discourse and the virtues of republican citizenship. Trump's unexpected victory in 2016 did nothing to chasten the enemy either. Instead, they tripled-down, seeing him and the electoral forces behind them as proof of the calumny they had been spewing.

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  21. Could you explain what form of egalitarianism you reject in this post, for surely some form of egalitarianism is inherent in the Christian worldview.

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  22. Almost everything in this post is excellently said. Especially the point of noting that there is something special to this particular melt-down of culture:


    Yet while this accounts to some degree for the extent to which norms have collapsed, it does not explain the visceral hostility of those who work to undermine them.

    Yet, I suggest that the pathway offered is slightly out-of-whack, in that it inverts two of the stages / elements:

    So, affluence breeds softness which breeds egalitarianism which breeds licentiousness which breeds madness.

    I think, rather, that softness breeds licentiousness which breeds madness and many other things, including the envy. Furthermore, I think that earlier authors saw the licentiousness come earlier also:

    But liberty and affluence breed decadence. The wealthier and freer people are, the more they tend to find unendurable any residual discomfort or restraint on the indulgence of desire.

    That "indulgence of desire" is just the licentiousness indicated. And once you have the overt and express satisfaction of lusts, you bring along the madness. This brings the inversion of the notion of happiness being found in what is good which leads to loving it and acting for it, into the topsy-turvy notion that "the good" is specified by the mere FACT of finding "I want it", and destruction of all objective notions of moral (or social) order. And the fact that nobody's "I want it" can possibly be put above anyone else's, leads to the ultra-egalitarianism that destroys social structures, not least because social structures require some sort of lasting rules, and "I want it" does not, for nothing prevents it from swaying with every wind or none at all.

    it does not explain the visceral hostility...For that we need to factor in the deadly sin of envy, and what Nietzsche called ressentiment, which are the concomitants of radical egalitarianism. As Aquinas teaches, “hatred may arise both from anger and from envy… [but] arises more directly from envy, which looks upon the very good of our neighbor as displeasing and therefore hateful.”

    I agree that envy is well-fed in this cultural decline, but I feel that the visceral hatred is actually more basic than that. It is really just the sheer, flat-out disgust that voluntary evil has for what is good simply because the evil cannot brook what is good. It is true that evil will men envy happy people their happiness, but often enough good people are not visibly happy, and yet evil men will hate good men. The motive force not only that the good men "have something I don't have" but rather that the good men "ARE something unlike me, a something I cannot abide." The Wisdom books refer to it as simply hatred.

    We have a natural tendency to hate what is (willfuly, voluntarily) unlike to what we hold dear, and an evil man holds dear his willful interior disorders. And in our culture, with the Left now defining "the good" on the basis of "what I will", the evil man is supported on every side in viewing his disorderliness as per se good, making it entirely common that he should hate good people.

    This will naturally lead to envy of good people, but NOT on account of good people having virtues that the bad man doesn't have. Rather, evil men will envy good men the (seemingly) good fortune - or outright CHEATING - that he believes that must be at play for the virtuous man to arrive at the goods he has, not seeing how ordinary virtues aligned with prudence lead to many ordinary goods of this life.

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  23. I fear they won't kill me early on; freedom is the last thing they give willingly.

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    1. TN
      You right.They gonna kill you last.

      Delete
  24. Very stimulating post.

    It is true that there is also, alongside its radical individualism, a strongly collectivist element in wokeness, particularly in Critical Race Theory. But this does not undermine the point that wokeness is the fruit of liberal individualism. For one thing, modern forms of collectivism (whether socialism, communism, or the racist collectivism of Nazism and CRT) have arisen precisely as an overreaction to liberal individualism.

    It seems to me that wokeness and CRT are better seen as logical developments of liberal individualism than as an overreaction to it. The collective identity permitted to favored minorities is only a tool to further the ultimate goal of radical individual autonomy by destroying any collective identity that the dominant majority and culture might have. Consider: what is the justification given for the existence of a collective identity on the part of some ‘victim’ minority? The justification is not fundamentally so that its members can preserve their own culture and honor their ancestors (even if that is occasionally also encouraged); rather, the justification is their very status as members of an ‘oppressed’ class: their collective identity is needed to challenge and subvert the white racism and traditional morality of the oppressor class, because this white racism and traditional morality are obstacles to the freedom and equality of minorities. In fact, the very existence of such oppressed classes is often regarded as having been entirely socially constructed for the purposes of exploitation by the white oppressor class. The rationale given for the legitimacy of collective identities for favored minorities is almost entirely a negative one.

    Wokeness and liberalism pay lip service to the preservation of minority cultures, all while destroying them with their universal acid.

    Ideologies like Nazism, however, I think can more accurately be regarded as overreactions to liberal individualism: their racial collectivism had actual substantive, positive content, even as their reveling in Aryan superiority and past glories served as a vehicle for self-worship in a gross distortion of the sacred duty of piety we owe our ancestors.

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  25. Trump, Trumpism, and Trumplicans (used to be known as Republicans) is the quintessential face of American fascism.

    "Like historical fascist leaders, Trump has presented himself as the single source of truth. His use of the term “fake news” echoed the Nazi smear Lügenpresse (“lying press”); like the Nazis, he referred to reporters as “enemies of the people.” Like Adolf Hitler, he came to power at a moment when the conventional press had taken a beating; the financial crisis of 2008 did to American newspapers what the Great Depression did to German ones. The Nazis thought that they could use radio to replace the old pluralism of the newspaper; Trump tried to do the same with Twitter.

    Thanks to technological capacity and personal talent, Donald Trump lied at a pace perhaps unmatched by any other leader in history. For the most part these were small lies, and their main effect was cumulative. To believe in all of them was to accept the authority of a single man, because to believe in all of them was to disbelieve everything else. Once such personal authority was established, the president could treat everyone else as the liars; he even had the power to turn someone from a trusted adviser into a dishonest scoundrel with a single tweet. Yet so long as he was unable to enforce some truly big lie, some fantasy that created an alternative reality where people could live and die, his pre-fascism fell short of the thing itself.
    Some of his lies were, admittedly, medium-size: that he was a successful businessman; that Russia did not support him in 2016; that Barack Obama was born in Kenya. Such medium-size lies were the standard fare of aspiring authoritarians in the 21st century. In Poland the right-wing party built a martyrdom cult around assigning blame to political rivals for an airplane crash that killed the nation’s president. Hungary’s Viktor Orban blames a vanishingly small number of Muslim refugees for his country’s problems. But such claims were not quite big lies; they stretched but did not rend what Hannah Arendt called “the fabric of factuality.”

    One historical big lie discussed by Arendt is Joseph Stalin’s explanation of starvation in Soviet Ukraine in 1932-33. The state had collectivized agriculture, then applied a series of punitive measures to Ukraine that ensured millions would die. Yet the official line was that the starving were provocateurs, agents of Western powers who hated socialism so much they were killing themselves. A still grander fiction, in Arendt’s account, is Hitlerian anti-Semitism: the claims that Jews ran the world, Jews were responsible for ideas that poisoned German minds, Jews stabbed Germany in the back during the First World War. Intriguingly, Arendt thought big lies work only in lonely minds; their coherence substitutes for experience and companionship.

    In November 2020, reaching millions of lonely minds through social media, Trump told a lie that was dangerously ambitious: that he had won an election that in fact he had lost. This lie was big in every pertinent respect: not as big as “Jews run the world,” but big enough. The significance of the matter at hand was great: the right to rule the most powerful country in the world and the efficacy and trustworthiness of its succession procedures. The level of mendacity was profound. The claim was not only wrong, but it was also made in bad faith, amid unreliable sources. It challenged not just evidence but logic: Just how could (and why would) an election have been rigged against a Republican president but not against Republican senators and representatives? Trump had to speak, absurdly, of a “Rigged (for President) Election.”
    . Professor Timothy Snyder, Historian. (Timothy David Snyder is an American author and historian specializing in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust. He is the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale University and a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna.)

    Michael Anton is a Trumpist apparatchik. No doubt about it.

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    1. Great stuff, especially your last comment. I came across this excellent Bulwark essay yesterday.
      Anton displays no evidence whatsoever of having any kind of religious consciousness - zilch, zero. In fact he is a perfect example of the cultural disintegration that he supposedly deplores.

      It could of course be said that libertarianism is one of the leading edge vectors of liberalism and by all-the-way-down-the-line extension the destruction of any kind of traditional virtue. Libertarianism is entirely and only an adolescent "philosophy".

      It is impossible to both a libertarian and a conservative Christian.

      Furthermore anyone who posits that the appearance Trump can in any way have a positive influence on the future of American and Western culture is seriously deluded. He was/is a life long professional grifter, a pathological liar, and a completely immoral nihilist.

      He has most probably never ever done an other serving action in his entire life time. Whats-in-it-for-me is his guiding "philosophy"

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    2. Anonymous, you do realize that Papalinton probably sees you too as an evil-doer and no less an evil fascist, right? I mean, you seem to have a positive view of conservative Christianity, which is pro-social kingship of Christ, pro-life, and pro-family. He's made clear several times that he thinks such archaic values are outdated.

      Besides that, Papalinton is not a good judge of anything, if this comment is anything to go by. It seems like paint-by-numbers Trump Derangement Syndrome. He attacks Trump for his lies, but the lies of the mainstream establishment Paps worships are innumerable - one of them being that Donald Trump is a fascist (he isn't). There are very good reasons to believe that there were some very screwed-up things going on with the 2020 Election. You can look at the Times article "The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election" for more information about this.

      People like Papalinton take whatever the majority of liberal academics believe as gospel. If the majority of the people he liked claimed tomorrow that jumping off a bridge was a good thing, he'd be in the comment section arguing that such beliefs are science-based and that Professor Feser better endorse jumping off bridges if he wants to keep his academic credentials. That's the reason he claims Trump is some unique fascist threat rather than a politician. That's the reason he says that the election was totally fair even though the circumstances surrounding it would make a banana republic blush.

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    3. Papalinton,

      I see you've now added the genetic fallacy to your usual favorite (the argumentum ad populum). If Anton had said that 2 + 2 = 4 and I quoted him, you'd probably be engaging in the same irrelevant rant.

      Your obsession with Trump was boring the first 1,234 times we had to hear about it. We get it already. No more of this stuff, please. Stay on topic.

      Delete
    4. Ed,

      Please just block Papa. He's just one of the idiots that brings down the quality of the forum.

      Delete
    5. It's hard not to be genuinely amused by the ever-shifting definition of "fascism" used by liberals like Papalinton.

      I'm sure grateful that my great-uncle fought in WWII to stop Hitler and Mussolini from saying that there are only two genders and keeping nonwhite ethnic minorities from exterminating their progeny in utero!

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  26. What is the relation of all of this to the hatred among many Catholics of the Western Church towards their own traditions?

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  27. Ed,

    Do you buy into the kind of anti-corporation populism seen over at The American Conservative - their invectives against, e.g. Amazon, Blackrock, etc., and their corrosive effect on communities?
    If so, how does this analysis play in to the evils seen therein? I get mildly irritated at how the themes in your post are constantly reiterated by right-wing Catholics, but they are never tied in with the social/systemic issues which are imbricated with these evils in complicated ways. I think your critiques here (which are sort of the metanarrative of the right nowadays) are valid, but they are sort of narrowly directed towards leftists of a certain kind and the "rabble" generally conceived. I don't know if your trajectory from affluence to license to ressentiment and so forth provides an explanation for the sins of the rich, or the systemic failures of liberal capitalism, but in any case, I would like to see these threads weaved together by a competent writer like you. It is to our detriment that the right's media fails to address these (except occasionally at TAC).
    If you do not buy the kinds of claims seen over at TAC I described, why not?

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    Replies
    1. Guess you're not a longtime reader:

      https://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2021/05/the-trouble-with-capitalism.html

      https://claremontreviewofbooks.com/hayeks-tragic-capitalism/

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    2. Thanks for the reply and point to relevant posts. I have read those, and I do know your general moral aversion to capitalism, libertarianism, etc. I guess my question is more to do with what you might propose as a solution to the sins of the rich. We want the rabble to reason their way out of the vices of lust, envy, and wrath, we want culture and government to help them, rather than aid them in persisting in their vice. It is clear you think that tougher enforcement of criminal laws, e.g., or the prevention of schools from advocating for pro-homosexuality or pro-transgenderism positions, would be methods of addressing these issues (and I certainly agree, 100%). What is the analogous intervention on the issues with Amazon & Blackrock? Who will admonish the speculator, and how? I tend to agree with your skepticism of simple redistributivist schemes, but I am often at a loss to suggest other alternatives to friends who don't share my views. Thanks again for your input, and for your work in general. It has changed my mind numerous times and increased my faith.

      Delete
  28. Every time Ed mentions CRT I get the sense that the depth of his knowledge on the subject extends about as far as James Lindsay's Twitter feed.

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    1. Cut the crap. The "Oh, you just don't understand CRT" rhetorical dodge is not going to play here. Tell us specifically where it has been misrepresented.

      As to my knowledge of CRT, I've read both the purportedly more serious writers (Bell, Crenshaw, et al.) and the popularizers (Kendi and DiAngelo). Doing so is a penance. It's a nightmare of malice and irrationality. I'll have much more to say about the subject in something that is forthcoming and will be announced before long.

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    2. I am employing no such rhetorical dodge. Everything I've read you say on the subject doesn't rise above the quality of a Twitter barb (e.g. "or the racist collectivism of Nazism and CRT"), so any reasonable reader could either assume you don't know what you're talking about or don't want to engage with the topic in good faith. I will gladly read your in-depth thoughts on the matter, however.

      Also, the reason the rhetorical strategy you referenced exists is the exhaustion many have from interacting with numerous conservative christians who get 100% of their thoughts on CRT from people like Lindsay and the walking definition of a partisan hack, Chris Rufo. So, more often than not they do not, in fact, understand it in any meaningful sense.

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    3. doesn't rise above the quality of a Twitter barb (e.g. "or the racist collectivism of Nazism and CRT")

      A remark like that may make for a good Twitter barb, but it also happens to be accurate. Kendi's and DiAngelo's garbage is indeed racist collectivism, and manifestly so. With the purportedly more sophisticated writers, the only difference is that the racist collectivism is a little more subtle (though, really, not much).

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    4. Paranoid Android,

      Do you understand it in any "meaningful sense"? For example, "Critical Race Theory" is a curious name for a theory, namely the modifier "Critical." It raises the question as to what makes a theory "critical" as opposed to say "traditional" like Erving Goffman's theory of dramaturgy. Both purport to study social phenomenon and are broadly part of we call the humanities. Any intellectually honest discussions about what is CRT has to distinguish between "critical theory" and "traditional theory."

      As someone who works in news media, I can tell you journalists as a whole are not making that distinction in their coverage. Interviews with practitioners involve the practitioners speaking very carefully about what it is that they do, often relying on euphemisms and other vague verbiage to make it seem far more innocuous and less alien-sounding to the rigid, dogmatic empiricism that supposedly serves as arbiter of our popular public discourse (e.g. "evidence," "what does the science say?"). I assure you, as someone who has read and studied some of the original critical theorists, Critical Race Theorists qua critical theorists are not merely scholars looking at the relationship between race, civil rights, and the law for posterity's sake. On the contrary, they very much have an ideological axe to grind, which should make any "reasonable" observer cautious and skeptical about claims and policy prescriptions derived from their analyses.

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    5. You are aware, I assume, that "Critical Theory" is a name that Marxists have been using for decades to describe an entire school of philosophy. "Critical Race Theory" is so called because it takes the basic logic of Frankfurt School Marxism and applies it to race instead of class. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:

      'While Critical Theory is often thought of narrowly as referring to the Frankfurt School that begins with Horkheimer and Adorno and stretches to Marcuse and Habermas, any philosophical approach with similar practical aims could be called a “critical theory,” including feminism, critical race theory, and some forms of post-colonial criticism.'

      So yes, CRT is a suitable name for it. No sloppy thinking is present.

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    6. Cantus,

      Are you asking me? I'm well aware of what it is. In fact, I would disagree that CRT takes the basic logic of the Frankfurt School and applies it to race instead of class. That is a facile reading, and I wish the right would desist in resorting to it. The fact of the matter is that the Frankfurt School was not monolithic as different members had varied specialties, and they disagreed with one another in their analyses. My understanding of Adorno and Horkheimer is that they would find CRT "vulgar," "abstract," and viciously metaphysical because its theorizing doesn't rely on the sort of "concrete" Hegelian-Marxist dialectical analysis they used. There's undoubtedly a "family resemblance" between their "Critical Theory" and CRT, but Derek Bell, Richard Delgado, Kimberley Crenshaw and the like are the "bastard children" that those two leading figures of Frankfurt School would never have wanted. Marcuse and Benjamin might have been another story. But all I've read from them is "Repressive Tolerance," which does advocate for tactics the social justice left clearly employs. Still, CRT analyzes in the terms of postmodern power dynamics, not Marxist alienation and exploitation.

      My question to Paranoid Android is didactic. Anyone who claims someone doesn't understand CRT and simultaneously can't explain the difference between a "critical theory" and a "traditional theory" can't and therefore has no business to declare someone as willfully ignorant of CRT.

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    7. Modus, my issue is with the completely bad faith engagement with the subject from many conservatives (and that bad faith engagement with complex topics is becoming a fixture on the right).

      For (humorous) example, this fellow is but one of many showing up to school board meetings and political rallies around the country decrying CRT, but when pressed on what his issue with it is, or to even explain anything about it, he can't actually give a response. Let me reiterate: he is protesting something he doesn't even know one thing about. This is no different than their hero Trump refusing to name his favorite bible verse (b/c we all know he's never actually read it) or Sarah Palin refusing to name newspapers she'd read to stay informed (b/c we all know she didn't read any), videos of which are linked in comments below the main vid. It's advocating for or against a particular ideological position or claiming a level of understanding without even a basic working knowledge of that thing (Trump w/ 'biblical' christianity, this fellow with CRT, etc.). In other words, I'm setting the bar extremely low here...not advocating for expertise, just asking for good faith engagement with some working knowledge and openness to the best advocates and critics.

      Secondly, charlatans like the aforementioned Rufo prey on people like our concerned grandpa above. He infamously said "We have successfully frozen their brand—"critical race theory"—into the public conversation and are steadily driving up negative perceptions. We will eventually turn it toxic, as we put all of the various cultural insanities under that brand category." And "The goal is to have the public read something crazy in the newspaper and immediately think "critical race theory." We have decodified the term and will recodify it to annex the entire range of cultural constructions that are unpopular with Americans." People in this comment section may find that sort of thing exemplary, but I do not.

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    8. Paranoid Android,

      Critical race theory is a clearly identifiable thing that exists. It teaches that white people are specially privileged by a racist system and are thus all racists themselves. That's what the "charlatans" like Rufo and the ignorant grandpa are protesting - they don't want their kids being taught that they need to feel guilty because of their skin color. And that is being taught to kids at schools, among other things.

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    9. @ Paranoid Android,

      "I'm setting the bar extremely low here..."

      It must be low because apparently even you can jump over it. :-)

      BTW, three cheers for Donald Trump.

      I study things of Christian concern all the time, but I don't have a favorite Bible verse. Such orderings are not really a Christian kind of thing. But I have to wonder what kind of (non Christian) reasoning leads you to understand and judge the worth of Donald Trump as a Christian.

      I'll be voting for him if he runs for President again!

      Tom Cohoe

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    10. Eh, Donald Trump wasn't that great.

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    11. Sarah Palin refusing to name newspapers she'd read to stay informed (b/c we all know she didn't read any)...

      If that's true, I have a newfound respect for Sarah Palin, a model to emulate: none one of us should be reading the newspapers.

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    12. @ Mister Geocon,

      "Donald Trump wasn't that great"

      He's the only politician in my 70 years who made me love him.

      Tom Cohoe

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    13. Paranoid,

      CRT is definitely racist.

      CRTist, David Gillborn, argues that pretty much every white person participates in "white-ness", which "refers to set of assumptions, beliefs and practices that place the interests and perspectives of White people at the center of what is considered normal and everyday". He argues that white people deconstructing this is uncommon. Because of this, the forces of white supremacy "saturate the everyday mundane actions and policies that shape the world in the interest of White people". That is, in short, stating that white people specifically can't help but be predisposed to a unique kind of evil. Sure, that is delusional nonsense, but also, how is that not racist?

      Another CRTist, John Calmore, argues that "cultural bias sets [educational] standards for performance in terms of the tendencies, skills, or attributes of White America". He literally argues that these standards are "to help justify racial domination", and that even if they are exactly the same standards set, but Black people were to create them instead, that would somehow make them not racist somehow. In short, white people can't help but set racist standards for the aim of racial domination. Again, specifically white people are predisposed toward a unique kind of evil. How is that not racist?

      Another CRTist, Paul Harris, argues that "it is necessary for a blackman in America to develop a distrust of his fellow white citizens...He must cushion himself against cheating, slander, humiliation". He states that the Blackman "must develop a cultural paranoia in which every whiteman is a potential enemy unless proved otherwise and every social system set against him unless he personally finds out differently."

      One more, Gregory Scott Parks, argues that white people fundamentally see the world different to people of color, and that "even the most sympathetic, left-leaning whites have to constantly be re-educated about racism". Again, this simply more of the same nonsense of a unique kind of evil that white people specifically are pre-disposed to.

      Just imagine if anyone were to say these kinds of things about any other race. But parents show up to school board meetings to criticize and stop this drivel being taught to their kids and they are made out to be the villains for it. Its ridiculous.

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    14. @ Mister Geocon - you seem to have missed the point about both the grandpa and Rufo. re: the former, the issue is he can't even articulate what he is protesting. He may be there for the reasons you state, but the fact that he can't say that plainly nor can he in any way connect it to the specific issue he references ('CRT') is problematic. He actually says "I don't have that much knowledge on it, but it's something I don't care for". That may be the most succinct representation of my experience interacting with everyday conservatives that I've heard.

      re: Rufo, the point is that he's being disingenuous and acting in bad faith, which comes through in those quotes (and many others) quite clearly.

      I will try to respond to your and @Billy's CRT-specific claims in a follow up soon.


      @ Tom Cohoe - next you're going to tell me you think Matt Gaetz is a stand-up guy with a heart of gold. Look, talking about Trump is boring now, and I don't want to derail this comment section. But to answer your question, I'm using my very christian powers of rationality, reading comprehension, and deductive reasoning. Like reading Galatians 5:19-24 and understanding how he exemplifies all the deeds of the flesh and none of the fruits of the spirit. And him making you love him sounds pretty on-brand.

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    15. @ Paranoid Android,

      "Look, talking about Trump is boring now, and I don't want to derail this comment section"

      You'd think you hadn't brought him up and filled a comment with anti-Trump derision.

      "Like reading Galatians 5:19-24 and understanding how he exemplifies all the deeds of the flesh and none of the fruits of the spirit."

      But here you are taking the opportunity to talk about him (in a partisan spirit) anyway.

      "And him making you love him sounds pretty on-brand."

      Inspiring love (love is one of the fruits of the Spirit) is not listed as a fault in the citation nor is it a license for Christians to engage in strife and party spirit.

      OTOH, CRT exemplifies much of the wrong expressed therein.

      Tom Cohoe

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    16. Anonymous,

      Rufo might be disingenuous, but not for the reasons you believe. And just because some old man can't articulate what he's against doesn't mean he's right to be against it.

      Tell me, are you in favor of teaching young kids that white people are privileged by an irredeemably racist system? That their "whiteness" is a moral evil that must be destroyed to achieve racial justice? That converting non-white people to Christianity is a form of spiritual murder?

      Delete
  29. Pap,

    Your comment from last night at 5:38 PM in response to Franz was very strange. You completely ignored his central claim, which is that the U.S. homicide rate is now (roughly) twice that of Russia (per 100K people.) Your response was a complete non sequitur. Why should anyone take you seriously?

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    1. If Papalinton had anything worthwhile to say he would have said it sometime during the first five years of his stay here. He hasn't gotten any better since then. I don't wish to be rude or uncharitable to him, but at this point, after this much time and this much proof of bad faith, calling him out roughly is the only honest recourse.

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  30. I agree that things are so bad that they are bound to change. How can a society even persist when it promotes things that destroy its population, i. e. contraception, choosing career over kids, experimenting with gay activity, abortion, transgender surgeries etc. The population that holds to this will literally die out due to its own beliefs. If Catholics (and like minded individuals) stick to themselves and have big families and teach their children well, the result would be an eventual triumph of a Catholic world. The question I think, Dr. Feser, relies on how big the population is that still has some sense and how much territory can be retrieved from the lost through this period of societal death. Can more minds be changed through scholarly writings? Can more laymen be brought to their senses through reason and evangelism? Perhaps then the new sprouting culture can overtake the old dying one in the process. Please continue your work, Professor.

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    1. If Catholics (and like minded individuals) stick to themselves and have big families and teach their children well, the result would be an eventual triumph of a Catholic world.

      Well, true, but this would require Catholics no longer put their kids in public schools OR public universities. NOR in 97% of Catholic schools and universities, which have (mostly) drunk the Kool-aid and are just a year or two behind the public schools in their festering nonsense. As it is, the schools have been turning kids from good Catholic families into their own "descendants" in terms of believing the rubbish.

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  31. Dr. Feser,

    Thank you very much for this. I admit I haven't come by here much often, but when I do, you've posted an excellent, sober, yet hope-restoring analysis of our current civilizational woes. My main question is related to the one you ask at the end - what will be the nature of Wokeness' end? Decline is probably the most likely, because it requires the least work from everyone, but the sense of injustice the commonfolk feel, especially now that the elites seem more and more open about their sneering hatred for them. Many people seem to think that the disastrous possibility of a Second American Civil War is looming upon us, something that nobody should relish. Do you think this is likely? Myself, I don't, but if it does, I think it would most likely occur if 2024's election is just as transparently rigged as 2020's was.

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  32. USA or China, who would you say is ignoring natural law more, Dr. Feser?

    This is a serious question because, while there is the whole totalitarism thing, the atheism and the communist aesthetics and all that, the chinese do not seem to care about wokeness at all. Are things on Americaso bad that the kinda-communists could be less worse?

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    1. Talmid,

      "American Thought Leaders" is a podcast that covers a lot of interesting China stuff. I just like the podcast and thought you might be interested in it too.

      https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/american-thought-leaders/id1471411980

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    2. @T N

      Thanks! That be useful.

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    3. The West is in decomposition, but I still think it is (at least for now) far better than the Chinese regime. Its system is essentially a tyrannical one, and among many other things openly hostile to religion. But it is true wokeness has not yet permeated into Chinese society.

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    4. Alfonso,

      Wokeness is just the acid that breaks down resistance and gets the sheep used to submission. The open tyranny comes later.

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  33. Has anybody here read the Italian philosopher Augusto Del Noce? Dr. Feser's article reminded me of his books on secularization and atheism. Or Joel Kotkin? I think this new situation can be explained differently to the "generalized insanity" theory of which Anton's latest article is perhaps the best example. Let me try. There have been enormous changes in the West since WWII that only now are getting clearer: a new capitalist system of oligopolies, a new bourgeoisie with high-tech at its head, a ruling oligarchy formed by the alliance of high-tech with the Democrat Party and the federal and state bureaucracies (a mostly Democrat constituency that should rather be called the Wide State), the sudden change in practically all our institutions and industries as if by flipping a switch, the progressive changes in the same direction in the rest of the West. As Kotkin says, the new system looks more and more like neo-feudalism. And perhaps all those absurdities that Anton lists can be explained as ideology, the new ideology of a new system. Regarding the insanity, I guess the Roman Pagans also saw it that way when their world was being overwhelmed by Christianity. But as Spengler says, "it's not the end of the world, it's the end of you!"

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  34. Talmid - if you remember the post below, it might give you direction for your question:
    http://edwardfeser.blogspot.com/2021/08/confucius-on-our-times.html

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  35. This entire discussion misses the most OBVIOUS cause of the "decline" of our civilization, which false, modernist "Catholics" like Feser refuse to rightly condemn... The LIE of "evolutionism" robs man of his dignity, and it is no surprise that a society believing the absurdity that a fish one day gave birth to Adam would collapse in short order. If man is not man, special in the eyes of God, but instead nothing but a mutant lizard or diseased cockatoo, then anything and everything counter-civilizational is permitted. For how can one expect a creature not created in the likeness of God...but in the likeness of a brute animal... to behave rationally?
    The Occident will not return to sanity one moment before the CATHOLIC appreciation of the doctrine of creation is restored to its place in the hearts of the faithful.

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    1. the absurdity that a fish one day gave birth to Adam

      I've....never heard of an evolutionary biologist who says this....

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    2. Mark, take your Pseudo-Catholic (truly Protestant in nature) “I’m the arbiter of Faith” attitude and throw it back to the trash where it belongs. To oppose the movements of the Church (e.g. orthodox theologians and papal writings) while clinging to our sacred Tradition is reminiscent of the Protestant heretic clinging to the Scriptures whilst opposing Oral Tradition. Surely you do not want to be so as is clear from your desire to stick to the Church’s historical teachings. But I commend you to be nimble in your faith, flexible to the workings of the Church. For evolution is becoming more accepted and acceptance of it has been declared orthodox so long as one holds to the central concepts expressed in dogmas. You may try to disprove it but don’t say one cannot be Catholic and accept it.

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    3. Mark, I don't believe in evolution, but even I recognize that what you are saying is a total strawman.

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    4. For evolution is becoming more accepted and acceptance of it has been declared orthodox so long as one holds to the central concepts expressed in dogmas.

      The Church moves very slowly. I find it quite funny that JPII (and Francis also) have commented favorably toward evolution - after 100+ years of it being "bedrock" science - only to discover more and more scientists are realizing there are some really uncomfortable data points that the theory not only hasn't yet explained (that's not surprising), but that the theory cannot deal with. I don't begrudge popes having opinions about science, but they should be trained enough to recognize the epistemological limits of experimental science and historical extrapolation, and should express their opinions as opinions, not as formal teaching.

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    5. Tony,

      Can you share your sources on the "really uncomfortable data points"? I would like to know more about it

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    6. Hey Tony, I’ve ventured into ID resources and there is a very interesting podcast called Intelligent Design the Future. To clarify, my point was merely that one can accept the theory and be in accordance with the Church as has been explicitly expressed many times. There is no need (and indeed one cannot) claim that the theory is in conflict with Catholicism to the point where holders of it are not true Catholics.

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    7. Here are two links. One highlights a mathematical problem. The other points in the direction of several other problems, without getting into them in detail.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noj4phMT9OE&t=1806s

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z6ElA0--JNg

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    8. Tony,

      Where did JPII express his opinions on evolution as formal teaching?

      I'm not sure which comment(s) of JPII you might be referring to, but the most famous one was where he said that evolution is "more than a theory", which, if I recall correctly, meant that evolution is a collection of theories. The media, however, reported that the pope endorsed evolution as a fact rather than a theory.

      Francis, on the other hand . . . who knows what he's going to say and what anything he says could possibly mean?

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    9. Thanks! Very interesting, especially since none of them seem to have a theological axe to grind

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    10. TN, I was thinking of JPII's comment that evolution "is more than just a hypothesis." The import of the comment is to raise it to the level of a theory, like the atomic theory, for example.

      Francis, on the other hand . . . who knows what he's going to say and what anything he says could possibly mean?

      Or means anything at all? Agreed. Francis' comments on science (and most matters) have little to no weight, not least because he has undermined meaningfulness too often.

      There is no need (and indeed one cannot) claim that the theory is in conflict with Catholicism to the point where holders of it are not true Catholics.

      @ Journey 516: I agree that one can be a Catholic in good standing and agree with some versions of an evolutionary hypothesis, and I was not trying to imply otherwise. I was merely pointing out that the "theory" is not as solid science as had once been supposed.

      That said, the underlying premises of the mainstream versions of the hypothesis require that there is no such thing as a "nature" of an animal or a plant, and this premise has VAST implications in very great tension with Catholic philosophy, and possibly with Catholic theology. It is not too strong to say that if this premise is true, most if not all of standard Catholic philosophy (epitomized by Aquinas) is either flatly wrong or must be so thoroughly revised as to amount to a complete change. So, evolution as typically explained and taught, by nearly all evolutionists, is not compatible with Catholic teaching in its current state, and Catholics should be deeply cautious in accepting evolution, and deeply skeptical with it as normally taught.

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    11. I disagree with Mark's attack on Ed here, but I do think that Catholics, including many clergy and Thomistic philosophers, have been far too glib in the way they go about trying to harmonize evolution with the faith. Often what you see is an endorsement of the whole Darwinian narrative, with the addition that God infused a rational soul to a hominid or two at the end of it. Or they'll portray Darwinian evolution as merely being a matter of God creating via secondary causes.

      I do think that the evidence shows that *some* kind of evolution took place, by which I mean some kind of descent with modification where newer species are in some way derived from older ones, but those standard pat answers are wildly insufficient and intellectually untenable, and I think that it is indeed a not insignificant part of the modernism driving the Church's spiritual rot and apostacy.

      Paley comes in for regular drubbings from Thomists for applying Descartes' mechanistic view to biology, with the implication that living things are mechanistic artifacts like watches rather than substances, and then trying to eke out a design argument from that dessicated picture of reality after having given away the store by adopting it in the first place.

      But for some reason Darwin tends to escape that treatment even though his theory is even more explicitly premised in the mechanistic view's denial that living things are substances than Paley's. And worse, Darwin's theory denies that organisms even rise to the level of artifacts, as the whole point of the theory is to explain the apparent function and purposefulness of living things via *exhaustively* mechanistic causes, cutting intellect and intent out of the picture altogether. The whole point of Darwinism was to complete the mechanistic picture of the world by reducing all teleology to blind, directionless mechanism.

      (cont...)

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    12. (...cont)

      The result is that Darwinian theory is not just philosophically problematic and untenable like Paley's, but outright incoherent. After all, if biological function is not real but merely an illusion as a exhaustively mechanistic account implies, then biology itself is fundamentally unreal and there's nothing for natural selection to explain in the first place, rendering Darwin's theory void. This has resulted in a cottage industry of Darwinian philosophers trying to rescue the theory by affirming that biological function is real, but trying to redefine "function" in exhaustively mechanistic, unintentional terms. These accounts are little more than masturbatory exercises in trying to make the notion of a square circle seem reasonable, and they directly parallel "non-reductive materialist" theories of mind like functionalism/behaviorism, which Thomistic philosophers typically have no compunction about tearing apart for having the same flaws.

      Also, while ID advocates typically make the mistake of regurgitating Paley and endorsing his Descartian view of teleology, they do point out a lot of serious empirical and propabalistic issues for Darwin, even if you buy into the mechanistic assumptions about the physical world on which it's based. The alternating periods of stasis and rapid change in the history of life, the intricate and irreducible complexity that has turned out to be orders of magnitude greater than expected, the massive coordinated changes that had to happen too rapidly to be feasible by chance in eg whale evolution, the intractable problem of lifes origin and more, all make a mess of Darwinism even on its own terms. The theory would almost certainly have been abandoned long ago if it weren't for the fact that it's the only possible mechanistic explanation in town.

      So it really makes no sense to say that Darwinian evolution is simply the tool God used to bring about his ends, because to affirm that evolution was guided to an end, however it happened, is to deny that Darwinism explains what it purports to explain. Likewise, to affirm that living things, and human beings in particular, are substances with powers that go beyond the mere aggregate mechanistic action of our parts, is likewise to deny the Darwinian picture on the most fundamental level.

      It's really not intellectually tenable to say that God somehow infused a rational soul into some mechanistic aggregation of parts that came about by some cosmic happenstance apart from His guidance, and there's no reason to say it in the first place, because Darwinism is incoherent. The attempts by so many Christian leaders to square this circle instead of making clear distinctions and rejecting the mechanistic view and its account of origins has sown a lot of confusion among the faithful, I believe, and does indeed contribute in large part to the apostasy we see. The fact that (Darwinian) evolution is becoming more accepted in the Catholic Church isn't a reason for others to get on board. The Church is an absolute mess right now, and its widespread compromise with unexamined modernist heresies is at the root of that.

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    13. Tony,

      I think he meant it "is more than just a [single] hypothesis."

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    14. Deuce,

      Yeah, I think the problem is more with Darwinist theories rather than "evolution" (whatever that may be) per se. David Berlinski and Stephen Meyer are all over this stuff.

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  36. Dysgenics is bedrock. Religion/philosophy aren't, they're just along for the ride.

    Not that we who see the truth of dysgenics really mind which gets the credit. But it is nice to give credit where due.

    "And might the successor to the successor ideology involve a revival of the Faith, apostasy from which has led us into this crisis?"

    Well, apostasy in itself isn't what has "led us into this crisis". Astronomically increased mutation load over the past ~150 years is.

    But dysgenics says, yes, we will indeed see a revival of religion, and yes, woke-ism will die out, and yes, both are good things. But IQ will continue to decline. So it's a mixed bag. Perhaps we'll return to executing all felons and start genetically selecting for better traits as was done in medieval Europe - then things will go from "mixed bag" to "good and improving every day".

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  37. I broadly agree with what you say here, but it’s worth pointing out that liberalism is what started democracy and US independence. It seems to have taken on a new meaning in the US where it is associated with Marxism and all the woke ideologies, but I don’t think it would be recognised in this way outside of the US. That said, perhaps social media, Hollywood etc, will overwrite the old meaning as US ideas tend to spread rapidly now. Our schools even have prom nights now…

    Also maybe the democracy and individual freedoms that liberalism has brought about are ultimately what have led to the woke ideologies. I don’t agree with this, as I would trace it back ultimately to nominalism. Once reality was flattened to just the ontological horizontal, you get the reformation, the Cartesian divide, the rise of abstract quantity, and the fall of essence and meaning. As a result philosophy becomes either pantheist (as in the German idealists) or completely godless (as in Marxism). Because god is no longer present, or at least not absolute and other, everything becomes relative because the horizontal / material reality is entirely relative. It’s also deterministic, which leaves no space for free will. At this point there is no end other than the absurdism and nihilism of the French postmodernists, and which underpin modern woke ideologies.

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    1. Simon Adams,

      Agreed. Nominalism is all bad. "Liberalism"/"Enlightenment"/whatever ya want to call it is a mixed bag.

      Delete
    2. I guess the question is whether "classical" liberalism as formulated by the likes of Locke was bound to lead to the cancers of wokeness and nihilism: whether wokeness is a given from classical liberalism as the fruit tree is implied by the seed.

      I also believe that there were other social forces and other political ideas that were leading toward a greater expression of individual freedoms than merely the non-Catholic liberalizing thinkers like Locke and his ilk. Even in the 1100's, the Decretals were including notions that were, effectively, protecting individual rights. And St. Robert Bellarmine's political theory - before Locke's - recognized the people as having a role in the political formation of a state. Furthermore, the advent of absolute monarchy was quite new (to Christendom) in the Renaissance, and was more of a blot on an otherwise trend toward something more like modern political theory. So arguably, at least some aspects of the liberalizing results that came WITH classical liberal theory might also have come without those new theories.

      Delete
    3. It seems difficult to see how Bellarmine and Suarez's theory of the origin of government could have led to liberalism. It did put the boot into absolutism though.

      Delete
    4. @Tony - It’s an interesting thought. If nominalism had not won the battle in the universities 700 years ago, could we have had a Locke where empiricism was correctly seen as just one, partial way of knowing? Would that have lead to a different kind of classic liberalism that didn’t result in woke ideologies, based on individual rights and freedoms but no longer reduced to the utilitarian slant assumed under nominalism? Maybe those very rights and freedoms are ultimately a mistaken understanding of what brings real fulfilment and happiness, and will always lead to ever more desperate ways to draw the blood of life from the stone of politics.

      It’s difficult to know for sure, but I wonder whether nominalism is like the fulfilment of the Tower of Babel story, just as much in the OT is reflected after (or as part of) the incarnation. So from this perspective it’s like a balance on the wisdom that comes through Christ, part of the veil that keeps god implicit rather than explicit, so that the telos of creation can be fulfilled. “you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children”. If so then perhaps it’s meant to be that good healthy ideologies always contain a broken end unless grounded in god. So no matter how clever the people who devise the various ideas and principles about how society and government should be, there is always a seed of deception in the idea that people can be free and fulfilled without choosing bondage to the highest absolute. Even when those principles themselves come directly from Him.

      In reality of course, freedom post fall will always involve some people choosing false gods, and some intellectualising those false gods. So you either have a totalitarian society that mandates “the good”, or one that allows people to have their false gods, or something in between. I guess this is distinct from the definition of “the good”, which is where the woke ideologies come in. Here I go back to my original point in that I do think this goes back to nominalism ultimately, as does it’s counterpoint of physicalism.

      Delete
  38. Second the motion to hear real soon from E. Feser on CRT.

    ReplyDelete
  39. Grumbling left-wing readers are urged to read and ponder socialist Freddie deBoer's on-the-nose critique of the destructive (and indeed self-destructive) politics of woke, Trump-obsessed liberalism:

    https://freddiedeboer.substack.com/p/when-will-chris-hayes-learn-the-lessons

    ReplyDelete
  40. Ed
    It is the Republican Party that is obsessed with Trump. Most Republicans believe the election was stolen, and they are doing his bidding to.perpetuate that lie. After he was defeated, Trump tried to mount a coup,and the Republican Party is now trying to make sure they can rig the next election for their candidate

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Anon,

      Great! Go fight with them somewhere else. The only people talking about Trump on this forum are leftist wackos.

      Delete
  41. By reading some of the comments here I must say, Ed, what patience do you have. Jesus Christ.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I appreciate the support, Tadeo, but please, no profaning of the divine name.

      Delete
    2. I'm sorry, my good man. That wasn't my intention. But I know you're right I shouldn't be saying God's name in that context and I will watch out for avoiding it next time. I'm really sorry, that wasn't my intention at all.

      Btw, since you did answer me I would like to say that I do love your work!

      May God bless you and your family!

      Delete
  42. Hi Dr. Feser,

    While I agree that a collection of hatred of one's own, sexual degeneracy, the attack against the family unit, etc. account for why our civilization as a whole is in decline, I am confused as to why individual people end up adopting every single malignancy prescribed by the "woke ideology." For instance, I can understand how a person who is enslaved by (say) promiscuous behavior would for that reason be blinded to arguments for (say) the value of chastity. But how (or why) do people like this also end up believing the other crazy stuff - like CRT or ethnic self-hatred?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Because vice in one area, e.g. to sins of lust, can be blinding to the soul all 'round, especially on moral matters but even on other things. The soul itself is damaged by habitual sin, and one aspect of the damage is in its very ability to reason well.

      Furthermore, the modern "education" system has made a mockery of the idea of teaching: at all levels, the system is heavily bent toward instilling (a) a collection of "facts" (usually which include a large subset of errors), along with (b) a firm habit of submitting their minds and wills to the "thought-leaders" of the liberal stupidigentsia. I.E., propaganda and brain-washing. It is just appalling seeing how college graduates from even so-called "excellent" schools are unable to think past the end of their noses, and unable to even grasp the meaning of "what are the premises you have assumed for this thesis", much less able to examine those premises critically. They are taught to jump to certain standard thoughts without addressing the intervening points along the way, and to shout down any attempt to raise questions about those points. That's what "woke" training is.

      It is, of course, an ironic truth that these people, usually clamoring for "freedom", are in effect slaves to others who control their thoughts. They are just (usually) relatively comfortable slaves, compared to slaves of old. There is no grasping the point that in order to be free, one needs to be able to SEE reality, as well as to to ACT on that seeing.

      Delete
  43. Its quite symptomatic the controversy that arose a few days ago over an internal dossier of the European Commission recommending to use the term 'holiday period' instead of 'Christmas period', for the sake of inclusivity. In EUROPE! It awoke so much criticism the Commission had to drop it. It was not the only crazy recommendation (we could also find other 'gems' in the document, such as avoiding the term 'man-made' and instead using more gender-neutral words, like 'artificial') but it was the one that got most attention. Which brings me to the second point: things are bad, but I think a reaction is building up against all this nonsense and insanity.

    ReplyDelete
  44. It is amusing to say the least how most of the readers feed on each other's prejudices, presuppositions, discrimination, bigotry and sectarianism in the name of their religion.
    Take for example the catholicised discrimination (under the guise of religious freedom) against the LGBT community, against transgender people (that tiniest of minorities in our community), against Black Lives, who through no fault of their own, a quirk of genetic evolution, are pilloried, damned, abused, lynched, and discriminated against because they are 'different'. Most of the readers here are enablers and practitioners of what is slowly becoming recognised as 'social eugenics'.

    One of the most disturbing aspects of Anton's argument is his treatment of George Floyd. Most stomach-churning is his:

    "But in terms of what we choose to elevate, nothing illustrates the perversity of present America more than the deification of George Floyd."

    This is nothing short of a white-supremacy dog whistle. According to Michael Anton, Floyd was a dead man walking, a reprobate, a criminal worthy of being put down as one would a rabid dog. He had no redeeming feature.
    Anton is dead wrong. The perversity is not in the deification of Floyd. Rather it is the circumstance in which Floyd died. Here was a clear, unambiguous case of a life taken for no other reason than he was a black man. A white officer, kneeling on his neck, deliberately, with malice aforethought and a total disdain of the sanctity of life, slaughtered him by squeezing every ounce of air from his lungs; For no other reason that he believed as a police officer he had the power to do so. Here was a clear example of what is meant by the concept of Critical Race Theory.

    I add the example of the Ahmaud Abery. Three white men taking the law into their own hands to slaughter a black man simply on the suspicion of theft. And they nearly got away with it with the assistance of the police department, two consecutive district attorneys that attempted to smother the case along with a host of other law enforcement enablers and abettors. This is a case of systematic and systemic maladministration. This is just another unmitigated case of the very foundation of the understanding of Critical Race Theory. These two are only the most recent cases of an incalculable number over history of the US where the victims were killed because they were black. Victims of Latino, Asian and South Sea Islander origin are no less subject to the vagaries of the law highlighted by CRT.

    Law enforcement officers would have engaged in or adopted a very different approach had the targets been white people. The evidence is clear.

    Floyd may have been a criminal, he may have been a bad person. So was Jeffrey Epstein, Hervey Weinstein, Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Mike Flynn. But Floyd never killed anyone. Nor did Abery. But they were subject to depraved slaughter because they were simply black. This is Critical Race Theory writ large. The disease of white-ism is so endemic in American culture that even being a Catholic is no match to the evils of perpetrated by 'so-called' Christians.

    I can testify to all this because I am white. I am not a Leftie. I am a centrist, a constitutionalist. And even I can see the evil in the writings of Michael Anton.

    Dr Feser, you would do well to reconsider you stance on the stuff you are peddling.

    GOODNESS GRACIOUS, MAN, your President Biden is a daily worshipping Catholic (and Jesus lover), your Head of the House, the Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is a complete dyed-in-the-wool Catholic, most of the Senate are Catholics, there are 7 of the 9 Supreme Court justices that are Catholic.

    In other words, all 3 branches of the Government are headed and controlled by Catholics. And yet you are nor satisfied. Not to psychologise too much, but you are in an emotional mess.

    What is the matter with you? WTF?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or more correctly, the largest group of Senators are Catholic (25 in total)

      Delete
    2. Even more correctly, most are Protestant (56 in total).

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    3. As for the claim of ‘systemic racism’ against black people in the United States today, as far as I know there doesn’t seem to be any evidence at all beyond anecdotal evidence. If anything, statistics seem to suggest cops are in fact slightly less likely to shoot down black criminals than white criminals in similar circumstances. For goodness’ sake, you’ve had a black President five years ago, how on Earth can that even be possible in a truly systemically racist society?

      As for the portrayal of Biden and Pelosi as ‘faithful Catholics’, I don’t think even you can believe that is an honest claim. It’s like saying you are a convinced Stalinist-Communist that supports private ownership of the means of production. And beyond that, “By their works ye shall know them”. It really doesn’t matter how Catholic they are if they are pushing forward policies that leave unprotected the most innocent and fragile of human beings, the unborn child, and all other anti-natural law and anti-common sense initiatives. And this is a general trend both in America and in Europe (the center-right European People’s Party and the center-left Socialist Party generally vote the same in all these social issues).

      So no, there’s no delusion in our claims, just mere empirical observation of the growing craziness in the West. You might disagree in our judgement of these policies and ideologies, but you should at least be honest in acknowledging that they are hegemonic in the West, and frontally oppose Natural Law and Catholic faith and doctrine.

      Delete
    4. But still religiously Christian in every sense of the word. with the exact same christian values and belief in Jesus as any Catholic.

      Perhaps a timely reminder is in order here:
      "Let us be clear that religions do not and cannot progress the way that, say, science can progress. When science progresses, it abandons old and false ideas. Once we discovered oxygen and the principles of combustion, we stopped thinking that there was a substance called phlogiston. Once we discovered that the earth is round, we stopped thinking that it is flat [Well, some of us did]. Science and reason are substitutive or eliminative: new ideas replace old and false ideas. Religion is additive and/or schismatic: new ideas proliferate alongside old ideas. For instance, the development of Protestantism did not put an end to Catholicism, and the development of Christianity did not put an end to Judaism.
      With science we get better. With religion we get more.
      [Had you not noticed before, Tom], since there are so many religions - and more every day- that are not only different from but contradictory to each other, it makes no sense to talk about better or true religion. The only thing that makes sense is to talk about local religion, the religion people follow in one place or time as opposed to someplace or sometime else." (Professor David Eller, renowned Anthropologist.)
      Note: [] my inclusions

      You see, Tom, religions fail the test as a universally recognised explanatory model about us, the world, the universe and our place in it. That is not to say religion has no role to play in people's lives but it is a nonsense to peddle it as an explanatory model of the existence of us, the world, the universe. The trouble with religion is that it is so ..... tribal, group-oriented, and as an explanatory model, so low-grade in fact, evidence and logic, it is unable to explain why there are so many religions. The best and only ontologically logical explanation is that they are wholly cultural artefacts, each religion consistent within the social construct it was spawned.

      So many, and increasingly, many people are turning away from religion because it is unable to address the myriad of challenges facing humanity going forward. To be sure there is a salvific dimension to religion for those who seek emotional and spiritual help in times of deep personal need, but that benefit is being frittered away by the mythological/superstitious nonsense that religion peddles as true or fact, stuff that people simply cannot subscribe to and cannot commit to any more because of their patently false claims to actual truth and reality.
      I don't think there will ever be a return to wholesale religion as we once knew it, even if a global tragedy or conflagration should erupt among us in the future, say a war with China or Russia.
      Cheers


      Delete
    5. "Perhaps a timely reminder is in order here:"

      Thinking doesn't work the way you think it does grampa. If there is any truth, it doesn't "progress". If there is not, then you and your thuggish allies certainly can't have it. All you have is a prescription for a big fight over who the authority will be, and then a boot stomping on the human face for decades as dissent is violently suppressed, of which you give ominous suggestions.

      You will lose in the end because truth always returns as the beast is submerged again.

      You should stop spewing as if you are a great teacher or authority. I am actually embarrassed for you in your foolish pretensions.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    6. Anonymous @ 4.32PM

      Tom,
      "All you have is a prescription for a big fight over who the authority will be, and then a boot stomping on the human face for decades as dissent is violently suppressed, of which you give ominous suggestions."

      I think you have been watching too many reruns of the old movie, "Quo Vadis".

      I read a lot and I read widely. That is the only way truth is revealed. And I do a lot of thinking, a lot of contemplating. It makes for a good grounding in the pursuit of truth. Progress towards understanding truth can only be achieved in doing these activities. Clearly these activities are anathema to your beliefs and behaviour.

      "You will lose in the end because truth always returns as the beast is submerged again."

      Is this an IS or OUGHT statement? Or is it just one of those myriad of unfulfilled religious-inspired prophesies you seem to have a predilection for?


      Delete
    7. Grampa,

      Thanks for your negative declarations about my nature that come from nowhere but your assumed personal authority. Meanwhile, no response comes from you about truth not "progressing" if there is such a thing as truth, merely a statement slipped in about progress now being in "understanding" truth. That's sort of like identifying Jones with Lewis because they are neighbors. How would you like to be billed for your neighbors acquisitions?

      Your second paragraph is just a big sneer.

      If you want to find truth, you need to be humble, for truth is greater than you or me.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    8. Tom,
      We've had our little tit-for-tat. Let that be the end of it. I won't be making any further comment along this thread.

      Cheers
      Papalinton

      Delete
    9. @ Papalinton,

      OK.

      Have a good Christmas.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
  45. As a matter of interest I recommend THIS VIDEO .

    It demonstrates how racism is a completely socially constructed phenomenon and one which we all have the capacity to challenge and change. This video illustrates without qualification the very essence of Critical Race Theory in practice.

    These are the foundational tenets underlying the study of CRT:
    - Recognition that race is not biologically real but is socially constructed and socially significant. It recognizes that science (as demonstrated in the Human Genome Project) refutes the idea of biological racial differences. According to scholars Richard Delgado and Jean Stefancic, race is the product of social thought and is not connected to biological reality.

    - Acknowledgement that racism is a normal feature of society and is embedded within systems and institutions, like the legal system, that replicate racial inequality. This dismisses the idea that racist incidents are aberrations but instead are manifestations of structural and systemic racism.

    - Rejection of popular understandings about racism, such as arguments that confine racism to a few “bad apples.” CRT recognizes that racism is codified in law, embedded in structures, and woven into public policy. CRT rejects claims of meritocracy or “colorblindness.” CRT recognizes that it is the systemic nature of racism that bears primary responsibility for reproducing racial inequality.

    - Recognition of the relevance of people’s everyday lives to scholarship. This includes embracing the lived experiences of people of color, including those preserved through storytelling, and rejecting deficit-informed research that excludes the epistemologies of people of color.

    Michael Anton is on the wrong side of history here. There is no suicide of Western culture. Western culture is growing, becoming more inclusive, more understanding of the diversity of humanity, and, more importantly, accommodating those differences as a greater good, in a universal effort at true ecumenism. Western culture is purging the worst excesses of its past beliefs, practices and behaviours.

    Anton and Feser are bent in derailing it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Re: recommended video

      You are just so important ... in your own mind! Rightly so, of course, as only you could have figured out that as each non Catholic in the Senate is a group of one, the group of Catholics in the Senate is 25 times larger than the next largest group (since Protestants, blacks, men, women, Hispanics, communists, etc don't count as groups in your penetrating analysis).

      I have to say, though, that your accusation of Feser for not being lockstep with you is pretty ugly stuff.



      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    2. WRONG WRONG WRONG VIDEO

      THIS IS THE VIDEO
      that should have been attached.

      Delete
  46. Here was a clear, unambiguous case of a life taken for no other reason than he was a black man.

    Actually if you do some research, Chauvin had a pattern of behavior in using these excessively violent behaviors on people of multiple races and also women.

    ReplyDelete
  47. It's the Australian Brigade in it's beachhead in the assault on America! Its leader, not a good swimmer, plans to bore his way to America and he is making good progress!

    But how brave he is, putting himself into such personal danger, albeit at a great distance from America! But safety must come first in this type of rant assault.

    Goodness gracious, thanks for helping me get to sleep last night.

    Tom Cohoe

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  48. I am surprised that ideology is presented as the cause of the decline of Western civilization, with nothing said about material causes in the West and across the world.

    I am also surprised that the "ruling classes" are said to espouse an ideology of wokeness. Later "affluent left-wing whites" become the focus. It's not stated that the "ruling classes" are "affluent left-wing whites", but there seems to be a vague equation of the two. How are Murdoch, Koch, corporations (almost by definition not "left wing"), the right-wing politicians who control many jurisdictions, et al., not the ruling classes?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Leftist control all the cultural institutions: Universities; media; government; Big Tech, while the hordes of useful idiots follow like zombies. But you think the Koch brothers are a big threat?

      Delete
    2. Leftists? Ha!

      And why no focus on realities like wages, contracts, tax breaks and who gets them?

      And yes, the surviving Koch brother is a threat, still, but those of his echelon together continue to bring about oligarchy. No philosopher in antiquity thought oligarchy was a good ground of a polis.

      Delete
    3. Yeah, in a post on the problems of modernity, why not include a thorough treatment of the tax code!

      That Koch guy is building a oligarchy? Yikes! I hope Zuck doesn't allow him to participate in society!

      Delete
    4. There might be a voluntary exchange going on somewhere! Oh No! The right is running everything!

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    5. How are Murdoch, Koch, corporations (almost by definition not "left wing")

      The Kochs (or rather Koch) spend the bulk of their efforts nowadays funding open borders activism, "LGBTQ rights," and even CRT. Like most libertarians, their economic conservatism takes a back seat to their social liberalism, and gives way to it completely when push comes to shove, as it now has.

      Corporations as a whole are almost uniformly hyper-woke, and are probably the foremost pushers of wokeness in our society now (along with cheap foreign labor, destruction of election integrity, and more - all of which tie into their wokeness). The phenomenon of capitalists gladly selling communists the rope to hang them with is hardly new.

      Delete
  49. Prof Feser you do not have to post this one but I am assuming yer gonna do a post on the Holy Father further restricting the Old Mass? I liked yer comparison of Pope St Victor with Pope Francis the first time he neffed it.

    Spot on.

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    Replies
    1. Hey Feser, how come you berate others - especially Papalinton - for not staying on topic, but seem quite happy to post anything your pet toady Yako writes in, sometimes ( though not this time )expressed in a confrontational, abusive or obnoxious manner? What a hypocrite. Just saying boss....

      Delete
    2. Anonymous,

      I don't approve every comment Son of Yakov tries to post any more than I approve every comment Papalinton tries to post. You don't see the things that don't get through, so don't assume that my moderation is one-sided. (After all, I let your comment through.)

      In this case, I let Son of Yakov's comment through because I know that this particular issue is upsetting a lot of Catholics this weekend, and it seemed related in a general way to the overall topic of Western decline. But I can see why you'd judge it to be off-topic.

      Delete
    3. For the record I just posted it with the hope Dr. Feser would see it and maybe do a blog post in the future on the topic. I didn't expect it to see the light of day here.

      Also I can confirms sometimes Dr. Feser dinny post everything I post. I dinny care and I dinny fash.

      Anyway I DO NOT want to discuss Pope Francis new restrictions on the Old Mass (on this thread). If Dr. F does an open thread or a post on the topic I will sound off.

      Not till then.

      Thus Paps' post I will ignore till he reposts it on another thread. Nothing personal buddy I am sure it is interesting but it is off topic.

      Cheers.

      Delete
    4. Papalinton,

      "More broadly, just as in the issue of the Latin Mass, the writings from Michael Anton, Burnham, Feser, et al, do not portray an actual decline in Western culture"

      That's your opinion and nothing more. You can't read articles, already biased in their own way, then pick what you like from them, and create a valid argument with even an ounce of intellectual weight.

      You haven't in any way engaged with what Professor Feser has written. You have merely claimed that you have a right, based on your personal dictum about how you must be treated following a comment by Ya'Kov, to repeat and rehash the words of others, which you have done.

      Again, I am embarrassed for you. Until you get rid of the idea of following your own presumptions as truth, you will not rise to the level of competent comment.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
  50. This is a very interesting instance to which Son of Yakov alludes, the Old Mass. I have been interested for some time now on the issue surrounding the restrictions placed on access to the traditional Latin Mass.

    And I am hoping against all hope that Dr Feser will not censor my comment; that he will honour his commitment to the debate going forward as he has clearly adjudged that Yakov's comment is not off-topic, vis-a-vis this OP, in that: ".. it seem[s] related in a general way to the overall topic of Western decline".

    What is interesting is that THE NATIONAL CATHOLIC REPORTER has very recently published an article on the issue. In the report it notes that:
    "Since then, the decree has become a lightning rod for a vocal minority group of Catholics who still favor the traditional Latin Mass, many of whom also have expressed skepticism or even outright rejection of the reforms of Vatican II and of the legitimacy of Francis.". [My bolding]

    It appears the vast majority of Catholics are indeed in favour of the direction taken by Pope Francis. And in support of that direction the NCR also records:
    "In August, following the release of the new restrictions on the traditional Latin Mass, the Pontifical North American College — the major American seminary in Rome — issued new guidelines noting that it was permanently suspending the celebration of the traditional Latin Mass and would end instruction of it to seminarians."

    So my question is: Can it really be argued that Western culture is actually in rapid decline? Equally can it be intellectually argued that restricting access to the traditional Latin Mass is prima facie evidence of Western cultural decline, given the dissenting voices are but a small "vocal minority"?

    More broadly, just as in the issue of the Latin Mass, the writings from Michael Anton, Burnham, Feser, et al, do not portray an actual decline in Western culture. Rather, their contributions more closely reflect a narrative written from a perspective of personal chagrin rather than an intellectual treatise that maps an actual decline in Western culture.

    This is understandable. People resolutely fixed to a particular idea do imagine cultural collapse, mistaking the real reason for such discomfort is largely attributable to their intransigence to genuine evolving contemporary social change.





    ReplyDelete
  51. " ... more importantly, accommodating those differences as a greater good, in a universal effort at true ecumenism."

    LOL Nothing like emoting instead of reasoning, Geez. Somebody break out the violins.

    That is the "philosophizing" of a progressive ... or what passes for it.

    But of course as Rorty admitted in Contingency, irony, and solidarity; "just because" is all that these anti-metaphysical pseudo-metaphysicians have left.


    Which is fine so far as a shrug will take one and it costs you nothing, but not compelling ... in the least.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I confess, DNW, I don't understand what message you are trying to convey with this word salad. It reads to me like a stream of consciousness straight from the top of your head, pretty much like dandruff.

      Delete
    2. " ... I don't understand what message you are trying to convey with this word salad. It reads to me like a stream of consciousness straight from the top of your head ..."

      Comic irony you should come back with that; since that fault is what I pointed out was so amusing about your "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" Humanist Manifesto style anthem bleating.

      Now, as I said before, I don't mind emotional types emoting their morality instead of arguing it. Rorty himself admitted that it must must be acknowledged by democratic progressives of his kind that that is the only thing that they can in fact do, which is consistent with their own foundational principles.

      Just as long their doing so is abstract and costs me and those whose interests I share nothing in the way of inconvenience, sacrifice, or liberty; it is no problem.

      The problem comes in, when there is a real world price of any kind to be paid or a trade-off made, for the sake of an expanded "tolerance" and "inclusion".

      One cannot merely assert that, say, suffering Drag-Queen-storybook-hour-for-toddlers to exist under the auspices of the public library and in the pretended shade of a fabricated Constitutional principle, has a distributive benefit, or is an obvious good across the board, and still pretend to intellectual respectability or seriousness.

      You have to show a literal distributive benefit. Especially nowadays when there is no argument for complementarity allowed, and all men are deemed as created fungible - if diverse, yet all of one moral species, or something

      But within a system of political association such as exemplified by the typical progressive one, one which has no higher organizing or even mediating principle than accommodating competing interests - which are in fact conflicting and incompatible - within the same political space, that is a tall order. It's an impossible order, actually.

      It involves a supposed balancing game that can no more be performed than balancing the interests of a rapist to rape and its victim to be free of him.

      It is a task which apparently neither you, nor most certainly your predecessors-in-intellectual-seizen, are up to meeting.

      Instead of doing the work of actually arguing, you prefer singing your silly little solidarity song, and then hectoring those who have paused the proceedings to listen critically.

      Hope this helps, though it probably won't.

      Have a nice day, anyway.

      Delete
  52. To those who think that Western Civilization is not in decline,
    Where are the poetic dramas to compare with those of Aeschylus and Shakespeare?
    Where are the orchestral and choral masterpieces to compare with those produced by Bach and Mozart?
    Where are the sonnet cycles to compare with those of Petrarch, Sidney, Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti?
    Where are the sculptures to compare with those of Michaelangelo, Bernini, and Rodin?
    Where are the epics to compare with those of Homer, Virgil, Dante, Spenser, Milton, and Longfellow?
    Where are the architects to compare with Palladio and Christopher Wren, not to mention those producing the Pantheon and the Parthenon?
    Where are the novels to compare with Don Quixote, Middlemarch, The Brothers Karamazov, and Anna Karenina?
    Where are the paintings to compare with those of Raphael and Rembrandt?

    ReplyDelete
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    1. I am sure that endless specialists in literature and music would reply in opposition to your particular subjective take on this Tim, not to mention endless less academically qualified consumers of art. Many of us not of that disposition do not care remotely for such things and struggle to see what possible relevance your aesthetic sensibilities have to the question at hand. We are far more impressed by our scientific and technological achievements , and the fact that they continue at an accelerating rate. Frankly,I personally couldn't give a toss about Rembrandt, though good for you and anyone else who does.

      Delete
    2. Sorry, Tim. I don't buy your argument for a moment. It is an argument without purpose. Let me explain why?

      To be sure these are great, profound works of human expression and creativity. That is a given. What they all have in common is the benefit of the past, hundreds, even thousands of years for some, to grow and mature into becoming the renowned pieces and works we so treasure today.
      Today's originators of great works have yet to enjoy the benefit accorded through the scrutiny of time to establish their bona fides.

      In the contemporaneous ordinariness of his lifetime, Michelangelo was a sculptor, an outstanding one to be sure. But sculptors were a dime a dozen; and if you know anything about him you will know commissions were given to him, commissions were taken away from him, and he also failed to complete so many commissions.

      Another example is the author of one of my most favourite masterpieces of Victorian literature (although her personal life wasn't all that ordinary), Mary Ann Evans [or better known as George Eliot], the writer of Middlemarch.
      Apart from the beloved Dorothea, my favourite character in the novel is the iconic Edward Casaubon. As an utterly failed clergyman and failed scholar, he is the epitome of all lost causes.

      Middlemarch grew into its fame; George Eliot grew into her standing as perhaps the greatest Victorian novelist.

      There are incalculable numbers of people in modern Western culture who will over time join the pantheon of great artists, writers, architects of the past. The historical record is written over time and that time has not yet winnowed out the crême de la crême.

      To mention a few,
      architects: Frank Ghery, Tom Wright, Frank Lloyd Wright
      artists: Pablo Picasso, Salvator Dali, Jackson Pollock
      Sculptors: Henry Moore, Constantin Brancusi, Marcel du Champ

      And the list goes on.

      I can understand how people who are so uncomfortable in modern society, so are ill-fitted in the modern world, might wish for the 'good old days'. Unfortunately, they are profoundly misguided if they imagine the 'good old days' were indeed good. Pining for the past is not a useful strategy for improving one's lot. It is wasted emotional and psychological energy.

      Be happy with your lot and use that energy to find the good things around you. Whining is not productive.

      Delete
    3. @ Papalinton,

      "... Pining ... Whining ..."

      He was not pining or whining. He was advancing an argument which you have not demolished because what is good does not grow in goodness through time, unless, of course, you want to advance the idea that there is no such thing as good, similar to your anti-truth, "progress in truth" argument.

      Edward Casaubon may be your epitome of lost causes, but Saint Jude is the patron saint of lost causes.

      I will pray to him tonight for your conversion. :-)

      Tom Cohoe

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    4. Cohoe

      Argument? What argument??? Tim basically rattled off a list of works of art which are generally held in high regard and which have gained the status of masterpieces through time and then asked 'where are today's equivalent of these'? Forgive me for for not being impressed by Tim's whining and pining for the past, which frankly characterises many of you on here.

      Delete
    5. @ FreeThinker,

      Scorn doesn't make a case for anything.

      Tom Cohoe

      Delete
    6. FreeThinker
      First, your dismissal of a decline, as I and many others claim, in literature, art, music etc., as irrelevant to the topic of decline in Western Civilization is ridiculous. Papalinton sees that and he correspondingly denies the claim. I shall address Papalinton's argument, together with your contention that experts and endless less academically qualified consumers of art would challenge the view that there has been a decline in the quality of orchestral music, poetry, and paintings etc. in another post.
      The other issue that I shall mention in this post concerns scientific achievements. The ideology that Ed is primarily challenging as uniquely suicidal (whether this ideology necessarily follows from individual liberalism, as Ed also argues, is a distinct issue which I shall not address) undermines scientific achievements.
      Categorizing biological males who self-identify as women as individuals who qualify to participate in women's sports undermines science. Silencing those who object (an average eight-year old child knows it is unfair for a biological male to enter a women's race and win it by an exceptionally large margin).
      Regarding mathematics as racist undermines scientific achievement. Claiming that the equation E=m x c squared is a sexed equation because it privileges the speed of light over other speeds important to humans undermines science. Equating the square root of -1 to the penis undermines science. Dismissing and suppressing evidence that COVID may have originated in a Wuhan lab undermines science. Using government to stop an archeological excavation because it could falsify claims of Native American tribes undermines science. And this is scratching the surface of how poststructuralist ideology undermines science.

      Delete
    7. I have to say, Time, Freethinker got it right: "Argument? What argument???"

      Your examples of the undermining of science are the views of crazy person, lifted very much from a QAnon conspiracy pamphlet. They are certainly not those of a person with any comprehension of science.

      Delete
    8. Tim

      The examples you chose are a mixed bag Tim, but included some from crank philosophical and sociological writers whose knowledge of mathematics and science is nill, for example that the equation E = mcc is sexed or that the square root of minus one has a phallic character. These ideas are ultra fringe and in no way detract from our amazing and continuing scientific and technological progress or have any impact at all on the content of consensus scientific thinking. Of much greater impact on popular thinking are a myriad of pseudoscientific notions and beliefs ( including many of a religious character ), but these have always been with us in one form or another. You seem to me to be hysterically over reacting to the most recent crop of nonesense and seeing it as something of unique significance, whereas there have always been fringe and crackpot ideas in circulation, sometimes with a wide constituency.

      Delete
    9. @ Papalinton,

      Time?

      Crazy person?

      QAnon?

      What is QAnon? Also I have never watched "Quo Vadis", nor am I a disciple of any living person or follower of any group of people.

      By your fancy, for it could be nothing else, I have no comprehension of science?

      These wild imaginings of yours are examples of your "widely read" pursuit of truth?

      You seem all at sea with me in an odd desperation to put me down.

      Tom Cohoe

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    10. FreeThinker,
      Those cranks include Jacques Derrida (the sexed equation) and Jacques Lacan (square root of -1 is phallic), who together with Michel Foucault (who argued that truth is only the propaganda that hegemonies use to oppress the marginalized) are a highly influential triumvirate in the thinking of the poststructuralism that has influenced the suicidal self-loathing oikophobic thinking Ed was talking about. They are no longer ultra fringe, my friend; would that they were!

      Delete
    11. @Tim Finlay:

      "To those who think that Western Civilization is not in decline, Where are the poetic dramas to compare with those of Aeschylus and Shakespeare?"

      The problem with this argument is that the critical fortunes of works of art has been varied. To give one example, the appreciation of Dante has ebbed with the historical tides.

      Right after his death, his native town of Florence (much reviled by Dante himself) entrusted none other than Boccacio to lecture on his work. But he would fall in and out of favor to be recovered in the 19th century, and for not entirely aesthetic reasons (he was sort of a national poet, a necessary figure in the birth pains of the modern nation), with his unique pre-eminence only fully recognized in the twentieth century. If that chequered century could do Dante full justice, then maybe things are a tad more complicated. And even nowadays, most people that read him stick to the Inferno and can hardly climb their way out of it to the Purgatory and much less Heaven. Culture has made him widely unavailable, especially to the conceited modern, narrow-minded liberal who likes to propagandize on how widely read he is. And even a Catholic such as myself has to be occasionally reminded that Dante has no scruples in arrogating for himself God's judgment, including placing a Pope in hell, even a Pope the Church has since canonized.

      Or to vary the example, if we went back to the Middle Ages say, and scanned the lists of authoritative, indispensible authors, not only most of them would be completely unfamiliar to us but many of the classics would be missing.

      Do not misuderstand me, I concur we are going to hell in a hand basket. I love Nabokov and Pynchon to death, but there is a clear aesthetic, cultural difference best described as decline; the fact is that "Humpty Dumpty had a great fall. All the king's horses and all the king's men, Couldn't put Humpty together again." Part of the problem is that not only the standards got muddled, but even the fact that there are standards (a fact on which literally all Education and transmission of tradition relies) has been under attack. Much of this is past lamenting; what will come after us I have no pretensions of knowing, and it is not my business anyway, and whatever cheer leading for the decline some obnoxious idiots in verbal skimpy skirts and with verbal pompons do is best left unanswered.

      Delete
    12. @grodriques.
      "Part of the problem is that not only the standards got muddled, but even the fact that there are standards (a fact on which literally all Education and transmission of tradition relies) has been under attack.

      I could not agree more! This is the point that C.S.Lewis makes in The Abolition of Man, where already in his day the abolition of standards in aesthetics was considerably under way, especially among the leading educators. That is why in response to FreeThinker's initial reply, I shall limit my discussion to what he calls "the less academically qualified consumers of art." I listen to KUSC where every year they have a list of 100 top choices of listeners, and every year the most entries come in from the triumvirate of Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven in some order. If you look at most classical music concerts, there are hardly any compositions from the last 50 years and not that many from the 50 years before that. The plays of Shakespeare are performed far more frequently than that of any other playwright. With regard to painters, many consumers of art would admit certain works of Picasso and Dali into the pantheon but not regard Jackson Pollock's drips and pourings, Marcel Duchamp's toilet, or other transgressive acts (elephant dung, nude women with paint throwing themselves onto canvases etc) which require no skill as being great art. From Rembrandt to Jackson Pollock, a decline has taken place, and the majority of people visiting art galleries know it.

      I suspect that it is not Western Civilization alone whose standards have fallen. I suspect that the same holds true in many Eastern Civilizations. This does not mean that renewal is impossible. There are indications that average men and women are beginning to push back at the madness in the academy. Let us see what happens.

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  53. You're right that this new situation is so against human nature that it cannot possibly be sustainable, but if its backers succeed in damaging or destroyong human nature itself, then it could be sustainable. The ultimate end will be the destruction of woman as mother, destroying the fundamental basis of human dependency on others, this accompanied with significant tampering or editing of the human genome to create a new degraded creature.

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    Replies
    1. Are you not being hysterical here? It is a commonplace for people to use artificial birth control to enjoy sex without risking unwanted conception , a small proportion of people enjoy same sex relationships unmolested according to their inclinations and an even smaller proportion self identify as a member of the other biological sex or undergo transition, and this shocking situation is so against human nature that it cannot possibly be sustainable! Why not exactly, and why cannot these opportunities and freedoms not be extended to others who currently lack them, for example those under the oppressive jackboot of religious authoritarianism? Seems to mr that the current situation in these regards is perfectly sustainable and we will fight to spread, deepen and extend it.

      Delete
    2. @ FreeThinker,

      The jackboot has always been against religion, or has tried to subvert it.

      Science has regressed in its predictive abilities (which is what science has always been about). For a simplest example, the equations of fluid dynamics are nonlinear and weather exhibits the phenomenon whereby microscopic differences in initial conditions grow into unpredictable large scale weather phenomena. At the smallest microscopic scale, superposition of quantum states makes large scale weather unpredictable in principal. Weather affects everything and appears, over time, to be random within poorly defined bounds.

      Tom Cohoe

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    3. "Science has regressed in its predictive abilities"

      An ignorantly un-scientific assertion. Please cite the source of your example.

      Delete
    4. Tom Cohoe

      The fact that the behaviour of non-linear systems cannot be predicted with absolute precision is hardly a recent revelation and even less demonstrates that ' science has regressed in its predictive abilities'.

      Your assertion that ' the jackboot has always been against religion' is laughable. It is only very recently in human history that in some parts of the world we have managed to tame religion and sever its previously all emcompassing tentacles, though across much of the planet it still maintains its oppressive vice-like grip. Of course, many of the contributors on this site pine for the day when the jackboot will return here too - not in the form of the Islaamic caliphate of course, but as a Roman Catholic theocratic or integralist world order.

      Delete
    5. @ FreeThinker,

      "The fact that the behaviour of non-linear systems cannot be predicted with absolute precision is hardly a recent revelation and even less demonstrates that ' science has regressed in its predictive abilities'."

      It is most definitely a regression in the predictive abilities of modern science, codified as finite strings of symbols from a finite alphabet, which you may call the collective "laws", "findings", or "thoughts" of modern science (post Newton, Galileo, etc., of that era). The "God is being pushed into an ever dwindling corner" claim peaked in the nineteenth century and has been fighting a rear guard action ever since. The "old" quantum mechanics in which Planck discovered Planck's constant ~1900 and Einstein the quantum of action in 1905, hinted at uncertainty in physical law. In 1926, quantum mechanics was essentially completed, and uncertainty became an integral principle of our best physical science. The thought of the mass of antideists that submicroscopic uncertainty could have no effect in our macroscopic world is obviously wrong because we could never have discovered quantum mechanics were not these probabilistic events able to effect events that we could detect with our senses. In fact, it is easy to think of an apparatus in which probabilistic microscopic events (measurable decay intervals in a radioactive sample) causes a switch to be thrown followed by as large a macroscopic choice as you like.

      Here is a retreat of scientism actually based on the conclusions of real science.

      Lorenz's simple model brought the realization that precise prediction in weather was impossible because of amplification of initial conditions, but the fact that the initial conditions are themselves limited in precision further implies that weather prediction is not just limited by amplification of initial conditions in deterministic chaos, but is impossible in principle because the initial conditions themselves are necessarily probablistic.

      You seem to think that the fact that Lorenz's model was elucidated in the 1960's means that scientism is not beating a retreat, but that is ridiculous. This kind of understanding does not happen overnight.

      I can tell you much more about how the 'God hypothesis' passes a formal scientific test, the failure of which would make it much harder to maintain a claim that God plays an ongoing role in our world. The existence of the random itself is such evidence, but it is better than you think, but that has to be all for now.

      (Contined)

      Tom Cohoe

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    6. @ Tom Cohoe

      (Continuation)

      Now regarding your claim that the Catholic Church has been a "jackboot" from which now we are "escaping" and for which escape you will "fight":

      My friend, that pseudo-history is a Marxist wet dream. You would think that the Marxist dictators had never killed millions upon millions of their own pacific subjects. Come down to Earth. Almost all wars, internal like Marxist's against their own people, or external, as between powers, are conducted by princes or other non-religious rulers. The Church has had very limited power, being usually more concerned in not being ruled in their own affairs by princes. Even were princes were often bishops, as with the Holy Roman Empire, these Bishops were appointed, not to give the Church power in the states, but to increase the emporer's hold over the state as the celibate bishop could not found a dynasty but would leave the appointment of the next ruler in the Emporer's hands. Meanwhile the Church was usually trying to fend off control by states, even where the crown was formally placed on the ruler's head by the Church.

      This is not to say that the Church, on Earth in fallible human hands ne er did wrong, but your idea of the "jackboot" of the Church is just plain false.

      Your "escape" would not be what you imagine, but that is all I can say for now because I have to run to Eucharistic Adoration where I will be in the real presence of Jesus for one hour.

      I have not had time to check over this comment for expression, grammar, intelligibility, or completeness, which I usually try to do so forgive me for any consequent clumsiness.

      Tom Cohoe

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  54. @ Papalinton,

    The famous Edward Lorenz himself put it this way:

    "Chaos: When the present determines the future, but the approximate present does not approximately determine the future."

    http://mpe.dimacs.rutgers.edu/2013/03/17/chaos-in-an-atmosphere-hanging-on-a-wall/

    Unfortunately, the atmosphere is a dynamical system whose state can never be more than approximate. This is because the mathematical Hilbert Space in which the state of the atmosphere is properly described allows only a _probability_ amplitude to be defined over a distribution of possible states because of the complementarity of position and momentum in the particles constituting the atmosphere. This is commonly known as the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hilbert_space

    So the atmosphere has built in, unavoidable in principle, uncertainty in its state at any point in time, and that uncertainty diverges rapidly. That's the "does not" part of the Edward Lorenz quotation above.

    Tom Cohoe

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  55. Tom.
    Lorenz's treatise on weather patterns is somewhat old technology now. And while the uncertainty principle might be relevant in some part of the formation of weather unpredictability, his work has been somewhat superseded by the application of the work of Benoit Mandelbrot, the discover of Fractal Geometry, a new 'geometry of nature' as it has been tagged.

    "So what exactly is a fractal? A fractal is a never-ending pattern. They are created by repeating a simple process over and over. Instead of focusing on rigid geometry, Mandelbrot created new equations in shapes that were rough and jagged. “I conceived and developed a new geometry of nature and implemented its use in a number of diverse fields. It describes many of the irregular and fragmented patterns around us, and leads to full-fledged theories, by identifying a family of shapes I call fractals.”


    Interestingly, as reported:
    "Today, we have merely scratched the surface of what fractal geometry can teach us. Weather patterns, stock market price variations and galaxy clusters have all proven to be fractal in nature, but what will we do with this insight? Where will the rabbit hole take us? The possibilities, like the Mandelbrot set, are infinite."

    You might wish to read up the on massive impact Fractal Geometry has made in improving the capacity to predict from seemingly unpredictable settings, such as weather, etc.

    HERE is an Interesting article that's worth a read.

    Cheers



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  56. @ Papalinton,

    I have Mandelbrot's "The Fractal Geometry of Nature" and programmed fractals on my computer a long time ago already. They do not predict the future but can be used, in a limited way, to reproduce a type or image of a geometry, which could include a geometry with time as a parameter. For example, suppose you want to reproduce the projection of a geometry of a range of the Rocky Mountains into some multi-dimensional mathematical space suitable for running on a computer. The first problem is that if you zoom in using the fractal parameters, equivalent to predicting an unseen future with time parameterized, you will find that it doesn't predict the details correctly. That is because the mountains aren't really a fractal phenomenon at all. Another problem is that as you zoom in or zoom out, reality doesn't look like the same fractal at all. For example, zoom out far enough and your scale shows planets orbiting the sun. Zoom in far enough and you get gravel, slides, and erosion differentiated by orientation of the face being eroded, and of course you can zoom in further and get greater changes. Fractals are good for artistic effects, but they fail as accurate models of nature. There are more problems than what I have described.

    Michael Barnsley founded a corporation called, if I recall correctly, "Iterated Fractal Systems" that was supposed to be able to compress especially visual representations like photographs. You may remember the famous image of a fern. If I recall correctly, his compression system was a lossy compression that worked no better than other lossy systems, some of which I experimented with. He wrote a book about his system full of mathematical theorems, the name of which I cannot recall off the top of my head. I have the book but it would take me a while to track it down. As I recall, there seemed to be something wrong with his premises. I believe he sold IFS for a big profit, but no one has been able to use his system to get the results he claimed it could give. It sounds like Pons and Fleischmann's cold fusion imbroglio all over again, which produced a lot of heat between various investigators, but no unambiguous repeatable results demonstrating energy production from controlled cold fusion.

    Fractals that simulate a real geometry can give a quantity called fractal dimension for example of a surface, but it is not the same number as you change scale and there is not a one to one correspondence between fractal dimension and the objects modeled. Fractals are also interesting, of course, in their own right as mathematical objects, but nature is not a fractal object.

    I found two Barnsley books: "Fractals Everywhere" by Barnsley and "Fractal Image Compression" by Barnsley and Lyman P. Hurd. They are both mathematical texts.

    You can read about Fractal Compression and its history here:

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_compression

    The company that ended up with Barnsley's company gave up on fractal compression entirely a few years ago.

    Tom Cohoe

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  57. Yes Tom, I'm very much aware of the issue of fractal compression. And like good mathematics and good science, Barnsley wasn't able to crack fractal compression this time as he had envisioned it. But the search doesn't end there. As a reminder, science operates in largely incremental steps, building from small steps, each step adding another piece to the knowledge base puzzle over time, the important cumulative effect of which leads science to a higher plain of understanding; not unlike in many ways the inverse of fractal geometry. Neat, hey!

    Because fractal research is very much in its infancy (since about the 1970s I think), "What is not immediately apparent to scientists entering this field is that there is no consensus on a number of the most basic issues, even amongst experts. Terms, such as those mentioned at the beginning of this paper, and procedures used in fractal analysis need to be understood before
    fractal analysis becomes an effective tool." [See Here

    ".. but nature is not a fractal object."
    Says who? You? [Apart from O.R. Shenker]

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    Replies
    1. @ Papalinton,

      I abandoned interest in fractals long ago because they are obviously a boondoggle. The problem with fractals isn't hard to understand. You can't reversibly compress a finite number of arrangements of constituent objects into a smaller number of fractal parameters. The compression cannot be reversible. For example, consider a universe of 3 objects, 1, 2, and 3, and a state of the universe that consists only in the order of those objects. Then the possible states are 123,231,312,132,321, and 213. That's 6 states from 3 objects. So we need 6 fractal parameters in the fractal representaion of these 6 states. But these fractal parameters are new objects in their own right.


      Call them A, B, C, D, E, and F. But the fractal with its 6 parameters must exist in in the static representation of the universe, which implies a need for more than the 6 states available in the universe.

      This means that no fractal can represent more than a fraction of the states that can generate it and that is why fractal representations are called lossy. You can compress some states (simple ones) without loss, but that is possible only where the representation of other (more complicated) states is impossible. The fractal representation of these other states can only be something meaning "irreversible noise" or "randomness", from which the state that generated it cannot be recovered, only a similar representation indistinguishable by the fractal.

      You can't do experimental science into what is unknown by studying a fractal ... which cannot represent it.

      It's not going to work, and you can bring all the scientistic faith to this that you want. Scientific research and scientistic faith are distinct things.

      There is only one existing thing in which the intellectual representation is indistinguishable from the thing represented and that is the mind of God ... which is God.

      I think you should re-read as much of Aquinas as you can, this time, instead of looking to find it wrong, looking to find the sense in it. I think you are blocked by some concept that is false, which, in itself prevents you from doing sufficiently careful thinking because it leads to contradictions, so you, perhaps unknowingly, shy away from this thinking even though you are perfectly capable of it. You have to find out how to abandon the blocking concept.

      That experimental science can answer any well formulated meaningful question about what we can perceive through our senses is a blocking concept, and it is called "scientism". Get rid of that idea and you will have taken a great leap ahead.

      Tom Cohoe

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    2. Sorry, Tom. I find it rather tiresome now to respond to your artful deflection to God [which one? Jehovah of Judaism, Allah, Ganesha, the trinitarian christian god (boy have I got a deal for you: buy one and we'll throw in two for free), Shiva, Brahma, Vishnu? More choices than a half-decent Walmart].

      As for philosophy, I would rather go to the original source, Aristotle, rather than read the Catholicised version. If there is any blocking evident in this discussion it is that of a mind fixated on, and appears to have atrophied in 13th century thinking.

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  58. @ Papalinton,

    Maybe complete thinking about the limits of finite minds includes considering how these limits disappear with an infinite mind, but for some reason you can't handle it and switch to insinuation and talk about "atrophied minds".

    OK, but it fails as a defense of fractals.

    Tom Cohoe


    ReplyDelete