The dilemmas of pseudonymity

Not many of my readers know my true identity.  (At least, I think you don’t.)  That means, when I write “I believe…” or “I approve of…”, most of you don’t know who this “I” is.  From time to time, this has presented an unexpected dilemma for me, in that I have to decide who “I” am, i.e. who my blog persona is.  I suppose this is a general feature of pseudonymity.  There are several posibilities:

  1. “I” might refer to my actual self:  a 21st century American assistant professor of physics with a wife and unborn baby.  With no separation between self and persona, I could feel free to disgourge my opinions on anything–music, movies, NSF’s funding priorities.  “bonald”‘s opinions = my opinions.
  2. “I” might be the historical Louis de Bonald.  I could limit myself to explaining and applying this French thinker’s beliefs, and I would remain silent on issues onto which the historical Bonald’s recorded opinions don’t speak.  At times, this might even lead me to post opinions contrary to my personal beliefs.
  3. “I” might be a sort of distilled essence of traditionalist conservatism.  The opinions I present would be my own, but only those opinions that flow from traditionalist core principles.

Most of the time, I’ve stuck with persona 3, although occasionally I’ve slipped into 1 when I mention events in my personal life.  (These are real events, not imaginary events in the life of my web persona.)  As for 2, I am content to say that this blog derives in key ways from the French counter-revolutionary tradition.

The only real case where this has been an issue is over religion, a topic we do talk a lot about here.  Is “bonald” a Catholic?  By both 1 and 2, he would be, but not by 3.  Being a traditionalist does not logically entail being a Roman Catholic.  For this reason, I try to be careful not to turn this into an apologetics site.  The point of this website is to promote traditionalism in its purity with no extras.  Conservative Protestants are welcome here, and they probably won’t find anything here to disagree with.  It’s not that the differences between Protestantism and Catholicism aren’t important.  It’s just that these differences can’t be resolved solely by appeal to shared traditionalist principles, and for clarity’s sake, separate ideas should be treated separately.  Obviously, the same goes for the Eastern Orthodox.

When we leave Christianity, things become less clear.  Could there be Muslim traditionalists?  Buddhist traditionalists?  Atheist traditionalists?  By the operative definition of this website, namely “can you agree to the points in all my big essays”, the answers would be (I think) “yes”, “no”, and “no”.  I’m only really clear on that last one, though.

6 Responses

  1. Interesting.

  2. Interesting. My blogging probably has more of persona 1 to it than yours; although I share most of the views expressed in your essays, my blog is less about promoting a particular world-view and more about scribbling down whatever opinions or ideas come into my head.

    Do you think one can be a traditionalist deist or non-denominational philosophical theist? I’m curious, as I bracket my religious views somewhere between the two while also, as mentioned, sharing many of your views.

  3. Nondenominational theism is certainly no problem (at least as far as traditionalism goes), because conservative principles don’t depend on any particular revelation. So, for example, if somebody dug up Jesus Christ’s bones tomorrow, I don’t see that I would have to change any of my writings here, even the theological ones. One may be agnostic about claims of divine revelation or even positively disbelieve in them all. Many deists, however, go farther and are actually hostile to the idea of divine communication or “interferance” in the affairs of men. This begins to be more problematic, conservatively speaking. The belief, common among deists, that I think would be incompatible with traditionalism is the idea that man can only approach God individually through reason and not corporately through ritual, i.e. hostility toward “organized religion”. A conservative might believe that all existing organized religions are (partly) false, but he can’t be hostile to such an enterprise in principle.

  4. That jibes well with my views, as I have no problem at all with the ideas of ritual or organized religion. Similarly, while I obviously can’t really endorse the historical accuracy of any specific revelations, myths, or miracles, I don’t deny that such accounts can be both true and valuable.

  5. Wait a second, Bonald, you wouldn’t have to change even your theological writings if they dug up Jesus Christ’s bones tomorrow?! I think St. Paul would have something else to say (1 Cor. 15:17).

  6. Hi Stephen,

    Of course, my religious beliefs would be profoundly altered, but I don’t think any of the claims I’ve made on this weblog would be particularly affected. Whether or not this is a good thing is another question, and I’m not sure of the answer. On the one hand, it seems innocent to devote one’s time to promoting those truths that are knowable apart from divine revelation. They are, after all, still truths. It is arguably a service to revealed truth as well, because, in my opinion, more people reject Christianity for its affirmation of natural law and natural theology than for its specifically revealed aspects (the Trinity, Incarnation, etc.) So I think it’s useful to make arguments that say to unbelievers, “all right, even if we put aside claims that Jesus is God and the Bible is inspired, unaided reason can show that you are wrong and the Church is right on those points where you’ve chosen to pick fights.” On the other hand, the Christian’s duty is preach Christ crucified, not natural religion and the virtues of monarchy. I am certainly negligent there. Also, I may be wrong to worry that people will get confused if I mix revealed and naturally-knowable truths. The former can illuminate the latter.

    For the time being, I’ve held back from discussing some issues for a more practical reason. I don’t really feel qualified right now to write an essay like “In defense of the historical reliability of the New Testament”. Of course, that doesn’t get me off the hook, given St. Peter’s “always be prepared to give an answer…”

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