Always someone more socially just than you…

I suppose that’s not actually true if you’re willing to go the full Pol Pot, but it’s what popped into my mind reading Jonathan Chait’s widely read lament over the rejuvenation of political correctness (which he bizarrely thinks has been dormant for the past two decades) and its propensity to terrorize not only conservatives but also its fellow liberals.  Chait assures readers that he is a liberal, one of the good guys in the Left’s Manichean worldview.  That is, he shares the same totalitarian goals as the politically correct (rewriting human nature and civilization to eliminate “racism” and “sexism”) but not their totalitarian means.  The way Leftists cower before their extremist factions makes me glad not to be in their orbit at all.  (Then again, the writers mentioned in that article can write under their real names.)  In opposition to PC’s bullying tactics, Chait affirms liberalism’s faith in reason, that is, a confidence that people can be carried along by the Leftist tide without resorting to coercion.

I don’t think reasonable liberals appreciate how much the power of reason for their cause depends on its ugly coercive accompaniment.  On its own, reason can do very little to convert nonliberals into liberals.  The arguments for liberalism nearly always involve question-begging invocations of a “freedom” or “equality” whose authority we don’t recognize; such appeals have little power over someone who hasn’t already committed himself to the Lockean nonsense.  In a freer market of ideas, the basic assumptions underlying universalism, democracy, and sexual nominalism could be subjected to critique and repudiation.  The debate over basic principles doesn’t happen because even moderate liberals–even the ones who call themselves “Republicans”–agree that these should be off limits and that the enforcement mechanisms of PC are appropriate against patriarchists, monarchists, and ethnonationalists.  About a year ago, I noted that the rules of public respectability in America allow a man to oppose gay marriage but forbid him to have any reason for doing so, since reasons would have to involve forbidden beliefs in distinct sex roles, nonliberal sexual morality, and/or a social interest in regulating sex and paternity.  With the game set up like this, there’s only one way it can proceed.  Liberals easily imagine that the operation of reason must necessarily be to commend an ever more rigorous implementation of liberal principles, because that is how it operates in the current environment.

Against the Nietzschean conservatives

With some in the neoreactionary crowd toying with the idea of inventing a religion, Right Scholarship‘s very quotable warnings are quite timely.  Some excerpts:

A member of the neoreaction twittersphere suggested that I check out a transcript of a 2007 talk by Jonathan Bowden, which is available on Counter-Currents Publishing site as “Credo: A Nietzschean Testament.” It is a perfect example of Right Nietzscheanism.

Bowden says, “I believe that strength comes from belief, in things which are philosophically grounded and appear real to you.” In other words, belief functions as an expression of the will to power, as long as the things that you believe in “appear real to you” (italics mine)….

The problem is that these archaic ideas from the past, reconstituted through the will to power, will not be quite the same as they were before. Like the reanimated beings that rise from Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery, they will be a little different, and a little unstable, with a tendency to turn against their owners….

When an older moral regime is reconstructed, the reconstruction will be different from the original in that those living under the original regime viewed its structure as something ‘given’—something rooted in truth or nature or the will of God—while those living under the reconstruction can never achieve that same level of naiveté. The inhabitants of the reconstruction must always struggle to believe, even when they know, on some level, that the principles that guide them are rootless. Such is the difference between a Norse pagan of the ninth century and the twenty-first century neo-pagan. Does the latter really believe that Thor and Odin exist?

To provide an antidote to all this stifling Nietzscheanism, I will briefly introduce a thinker whose photo graces this site: the amateur philosopher T.E. Hulme (1883-1917)…

This passage is from Hulme’s seminal essay “A Tory Philosophy,” but I have quoted it from a review in the New Criterion by Roger Kimball, which incidentally serves as a decent introduction to Hulme. (If I can find my copy of “A Tory Philosophy” I will provide a proper citation.)

Here is Hulme describing his position regarding religion:

“I want to emphasize as clearly as I can, that I attach very little value indeed to the sentiments attaching to the religious attitude. I hold, quite coldly and intellectually as it were, that the way of thinking about the world and man, the conception of sin, and the categories which ultimately make up the religious attitude, are the true categories and the right way of thinking. . . . It is not, then, that I put up with the dogma for the sake of the sentiment, but that I may possibly swallow the sentiment for the sake of the dogma” (Hulme 70-71).

Dogma is superior to sentiment, and truth superior to tradition—this is the core of Hulme’s message.

Catholic integralism announces itself

It would seem a new school of internet antiliberals has become conscious of itself.  Gabriel Sanchez divides Catholic political thinkers into liberals, radicals, and integralists.  The liberals think some sort of reconciliation between liberalism and Catholicism is viable and desirable–First Things under Father Neuhaus would be a classic case of this.  Radicals and integralists reject liberalism as a philosophical error and heresy.  The difference between these two camps is less sharp (see here).  From my reading of Sanchez, integralists are those who base themselves on pre-conciliar theology and Magisterial teaching, while radicals work from the post-conciliar Communio school of theology and inherit its sense of distinction from pre-conciliar Thomism.  Reminiscent of what I have said about the Orthosphere, Sanchez observes that integralists identify themselves with 19th-century counter-revolutionaries, rather than (as is the case for most conservative movements today) defining themselves in distinction to them.  Integralists are also distinguished by the central place they give to the social kingship of Christ.  They have their own group blog.

Needless to say, I’m happy to see integralism self-consciously resurrecting itself and look forward to learning from it for years to come.

In which the pope is reminded that you don’t have to always log in as root, and probably shouldn’t

Even when one is an absolute monarch, it is best to bring the plenitude of one’s authority to bear only when necessary.  This is quite clear to me as absolute lord of my computer.

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Teaching students to think

Via the indispensable Reaction Times, I came across this remarkable essay titled “Rote learning rocks, critical thinking sucks.”  It’s a polemic against the pedagogical dogma that teachers should teach critical thinking skills rather than bare facts.  The author points out 1) this means directing energy from what is easy to what is difficult to enhance, because critical thinking is related to innate intelligence, 2) memorization is not valueless, because it gives the intelligent a base of information to think critically about.  I admire the author to rejecting educationist cant and taking a genuinely fresh look at this issue.

As a teacher who generates a lot of student hostility by refusing to base my classes on memorization, I will offer a few thoughts.

  1. I agree that teaching students “how to think” shouldn’t be the direct goal of a class.  Even if one believes such a thing is possible, it can surely be more effectively done by forcing students to apply their minds to some particular subject.  In any case, the dichotomy between teaching “how to think” vs. teaching “what to think” is often dishonestly made, in that there are often different ways of categorizing data and formulating problems, and which one is brought to bear on a given problem predisposes one to a certain answer.  So, for example, one can teach students to apply a hermeneutic of suspicion, of sniffing out power and privilege in any social phenomenon, and this will inevitably lead students to Marxist conclusions, even if Marxism isn’t laid down as dogma on day one.  Teaching “how to think” can often be a more insidious form of propaganda, because students imagine that the conclusions they are lead to are their own.
  2. It is not clear if one can be taught to think, but one can be given the opportunity to think, and ability to think does benefit from practice.  A good teacher will be mindful of this when dealing with his brighter pupils.
  3. In fact, the focus of my own classes is neither thinking skills in the abstract nor bare facts but concepts, which would seem to be a middle term between the other two.  Now, if one wants to understand a nontrivial concept, the way to do it is to be forced to use the concept and observe its manifestation in various limits.  One must go through this mental process oneself for cases not studied in class to make sure one is manipulating the concept itself rather than remembering examples from class.  One could say that this forces students to think, but thinking as a means to understanding.

Promoting monarchy in movies

Hollywood is, as everybody knows, controlled by our enemies.  And yet somehow, movies have overall been pretty good to the cause of monarchy.  School teaches us to have negative associations with words like “monarchy”, “authority”, “feudal”, “medieval”, while movies end up giving us positive associations with “king”, “queen”, “princess”, “knight”, and “royal”.  This needs explaining.

Republicans generally have no understanding of the appeal of monarchy.  They think that a monarchist must be either an aspiring tyrant who secretly sees himself as the coming king, a fool who imagines that only exceptional men will ever occupy the throne, or a childishly servile fellow who “can’t handle” the freedom of adulthood.  There’s no sense that monarchy may actually enable a certain type of human excellence, that loyalty to a leader–not because of his personal charisma, but because of an order of legitimacy that transcends both ruler and ruled–can be a manly, virile, and intelligent attribute.

This is a weakness of the republican consensus.  The idea of a brave and loyal subject is intuitive to most boys.  Progressive doctrines, republicanism included, take a very extreme, and thus difficult to defend position–that rival positions have absolutely nothing to be said for them.  So it is that a historian will complain when a Civil War documentary gives the Northern justification 15 minutes and the Southern justification 15 seconds, not because of the imbalance, but because the South was allowed a say at all.  So it is that sodomy marriage advocates feel compelled to say not that their arguments are better, but that their opponents don’t have any arguments at all.  Not a shred of ambiguity, not a single trade-off or shade of grey, is allowed in the official narrative.  Only their control of the media makes it possible for them to advance such a fragile position.

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Russia’s birthrate now the highest in Europe

According to Anatoly Karlin at

Back in the First Things stage of my intellectual development, I was told that, despite appearances, Vatican II was a good thing because without it, we would be stagnant and on our way to extinction like the Eastern Orthodox, who never had the benefit of “confronting modernity”.  (The gulags don’t count.)

Yes, I’m so grateful to Pope John that instead of being confident, resurgent, and fertile like the Russians, Catholics are devoting our energies to discerning the “spiritual gifts” of homosexual couples.