The Cult of Reason – The Dark Side of the Enlightenment
From the desk of Fjordman on Wed, 2009-12-09 00:23
Manifesto was written already in 1848 by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and Marx
Kapital in 1867. There are those who believe that Marxism could only have been
born in a Christian environment, and there are also those who claim that the
real father of Communism was Plato in ancient Greece, not Karl Marx. So where
exactly did the West go wrong, and just how far back do we have to go before
things were “right”? 1950? 1850? Before the Enlightenment and
industrialization? Before Christianity? Before Plato?
Christian conservative writer Lawrence Auster
admits that modern liberalism “would not have come into existence without
Christianity, and liberalism can fairly be described as a secularized offshoot
of Christianity,” but he thinks that this does not necessarily mean that all
forms of Christianity in every context have been or need to be suicidal, which
may be true.
jury is still out on whether Christian universalism is suicidal for Europeans
in a world of global communications where most Christians are non-Europeans,
yet I am convinced that we must take a look at a dark side of the Enlightenment
which can be dubbed the Cult of Reason.
In some Western
countries – the United States in particular – the term “Judeo-Christian” is
frequently evoked. This makes sense in some contexts but not in all. The European
artistic legacy from the medieval era on could be more accurately described as
“Helleno-Christian” since figurative art never held a prominent place in
traditional Jewish culture. While it is possible that elements of Jewish chant
were incorporated into early Christian religious music, the tradition of
polyphony which led up to Bach, Mozart and Beethoven was a unique Christian
European development of the Middle Ages with no direct counterpart in Judaism.
Christianity was deeply affected by its Greco-Roman and Germanic environment,
there is no doubt that it adopted a number of important philosophical ideas and
ethical concepts that were uniquely Judaic and had no real precedent in pagan
European religions, for instance the idea of history as a linear process of
progress toward a specific end goal. Author Henry Bamford Parkes writes in Gods
and Men - The Origins of Western Culture:
“The most significant feature of the Jewish heritage, however, was its view of history. Other ancient peoples had believed in a golden age, but had always located it in the past at the beginning of time. Israel alone looked forward to a golden age in the future and interpreted history as a meaningful and progressive movement toward this Messianic consummation. Originating in tribalistic loyalty, and reflecting the determination of a weak people to retain its identity in spite of conquest and enslavement, the Messianic hope was given universal scope by the prophets and became the end toward which all earthly events were moving. In various manifestations, religious and secular, spiritual and materialistic, it became one of those dynamic social myths which give meaning and direction to human life and which have more influence on human action than any rational philosophy. Unless its importance is understood, the development not merely of the Jewish people but also of the whole Western world becomes unintelligible.”
Lynn White, a
prominent American professor of medieval history, states that “The victory of
Christianity over paganism was the greatest psychic revolution in the history
of our culture,” and its effects are clearly apparent even in our supposedly
post-Christian culture: “Our daily habits of action, for example, are dominated
by an implicit faith in perpetual progress which was unknown either to
Greco-Roman antiquity or to the Orient. It is rooted in, and is indefensible
apart from, Judeo-Christian theology.” The fact that Marxists share this concept
of a nonrepetitive and linear progression where history moves inexorable
towards a specific end demonstrates to Lynn White that Marxism “is a
Defending the West, author Ibn Warraq argues that the
“golden threads” of Western culture can have negative side effects: “It could
be argued that the three defining characteristics of the West – rationalism,
universalism (with its underlying or implied liberalism), and self-criticism –
can lead to their opposites, or to other undesirable consequences.”
Dutch-Somali ex-Muslim and Islam-critic Ayaan Hirsi Ali in a
review of The Suicide of Reason in The
New York Times states that Lee Harris is
correct that many Western leaders are terribly confused about the Islamic
world. “The problem, however, is not too much reason but too little. Harris
also fails to address the enemies of reason within the West: religion and the
Romantic movement. It is out of rejection of religion that the Enlightenment
emerged; Romanticism was a revolt against reason. Both the Romantic movement
and organized religion have contributed a great deal to the arts and to the
spirituality of the Western mind, but they share a hostility to modernity.
Moral and cultural relativism (and their popular manifestation,
multiculturalism) are the hallmarks of the Romantics.”
I have tremendous respect for Ali’s personal courage, her simplistic
understanding of this period resembles Enlightenment fundamentalism, and her
dismissal of religion as inherently anti-rational is a caricature. Rémi
Brague, a French professor of religious philosophy, notes that the
connection between rationalism and irrationalism is quite complex:
“Two examples: the high point of magic is not situated in the Middle Ages, but just before and just after. The first high point was late Neoplatonism: Proclus (d. 485) placed magic (or ‘theurgy’) higher than all human knowledge; the second came in Renaissance Florence of the fifteenth century. Nor should we forget the contents of Newton’s famous trunk. That great thinker was just as interested in an exegesis of the Book of Revelation as he was in celestial mechanics. Magic and science are twin sisters, but one prospered while the other declined. The real danger lies in the paradox of your formula: ‘believe in reason.’ For the ideology of the Enlightenment, which is still widespread among the intellectual proletariat, it is one thing or the other: either one believes, or one is rational. Reason is expected to destroy belief and replace it with knowledge. That reason itself is the object of a belief is a bit hard to swallow. Still, Nietzsche had already identified in the belief in the truth a final echo of a belief that was first Platonic, then Christian (‘Platonism for the people’). Many of those who think themselves rationalists [are] just as irrational as their targets.”
such as Edward Grant and David
have convincingly demonstrated that European scholars placed unusual emphasis
on reason by global standards even during the medieval era. This
Helleno-Christian stress on logic was a critical factor in the rise of modern
science and the concept of a world governed by natural laws that could be
discovered and described by humans. The nineteenth-century
German philosopher and atheist Arthur Schopenhauer wondered where the European
notion of a law-governed universe came from.
to Lee Harris,
“No scientist can possibly argue that science has proven the universe to be
rule-governed throughout all of space and all of time. As Kant argued in his Critique
of Judgment, scientists must begin by assuming that nature is rational through and through: It is a
necessary hypothesis for doing science at all. But where did this hypothesis,
so vital to science, come from? The answer, according to Schopenhauer, was that
modern scientific reason derived its model of the universe from the Christian
concept of God as a rational Creator who has intelligently designed every last
detail of the universe ex nihilo.
It was this Christian idea of God that permitted Europeans to believe that the
universe was a rational cosmos. Because Europeans had been brought up to imagine
the universe as the creation of a rational intelligence, they naturally came to
expect to find evidence of this intelligence wherever they looked--and,
strangely enough, they did.”
emphasizes the Socratic
basis of Western thought. In his essay Socrates or Muhammad? he states that after Kant, from the point of view of
modern reason, all religious faiths are equally irrational. Yet if the
individual is free to choose between violence and reason, it will become
impossible to create a community in which all the members restrict themselves
to using reason to obtain their objectives. The rational man’s choice must be
that “If you are given a choice between religions, always prefer the religion
that is most conducive to creating a community of reasonable men, even
if you don't believe in it yourself.”
Herder, one of Immanuel Kant’s most illustrious students, pondered what kind of
culture had been necessary to produce the European Enlightenment. His
conclusion was that Europe alone had achieved “cultures of reason.” In the vast
majority of human societies, men were governed by a blind adherence to
tradition or by brute force. Modern scientific reason was the product of
European cultures of reason, the outcome of an encounter between Biblical faith
and Greek philosophical inquiry “with the subsequent addition of the Roman
In ancient China, the leading
Confucian thinker Mencius believed that man’s
nature is innately good,
something which many post-Enlightenment Western thinkers would agree on. An
echo of Thomas Hobbes’ darker view of “war
against all” can
be detected in the dark novel Lord of the Flies by the English author William Golding (1911-1993),
published in 1954 after the atrocities of the Second World War made it
difficult to uphold the most positive views of man’s nature. In the novel, a
group of British schoolboys are plane-wrecked on a deserted island. Their
attempts at rational self-rule soon deteriorate into pure savagery.
Russian ex-pat author Alexander Boot, who fled from the Communist rule of the
Soviet Union, sees Western
history as a prolonged internal struggle between two different beings which he
calls Modman and Westman. Modman saw
himself as close to divine; Westman had a humble respect for tradition that made him immune to the
“self-deification” of Modman: “…the humility of a Bach is alien to a Modman;
his pride, the hubris of someone who is his own God, cannot accept the
existence of a hierarchy in which he himself is not at the top.”
the emphasis on human reason has been a key factor of Western thought for many
centuries, two new developments took place following the Enlightenment. The
belief in man’s innate goodness became more widespread, in contradiction of
Christian doctrines, and belief in God declined. Man became his own God with
the ability to create his own reality. By far the most influential and arguably
the most destructive of the new post-Enlightenment ideologies addicted to the
“self-deification of mankind” was Marxism.
great Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski (1927-2009) was born
in the city of Radom, south of Warsaw. After the Germans invaded the country in
1939 at the beginning of the Second World War his father, a political writer,
was killed by the Gestapo and his family was exiled to a primitive village in
eastern Poland. There the young Leszek found a library in the house of a minor
nobleman and started educating himself. After the war he got a doctorate at
Warsaw University and became professor of modern philosophy in 1964.
began as an orthodox Marxist but in 1968 moved to the West. His most
influential work was a three-volume history of Marxism
– Main Currents of Marxism (1978). He
called this philosophy “the greatest fantasy of our century” and argued that
Stalinist repression was not a perversion of it but its natural conclusion; the
abolition of private property and the subordination of the market to state
control provided “a good blueprint for converting human society into a giant
concentration camp,” and the “belief in laws of history was a Hegelian and
Marxian delusion.” He was severely critical of Western apologists who suggested
that (imaginary) economic progress in Communist countries justified the lack of
political freedom and dismissed the idea of democratic Socialism as just as
“contradictory as a fried snowball.”
Kolakowski saw Western
relativism as corrosive, too. The post-Nietzschean faith of postmodernism which
said there are no facts, only interpretations, “abolishes the idea of human
responsibility and moral judgments.” According to this view, “There are no
valid rules for establishing truth; consequently, there is no such thing as
truth. There is no need to elaborate on the disastrous cultural effects of such
a theory.” In the Enlightenment tradition we can encounter disrespect for
historical knowledge, yet “The history of past generations is our history, and
we need to know it in order to be aware of our identity; in the same sense in
which my own memory builds my personal identity, makes me a human subject.”
As writer Roger Kimball
puts it, “In ‘Man Does Not Live by Reason Alone’ (1991), Kolakowski argues that
‘mankind can never get rid of the need for religious self-identification: who am
I, where did I come from, where do I fit in, why am I responsible, what does my
life mean, how will I face death? Religion is a paramount aspect of human
culture. Religious need cannot be ex-communicated from culture by rationalist
incantation. Man does not live by reason alone.’ He shows how the tendency to
believe that all human problems have a technical solution is an unfortunate
inheritance from the Enlightenment—‘even,’ he notes, ‘from the best aspects of the
Enlightenment: from its struggle against intolerance, self-complacency,
superstitions, and uncritical worship of tradition.’ There is much about human
life that is not susceptible to human remedy or intervention. Our allegiance to
the ideal of unlimited progress is, paradoxically, a dangerous moral limitation
that is closely bound up with what Kolakowski calls the loss of the sacred.”
In 1793, during the bloody period of
the French Revolution known as the Reign of Terror, Reason with a
capital “R” was literally elevated to the status of a goddess in Paris and
other cities in a new religion or Cult of Reason. All revolutionaries since then have sought to
destroy the old world and establish a new order on the basis of reason alone.
According to author Lee Harris, “All modern revolutionary movements since the
French revolution have displayed the same unrealistic overconfidence in the
power of pure reason. All revolutionary movements aim to liberate the people
from their inherited traditions and create a new man.”
They also invariably bring about the
same result, a return to the law of the jungle, as reliance on reason alone
invariably fails. Harris believes that “The West, uniquely, had even used
reason to try to prove the existence of God, as Anselm attempted in the
eleventh century. Other peoples simply took the existence of the gods for
granted. But in the West, it was not enough to be told there was a God; we must
be able to convince ourselves, by reason alone, that such an entity existed.
What other culture has been annoyed by such doubt?”
This does in no way imply that other
cultures could not produce great logical thinkers, but the Western tradition of
critical reason is
indeed unique. Confucius used reason to defend the traditional values of
Chinese civilization, but it would never have occurred to him that reason alone
could provide the basis of an entire society, as the revolutionaries did during
the French Revolution. The Western tradition of reason and logic is thus an
“The West is unique in preserving, however fitfully, the tradition of critical reason – the reason exhibited by Socrates, for example, in his critique of the Greek pantheon of oversexed and rather adolescent gods and goddesses. Yet the West is also unique in making a virtual fetish of reason, in deifying it, believing that reason and reason alone could be the final judge of all human thought and conduct.”
The emphasis on logic and reason is
one of the golden threads running through Western history, from Greek geometry
and the logical works of Aristotle to the modern world. It is one of the main
reasons why the ancient Greeks created a uniquely sophisticated natural
philosophy and why modern science was born in Europe. Yet traditionally, reason
was looked upon by the ancient Greeks as the distinguishing characteristic of
only a small minority of the human race. Aristotle famously argued that slavery
was a natural condition for those who could not control their impulses. The
Enlightenment elevated belief in reason as a supposedly universal human trait
to new and perhaps unrealistic heights even by Western standards.
Just as the limits imposed on the
use of human reason by a Creator God were seemingly removed, a new set of
limitations were introduced by Charles Darwin. If you believe Darwin's
theory of evolution then we are, in fact, modified apes and at least partly
animals, if not fully so. As reader Eileen
comments at the Gates of Vienna blog, “We are not, though, partly animals.
If we are going to discuss humans from a naturalistic viewpoint, then humans must be wholly animals. There is no other option.”
Moreover, “not only are we modified apes, we ARE apes! Again, quite
extraordinary apes, but apes nonetheless.”
Genius is a documentary by National
Geographic which demonstrates certain intellectual skills exhibited by apes.
According to blogger Conservative
Swede, “apes do not mindlessly ape, but humans can easily be made into
doing that. Whatever an ape does, it has to have an objective purpose, given
reality and his biological interest.” Human beings can learn from teachers and
have more respect for authority figures. This “opens up all sorts of
possibilities, including the building of a symbolic world for the collective
mind, that is a virtual Platonic cave, where the shadow figures displayed by
the masters are observed rather than reality.”
evidence indicates that the DNA of human beings is between 94% and 99%
identical to that of chimpanzees, our closest biological relatives closely
followed by gorillas. In Spain,
the governing Socialists want to grant human
rights to great apes. The dilemma is that it will then become rather
difficult to claim that human beings are 100% rational if we are at the same
time 98% or so identical to chimpanzees, who have been observed to conduct war
against members of the same species. If you believe Lee Harris, the general revulsion
many people feel by observing apes and monkeys explains some of the resistance
“For the basis of this revulsion is none other than ‘the civilizing process’ that has been instilled into us from infancy. The civilizing process has taught us never to throw our feces at other people, not even in jest. It has taught us not to snatch food from other people, not even when they are much weaker than we. It has taught us not to play with our genitals in front of other people, not even when we are very bored. It has taught us not to mount the posterior of other people, not even when they have cute butts. Those who are horrified by our resemblance to the lower primates are not wrong, because it is by means of this very horror of the primate-within that men have been able to transcend our original primate state of nature. It is by refusing to accept our embarrassing kinship with primates that men have been able to create societies that prohibit precisely the kind of monkey business that civilized men and women invariably find so revolting and disgusting. Thou shalt not act like a monkey—this is the essence of all the higher religions, and the summation of all ethical systems.”
light of evolutionary biology, John Locke’s “blank slate” theory from the
Enlightenment cannot be fully correct. Human beings are not blank slates,
biologically speaking. That doesn’t mean that we don't have a rational and
uniquely human side. We do. It’s called “civilization.” The problem is that
after the Enlightenment - and remember here that Marxism itself is a
post-Enlightenment ideology - it became popular in the West to assume that man
is by nature good and rational. This again paved the way for a Cult of Reason
which at times amounted to the deification of the human intellect. The
Protestants talked about Sola Scriptura,
“by Scripture Alone,” but the post-Enlightenment view became “by Reason Alone.”
I have no idea what that is in Latin as my Latin is a bit rusty these days.
view is not compatible with traditional Christianity. All Christian
denominations assume that man is sinful and flawed. However, it is not
compatible with the theory of evolution, either. This insight is of profound
importance and in my view explains the origins of virtually all the failed
Western ideologies of the past two hundred years, from Communism to
Multiculturalism: Their basic assumptions about human nature were and are
fundamentally wrong. Freed from the chains of civilization we will not become
“noble savages.” On the contrary; these chains restrain our inner ape, which
will be unleashed if they are removed. This is why all Marxist ideologies end
in a return to the laws of the jungle: They unleash our inner ape, which will
naturally try to get back to and recreate the jungle where it came from.
biologist Thomas Henry or T. H. Huxley, known as “Darwin’s Bulldog” and the man
who coined the term agnostic, offered a Darwinian interpretation of Saint
Augustine’s doctrine of “original sin.” Unlike the Biblical account of the Fall
of Man from the Book of Genesis where Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise,
for Huxley our original sin is that we are born not as humans but as primates.
Lee Harris again in The Suicide of Reason:
“Today, many quite intelligent men believe that the doctrine of original sin is sheer nonsense. But what arguments could any modern skeptic use against Huxley’s version of original sin, which, unlike Augustine’s, does not require us to believe in a fable about talking serpents and forbidden fruit, but simply the matter-of-fact acceptance of the law of natural selection? If, for Huxley, our original sin is to be born as primates, then the only cure for it is to be made to feel ashamed of our primate nature. It is shame, not reason, that elevated us above the animal. Because Huxley accepted ‘the reality at the bottom of the doctrine of original sin,’ he was forced to recognize that any society, if it hoped to cooperate and thereby survive as a society, had to develop internal defense mechanisms that could keep in check the human animal’s ‘innate tendency to self-assertion.’ For Huxley, the only viable societal mechanism that could perform this task was shame – emotionally wrenching and physiologically manifested shame. Children, from a young age, had to be taught to be ashamed of their inborn animal desire ‘to do nothing but that which pleases them to do.’”
I argue in my online essay Why
Did Europeans Create the Modern World?, the West is now dominated by
Darwinists who don’t believe in the theory of evolution, or rather, fail to
accept the logical consequences of this theory when applied to human beings. I
stand by my previous statement that if you believe that human beings are the
product of evolutionary pressures then there is no such thing as “racism,”
which is a totally anti-scientific term.
Various human groups
will during thousand and tens of thousands of years of natural selection have
adjusted themselves to different natural environments, with results that don’t
merely include superficial differences such as skin color but probably also
mental differences. Yet absurdly, saying this makes you vilified and labeled a
“Nazi” in Western countries today.
I have struggled
to explain why. My conclusion is that we live in a society where the ideal is
not merely Reason Alone but Thought Alone; we are supposed to create an entire
society and physical reality purely by thought, which should result in perfect,
cosmic, universal justice and equality for all. Anything and everything that
impedes with our ability to create this reality must be banned as “irrational”
or “hate.” If God and religion prevent us from creating what we want then God
and religion must be removed; the theory of evolution can take care of that for
us. However, we must be careful not to follow this theory to its logical
conclusion because then biology instead of God would inhibit our ability to
create perfect equality between men and women and between humans of all races.
In short, we must ban reality.
This is in essence
what Political Correctness is all about: Banning any discussion of reality so
we can create a perfect world based on Thought Alone. In a strange sense this
could ironically be seen as the final culmination of millennia of Western use
of reason until we finally succeeded in creating a society based on Reason
Alone. Although I cannot pinpoint exactly how I suspect you could successfully
argue that there is a form of Platonism underlying this mental construct. After
all, in Plato’s world the perfect, unchanging Ideas were physically separated
from observed reality. In a way this is exactly what the modern West has
The dream of a
perfect world of absolute equality may be a beautiful dream but it is a dream,
based on many different false beliefs. It will quickly turn into a very real
nightmare if you try to implement it. Among the largest of these false beliefs
is the idea that man is naturally good and a perfectly rational being. I am
personally not ready to embrace the opposite claim either, that man is by
nature evil or sinful. My preferred view is that man is flawed and imperfect,
yet that is quite sufficient to show that you can never create a perfect
society with universal justice, just like you cannot create a perfect building
using imperfect building materials.
The perfect world
of Reason Alone is beautiful in all its symmetry and mathematical precision.
There is only one problem with it: It is a lie. Unfortunately, the media, the
political and intellectual leaders as well as the education system have become
passionately dedicated to preserving and upholding this lie as The Only Truth
and will ruthlessly harass any dissenters who suggest alternative ideas. This
means that there will be no reality check until the entire mental bubble is
punctured through a painful crash with actual reality. By the time that
happens, the collapse may well take much of the edifice of Western civilization
by reason alone
Submitted by kjvail on Fri, 2009-12-25 15:18.
The Cult of Reason
Submitted by Helian on Tue, 2009-12-15 23:08.
"The perfect world of Reason Alone is beautiful in all its symmetry and mathematical precision. There is only one problem with it: It is a lie."
What is your article but an expression of your own reason? I do not believe in God or any other supernatural beings, but I also do not believe in a "perfect world of Reason Alone." The people you describe in your last paragraph are not rational. Rather, they are religious fanatics. Their religion just happens to be secular. You elevate Reason into an artificial thing in itself, a cult. It is, in fact, just the process of using one's brain to arrive at the truth. Human reason is deeply flawed, and anything but perfect. This must be obvious to anyone capable of rational thought who has observed the human condition. As a result, we must use our reason with proper humility, in the knowledge that attempts to stray far from the path of repeatable experiments will usually land us in intellectual swamps. The fact that our reason is flawed and often leads us to less than perfect conclusions does not mean that, therefore, something else must compensate for those flaws, such as a God. The truth is the truth, regardless of the perceptions and theories of human beings. The fact that you think that a God is needed will not automatically call one into existence if He was never there to begin with.
a few comments 3
Submitted by mpresley on Thu, 2009-12-10 21:59.
Harris believes that “The West, uniquely, had even used reason to try to prove the existence of God, as Anselm attempted in the eleventh century. Other peoples simply took the existence of the gods for granted.
It must be said that the schoolmen's writings were certainly not taken by them in the spirit that we take proofs and arguments, today. For instance, Copleston (who I mentioned earlier), in his stand-alone book on Aquinas, and also in his History (Vol 2 Part 2) goes to great lengths to describe the circumstances and intention of the arguments. For his part, Aquinas was not interested in offering up "reasons" or logical justifications to believe in God, but rather was attempting to define the limits of natural theology in light of revealed religion. This is not a subtle distinction, and is worth understanding. The schoolmen would be surprised to suppose that anyone would think their arguments were somehow offered because they did not "take for granted" the existence of God.
a few comments 2
Submitted by mpresley on Thu, 2009-12-10 21:40.
Although Christianity was deeply affected by its Greco-Roman and Germanic environment, there is no doubt that it adopted a number of important...ideas [that had] no real precedent in pagan European religions, for instance the idea of history as a linear process of progress toward a specific end goal.
Greek thought, at least that of Aristotle (which was taken up by Aquinas) was always goal directed in the sense of the idea of final cause. It is, however, strange that Christianity would ever embrace the idea of a general progress simply due to its eschatological foundation. One can, for instance, find this kind of thinking in Gospel descriptions of the enigmatic figure, John the Baptist. Somewhere, while living in the desert eating locusts and wearing minimal clothing he is described as preaching the immanent end-times, but then he curiously tells people to remember to pay their taxes. It is odd why a man so unconcerned with worldly appearances would worry much about Roman taxation; perhaps this is simply an interpolation inserted at date when eschatology was more theoretical than not.
...after Kant, from the point of view of modern reason, all religious faiths are equally irrational.
This is a strange notion, and one not, I suspect, supported by the ideas of Kant. It would certainly not be endorsed by him. Kant, in his opinion, delimited the boundaries of "pure reason" (ideas not dependent upon experience). He did not prove (nor did he intend to) that any religion is as good as any other. I can understand someone (especially an academic) arguing thusly, but does anyone really think that, to use an example, the Catholic historian of philosophy Frederick Copleston was "equally" as irrational as Jim Jones?
An echo of Thomas Hobbes’ darker view of “war of all against all” can be detected in the dark novel...
I'd like to briefly mention the work of one Hobbes scholar, the late Leo Strauss, who argues (in his 1936 essay on Hobbes) that the original impetus leading to the social compact is multiform: fear of violent death; self reproach secondary to vanity; subsequent shame once this fear is recognized; and a further recognition that the fear is not, strictly speaking, the fear of an individual human enemy, but, rather, the fear of a "common enemy," i.e., Death. Finally, he argues that because of this nascent introduction of guilt, the sovereign State arising from the contract must have a moral quality.
Therefore, it may not be accurate to believe, as some do, that the state of nature was ever an amoral war of all against all. Hobbes explains that in nature, although every action is permitted (this is the basis of natural right), not every intention is. The determining judgment turns on whether the intention is based on self preservation. Thus, justice is a legitimate concept, even in nature.
a few comments 1
Submitted by mpresley on Thu, 2009-12-10 21:33.
The problem with reading a Fjordman essay is that there's so much going on that it's difficult to stop and think before we're on to something else. I want to mention a few things, but must do it in several posts since I believe there is a limit on the amount of text that can be submitted at one time
...most thinking people agree that something went wrong with the Western Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s, which unlike the Chinese Cultural Revolution became institutionalized.
The Chinese Cultural Revolution was strictly a political phenomenon, instigated by Mao in order to purge the party, and consolidate power by way of general chaos directed against "old forms" (Confucianism and those on the "Capitalist Road"). Once Mao died, Jaing Qing and company could no longer maintain any sense of control inasmuch as the general citizenry had never truly abandoned traditional ways, but were under the spell of Mao; a fact understood by men like Deng Xiaoping, whose institution of "Socialism with Chinese Characteristics" was embraced by a country quite exhausted with revolution. I don't believe that the Chinese situation is at all analogous to what is happening in the West. There really does seem to be an intrinsic embrace of liberalism among our peoples. It's as if our very souls (or at least the souls of those proclaiming as much, and there are a very lot of them) are liberal.
But does that mean that everything was fine in the 1950s
This is a very good question. There are those making the case that, at least in the U.S., the '50s were, among elites, a time where the embrace of the "new" sociology along with German philosophies (particularly Heidegger) took hold. Also, one cannot discount the advent of immersion in television as a means of mass communication. For instance, H. M. McLuhan, taking a cue from thinkers such as Harold Innis, began to understand television's "tribalising" aspect as it displaced the previous print order, and also that of radio, substituting, at least in McLuhan's view, an isolated logical type of thinking for a new more haptic tribal experience, and one allowing a participatory enthusiasm not present in the old print order.
KA on "The Cult of Reason"
Submitted by Kapitein Andre on Wed, 2009-12-09 23:30.
A brilliant essay, especially given the number and complexity of issues covered. To my mind, scientific inquiry is as much a quest to support faith in reason, as philosophical, religious or spiritual belief is an attempt at explaining natural processes. Rationality without faith offers the rationalist no raison d'être, and faith without reason condemns the believer to the law of the jungle or the seemingly more pleasant state of nature.
It is difficult to describe the World Wars as “bad”, without decrying too the conditions that produced or enabled them. In order to avoid tedious historical analysis, let us turn to the Cold War. Despite the optimism of the 1990s, popular opinion tends to view the present and future as more menacing than in 1988. Indeed, the West grew accustomed to the 10,000 Soviet nuclear warheads targeting it; perhaps the focus was on finances rather than national security. Moreover, balanced by the bipolar order and checked by MAD, war was reduced to small-scale or limited proxy affairs, rather than a mêlée of great powers.
Essentially, the menacing “peace” of the Cold War was preferable to the uncertainty, savagery and terrorist threats that followed it. The United States retreated during its brief so-called “unipolar moment”, in contrast to its global power projection in prior decades. But what if misunderstanding or cold calculation had “unleashed Armageddon” before the Wall came down? In the aftermath, as radioactive mutants huddled nearby the eternally burning forests for warmth, the preceding global order would be referred to as the familiar “tinderbox” of 1914 and 1939. Had Moscow allowed Vienna to revenge itself on Belgrade and had London and Paris lifted the slightest finger when Berlin decided to re-militarize the Rhineland, those multi-polar systems would have been seen as guarantors of peace.