Skip to comments.Thinkers Behind the Culture of Death (Part 1 or 3)
Posted on 08/20/2005 8:41:27 PM PDT by Murtyo
KITCHENER, Ontario, NOV. 12, 2004 (Zenit) - Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, Ayn Rand and Wilhelm Reich may have had therapeutic aims to cure the world of its ills.
But instead they contributed immensely to the modern sickness that John Paul II has identified as the "culture of death."
So says Donald DeMarco, who co-authored a book investigating the dysfunctional lives and theories of the "Architects of the Culture of Death" (Ignatius) with Benjamin Wiker.
DeMarco is an adjunct philosophy professor at Holy Apostles College and Seminary, in Connecticut, and professor emeritus at St. Jerome's University, in Ontario.
In this three-part interview, he shared with US how a few individuals' highly influential thought has fueled the formation of the present culture of death.
Q: Why did you decide to compile this book on the lives of the "Architects of the Culture of Death"?
DeMarco: The title is the brainchild of Benjamin Wiker, my co-author. When I first came across his engaging title in an article that he wrote for the National Catholic Register, I had the very strong sense that I could write a series of pieces on this theme and that Ben and I could collaborate to write a book bearing the title, "Architects of the Culture of Death."
I think that we had something in common that allowed us to share this vision, namely, a deeply felt conviction that something terribly wrong has occurred in the modern world, that people need to know how it has come about and that there is an answer to our present dilemma.
I had been teaching moral philosophy and the history of modern philosophy at St. Jerome's University in Waterloo, Ontario, for many, many years. Therefore, it was an easy task for me to assemble 15 of these architects and explain how their highly influential thought has contributed mightily to the formation of the present culture of death.
I have written five books on the subject of virtue. People commonly talk about the importance of love, but without virtue, there is no conduit through which love can be expressed in any effective or satisfactory way.
It was inevitable, I suppose, that my thoughts would turn from something positive to its antithesis. One defends the truth only half way if one does not expose the lies that assail and conceal it.
I had no difficulty, as I mentioned, coming up with 15 "architects," and though there are more that I could present, I am satisfied with those whom I have chosen. Moreover, they fall into nice categories: the will worshipers, the atheistic existentialists, the secular utopianists, the pleasure seekers and the death peddlers. Ben, my co-author, covered the eight other thinkers spotlighted in our book.
Q: What is it about the lives of these individuals that is so telling?
DeMarco: Being a philosopher by trade, naturally I wrote about my architects in such a way that what would be most "telling" about them is that their thought is demonstrably untenable. Their view of life and the world simply does not stand up against any reasonable form of analysis. In no instance do any of the architects indicate that they have a balanced notion of what constitutes a human being.
Arthur Schopenhauer, Friedrich Nietzsche and Ayn Rand give so much prominence to the will that there was little left over for reason. Historians have referred to this triad as "irrational vitalists."
Jean-Paul Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir and Elisabeth Badinter absolutize freedom to the point where there is nothing left over for responsibility, especially communal responsibility.
The utopianism of Karl Marx, Auguste Comte and Judith Jarvis Thomson is an escape into fantasy.
Sigmund Freud, Wilhelm Reich and Helen Gurley Brown make pleasure, and not love, central in the lives of human beings.
Finally, Jack Kevorkian, Derek Humphry and Peter Singer completely lose sight of human dignity and the sanctity of life.
Another "telling" feature of these individuals is that their lives were in such disarray. At least three of them -- Auguste Comte, Wilhelm Reich and Friedrich Nietzsche -- according to various historians of philosophy, were mad. Several of the others exhibited clear signs of neuroses. In many cases, and this is also true for the architects that my colleague treats, they involved themselves in activities that are truly shocking.
St. Augustine once stated that the only real justification for philosophy is that, if followed, it can make a person happy. There should be a harmony between a person's philosophy of life and the life satisfactions that its implementation brings about. Ideas have consequences. Realistic thoughts should be a blueprint for a happy life. Unrealistic thoughts cannot lead to happiness. Philosophy is supposed to be a love of wisdom, not a bromide for misery.
Q: What do you think will most surprise readers about the thinkers outlined in your book?
DeMarco: This is a difficult question to answer inasmuch as it is difficult to anticipate how readers will respond.
But it may be that many readers will be surprised at the absolute discrepancy that exists between the therapeutic aims of the architects and the fact that they have contributed immensely to a culture of death.
Wilhelm Reich thought of himself as a secular Messiah who would cure the world of both its social as well as personal neuroses. He saw himself as the world's first Freudo-Marxist. He earned, more than anyone else, the appellation, "Father of the Sexual Revolution."
Yet he died in a federal penitentiary, serving time there because he had defrauded the American public by selling them empty boxes that were allegedly constructed to capture a precious form of energy called "orgone." One critic of Reich said that it was hard to take any man seriously who said, "I realized that I could no longer live without a brothel."
Friedrich Nietzsche, a few years before his death at age 56, was found assaulting a piano with his elbows before he was taken away to an asylum. He had said of his masterpiece, "Zarathustra," that, "This work stands alone. If all the spirit and goodness of every great soul were collected together, the whole could not create a single one of Zarathustra's discourses." Freud imagined himself to be a new Moses.
Karl Marx believed himself to be a new Prometheus.
Ayn Rand counted herself the greatest philosopher in all history, after Aristotle. She argued that, "Altruism is the root of all evil." She arranged that a 6-foot dollar sign adorn her casket. When she died, she had hardly a friend in the world.
These architects had large egos, but it could hardly be said that they had practical strategies for healing society of its ills.
All of the architects claimed to be humanists and liberators in one way or another. Yet, what they preached was a false humanism because it saw human beings in an entirely one-sided way.
It may be surprising to many, then, that powerful and influential thinkers nonetheless find the nature of the human person to be elusive. We are still trying, often with disastrous results, to answer the eternal question, "What is man?"
PART III - http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1526 Ooops.
Looks interesting - pinging myself to remember it!
cheapest I can find it online (used www.pricegrabber.com) - for folks who want to read it.
Either this guy is lying or just ignorant about Any Rand. She was a champion of reason. She despised people who did things by whim ( or "will" ) . She would have also pointed out that she is being called an " irrational vitalist" without anyone defining the term. She complained plenty about Catholic dogma so she is fair game but I find it odd that they should pick her out of so many others thereby giving her prominence.
I thought that Rand was an unexpected inclusion in this list!! But I donno much about her at all.
I doubt that he's lying or ignorant though - the authors are coming at this from a very Christian/Catholic perspective and her reasoning that all our actions are selfish goes against Christianity!
She would be the first to say that all our actions are not selfish. However selfish acts that are reasonable she would call the good and that is against the Christian view of sacrifice for others as being the good. If they are going to criticize her, at least they should do so truthfully. It's no better than Dan Rather taking in fraudulent stories in order to nail Bush.
I agree and I wouldn't consider her a thinker behind the culture of death.
I don't know. Any book that treats Helen Gurley Brown as a philosopher is probably not to be taken seriously.
Topics like this are philosophical, and sometimes interesting to discuss and debate, but when the subject matter is open to interpretation, it's best not to present it as fact.
(Which is what this book seems to do.)
It would be as easy to write something called "Architects of the Culture of Life", including 20 examples of contributions people have made to life and the sanctity of. Repeated enough, one could then conclude that ours is a "Culture of Life" rather than Death.
Rush got on the Culture of Death kick a while back also, which didn't help our side. The whole idea that our culture is one of "death" is absurd and someone should have spanked him for contributing to the culture of drivel.
Rand may have had a good grasp of economics but her ideas were identical to those of the communists when it concerned religion.
Plenty of "Kill Terri" Nazis also think of themselves as "champions of reason."
Ayn Rand was an advocate of abortion. That would have made more sense for them to criticize her about that. Terri was murder plain and simple. Her parents were willing to take care of her. I think Ayn would have found armed guards refusing water to an innocent person as horrible as most of us have.
Ayn Rand was wrong about much. Nevertheless, during my youth (and before) Rand was carrying the water in the fight for freedom, whilst the Church of my youth (pre-JPII) was playing footsie with every radical socialist cause out there. Liberation theology? Bishop Thomas Gumbleton? Ring a bell? I'd rather have a beer with Rand (if it were possible) than with DeMarco anytime.
Yes, Rand attempted to secularize "virtue." Always leads to trouble.
There's a great void now that JPII is gone.
I cannot project the degree of hatred required to make those women run around in crusades against abortion. Hatred is what they certainly project, not love for the embryos, which is a piece of nonsense no one could experience, but hatred, a virulent hatred for an unnamed object...Their hatred is directed against human beings as such, against the mind, against reason, against ambition, against success, against love, against any value that brings happiness to human life. In compliance with the dishonesty that dominates today's intellectual field, they call themselves 'pro-life.'
Spoken like a woman who has never known the joy and mystery of childbirth. I admire Ayn Rand for her brilliant clarity and her anti-Communist stand. But on this issue she contradicts herself. If man is the highest form of life, then isn't every single aspect and every moment of that life equally precious? The very idea that the human potential embodied in an embryo could be snuffed out by the thoughtless act of a selfish woman should be anathema to Ayn Rand.
Well there goes any possibility that he may know about Ayn Rand than you do, or that he may be smarter than you.
As a highly successful author of 20 books and hundreds of articles written for scholarly journals, and as professor of philosophy and professor emeritus, DeMarco would hardly be 'ignorant'. The fact that he is a devout, practicing Catholic and is on the Advisory Board of The Catholic Educator's Resource Center means that he has a love for the truth and a great fear of lying. In fact, he believes his Judgement and eternity would be at stake if he lied to calumniate another person.
On the other hand Ayn Rand believed that selfishness is a virtue, and altruism is evil. As a militant atheist and firm believer that depravity was inherent in human nature, Ayn Rand had absolutely nothing but her self professed 'genius' to hold herself back from contradictions and lying. As we all learned from Bill Clinton and his lovely wife, 'genius' is no insurance against fraud.
I choose to believe Donald DeMarco.
In economics only. Rand and Marx both were firm believers that only a few people are capable of leading all the other riffraff. (Rand believed that depravity was inherent in human beings). This is the concept of the 'proletariat', the epitome of communist philosophy.
Also, they both viewed people as bundles of various psychological attributes, and not as human beings with spirits and souls.
You got the wrong Ayn . She thought that all men are ends in and of themselves. You don't start being depraved in her view unless you start thinking that other people must live for you or you for them. As for the Author being so wise and noble, perhaps he could stick to the facts instead of making things up about people or smearing them with undefined words.
And when you look at the direction taken by many modern "secular" religions such as reform Judaism, Methodists, Etc who carry the water for the liberal causes and the democratic party it is clear that Ayn has a point about religion. The more fundamentalist religions seem to have a grasp of conservative thought, so Ayn would have less disdain for them. She simply put the mind above the contemporary idea of religion and decided she would rather think for herself than follow a faith. If that is her conclusion, its OK with me. I do not believe she belongs at the same level as the others named on this list, and would not believe she would support turning the civilization of Aristotle over to the Islamic forces today.
This would be an extremely educational read. I would have included at least one more person though, Margaret Sanger, but perhaps she wasn't influential enough for the author.
She no doubt placed people of high ability on a pedestal but she in no way thought they should be able to force other people into doing their bidding. They only "lead" by virtue of their competence and your willingness to accept their paycheck. There is a world of difference between your boss at work telling you to do something and a dictator of a nation giving you orders. (Your boss can't have you shot for example)
I am rather surprised at the inclusion of Rand on the list. But before criticizing the author for this choice, it might be a good idea to read the book.
Read the section in which he discusses Rand. I for one, am curious to find out what he has to say about it and why he believes she fits in with the rest of the people he listed. But then, that's me.
I'm not so sure this is a fair analogy; because according to Rand my boss would be just another riffraff like myself, oozing with inherent depravity and in need of a real leader, (like herself).
I don't know where you got this idea that she holds people as inherently deprived. I challenge you to find any quote from her that does!
Bill Buckley had many arguments with Rand (and Kokak, for that matter). He'd never have published anything in NR that reflected her darker side--which was considerably darker than "Atlas Shrugged" or "The Fountainhead." But even there, it's obvious that she championed ends-justifying means and a capitalism that rivaled communism in its militancy and cruelty.
Second that. And Madeline Murray O'Hare. But they weren't philosophers, they were activists.
The Fountainhead's pretty much drenched with the depravity of most of mankind, centered on the hatred and jealousy of the "great" among them.
Not true at all. She certainly did believe that the great could and should dominate lesser beings. Again, her Fountainhead hero burns down a building (with no thought of nightwatchmen) because its banality offends him. Never mind, of course, that the protagonist rapes one of his early rivals!
I have not really been aware of a culture of death, so I Googled it. After reading several articles it would appear to me that the Culture of Death is the acceptance of Death.
Someone please correct me if I have this wrong and I have no doubt this will occur. Let me make it plain that I am not defending Death, or questioning current religious thinking.
When I was young (mid 1940s mid 1960s) Death was accepted as the inescapable result of Life. We knew that no one would ever got out of life alive. Born to Die was not just a tattoo on the arm of an Outlaw Biker but an accepted fact of life. Few people were hauled away by Death kicking and screaming. Birth control was not seen as destroying life but only as preventing life a major difference.
Now it is different. Death is something to be avoided at all cost. Better to be a lying in a hospital bed as a human vegetable than to be dead. Better to send the family into medical bankruptcy than admit a member is really dead. Technology is Stronger than Death!
I could see this attitude for those who know they are going to Hell for all of eternity but for the rest of us? There was a time when Christians actually looked forward to an eternity in Paradise! Note: Suicide was not an option that was a guaranteed ticket to Hell.
I dont see the Culture of Death as anything new, but as the paradigm of life that has been with us from Day One being rejected by Modern Man a rejection of reality.