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Why I Became a Conservative: A British liberal discovers England's greatest philosopher.
FrontPageMagazine.com ^ | Wednesday, February 5, 2003 | By Roger Scruton

Posted on 02/04/2003 10:13:26 PM PST by JohnHuang2

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To: Askel5
(Just out of curiosity ... what else in on the shelf?)

I should have said "primo" bookcase, which sits in my living room. (The major part of my library is located in another part of the house.) It's the one that I use for my most cherished books. It's a sort of "grab bag," the sort of thing you'd expect of a generalist of conservative tendencies. Your asking me what's on it gives me a welcome chance to "flog" my favorite books! :^)

There's lots of Eric Voegelin (I'm collecting all his titles over time) and Plato. There's a rather large "Americana" section: works of the Framers (e.g., collected letters of T. Jefferson, Federalist); plus the new John Adams biography; a few years back I was collecting sources of the Framers' thought (e.g., Locke, Hume, Burke, Milton's Areopagitica, Trenchard and Gordon's Cato's Letters). They're all there still. Also critical studies of the founding period by Bernard Baylin (e.g., The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and The Ideological Origins of American Politics). I have the Autobiography of U.S. Grant (a first edition!), the collected writings of John Calhoun, including his masterful Disquisition on Government.

Then there are writers on American and Western culture, such as Russell Kirk (The Roots of American Order), Richard Weaver (The Southern Tradition at Bay), the Vanderbilt Agrarians (I'll Take My Stand), A. J. Nock (Our Enemy, the State), Frank Chodorov (Fugitive Essays) Jacques Barzun, James Burnham (esp. Suicide of the West); lots of Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams. I only have two works on economics on these shelves: Ludwig von Mises (Human Action) and Joseph Schumpeter (Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy).

Other than Voegelin, Plato, Aristotle, and the Framers' sources, the only other philosophers there: Alasdair McIntyre's After Virtue. Theology: St. Thomas Aquinas, St. John of the Cross, Francis Schaffer (Trilogy), Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, and books by or about Pope John Paul II (including the fine Carl Bernstein biography). Of course, the King James Bible is there.

My science section is a-building: Wolfram, Gleick, Heisenberg, Sir James Jeans, Einstein, and (new accessions!!!) Roger Penrose, Evan Harris Walker, Christopher Wills....

I have Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Also Vilfredo Pareto's Mind and Society.

This bookshelf is relatively poetry and plays "lite": But T.S. Eliot and John Donne are there; also a collection of Shakespeare's Sonnets. Also Dante's Divine Comedy and Milton's Paradise Lost. The plays: T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, Aeschylus' Orestiea, and a collection of Moliere (he just cracks me up!).

I have most of the C.S. Lewis (my favorites: The Screwtape Letters and The Great Divorce) and G. E. K. Chesterton titles (I love his biographies of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Saint Francis of Assisi).

It's "fiction-lite", too. Only truly beloved titles are there, including Dostoevsky's Brothers Karamazov, The Possessed, The Idiot); the collected works of Jane Austin; Boccaccio's Decameron; Sir Thomas Mallory's Le Morte d'Arthur; also Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.

Also one of the greatest autobiographies ever written (IMHO) is there: Whittaker Chambers' Witness, as well as Sam Tannenbaum's excellent critical biography of Chambers.

I think that's about it. Pretty eclectic, no?!

Thanks for asking, A-G. Hugs!

101 posted on 02/10/2003 12:42:10 PM PST by betty boop
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To: Alamo-Girl; beckett; cornelis; Phaedrus; Dataman
IMHO, the best hope lies in speaking to the neshamah. And that is very difficult in these times, as much of mankind – particularly many of the intellectual elite - are delusional. They have silenced their neshamah by declaring that the physical realm is all that there is; that the conscious is but an impertinent physical phenomenon; and therefore, the end (or objective) always justifies the means.

Excellent analysis, Alamo-Girl. But how does one communicate, however, with the neshamah -- in sound bites? I just don't know how it is to be done!

102 posted on 02/10/2003 12:46:07 PM PST by betty boop
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To: All
Oooooppsss! So sorry for the double post....
103 posted on 02/10/2003 12:47:29 PM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Thank you so much for the kudos and encouragements!

But how does one communicate, however, with the neshamah -- in sound bites?

Actually it is being done, but it requires funding and needs to be directed to non-believers also. An example is the white letter on black billboards you see now and again in Texas. One of them said: "Don't make me come down there!" - God.

Metaphysical naturalists could be targeted with a billboard showing a child helping an elderly person: "Mercy is not an accident of genes."

I'm not creative - but that's the general idea. Tug at the neshama.

104 posted on 02/10/2003 1:07:16 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
Very nice bookcase, dear BB.

On a huge hill, Cragged and steep,
Truth stands,
And hee that will reach her,
About must, and about must goe,
And what th'hills suddenes resists, winne so,
Yet strive so, that before age, death's twilight,
Thy soule reste, for none can worke in that night.

John Donne, 1620

105 posted on 02/10/2003 7:19:12 PM PST by beckett
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To: betty boop
However, it seems to me that to "feel" truth in this sense requires the death of the passions -- in the Socratic sense that cornelis was speaking of earlier. For passion misleads; it disorders; it does not permit us to see clearly. Unruly, disordered, power-mad men generally will not be terribly interested in truth. They're just interested in "results."

I am in at least some meaningful sense reluctant to agree. This love of truth is a very deep, passionate, moving thing, it is not cold and austere. An example. PBS did a segment on a British mathematician (wish I could remember his name) who struggled for years in search of a mathematical proof that had eluded all to that time. Incredible effort, countless hours, were spent over months and years in passionate, passionate, pursuit of that elusive proof. He succeeded. And he had to hold back tears when recalling the moment of truimph for the camera. Does passion always disorder?

106 posted on 02/10/2003 8:48:09 PM PST by Phaedrus
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To: betty boop
The really scary thing is the increasing legitimacy being given to public opinion polls as guides to public policy. That is a prescription for disaster. Rhetoric increasingly becomes a substitute for reality.

Yes.

107 posted on 02/10/2003 8:55:43 PM PST by Phaedrus
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To: betty boop
After perusing your library and interests at post #100, "Redneck Intellectual" seems an even more apt and comfortable self-description. I do know when I'm in the company of my betters ... ;-} Live long, bb.
108 posted on 02/10/2003 9:16:42 PM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Phaedrus; Alamo-Girl; beckett; cornelis; KC Burke; Dataman
Does passion always disorder?

Good point, Phaedrus! Perhaps we could bring Alamo-Girl's distinction between nephesh and neshama into play here, so to try an answer to this question. I'd say the passion of nephesh -- that of the lower "animal" nature -- certainly does disorder. But this British mathematician you were speaking of, my guess is that his passion was of the neshama type -- expressing a passion for beauty and truth, and the delight of achieving something lovely, something sublime, that had long been elusive.

What do you think, my friend?

109 posted on 02/11/2003 7:13:07 AM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Thank you so much for the heads up to your important analysis! I absolutely agree with you!

Passion of the nephesh demands gratification. Rape, theft, murder, intoxication, gluttony fall into this category. It is self serving, the politics are Marxist, the worldview is materialistic, the end justifies the means:

"For dialectical philosophy nothing is final, absolute, sacred. It reveals the transitory character of everything and in everything; nothing can endure before it except the uninterrupted process of becoming and of passing away, of endless ascendancy from the lower to the higher." - Fredrick Engels The End of Classical German Philosophy

Passion of the neshama longs for completeness. Love, faith, philosophy, benevolence falls into this category. It is humble, the politics are conservative, the worldview is teleological, we are but a part of a greater construct:

"The most beautiful and deepest experience a man can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as all serious endeavour in art and science. He who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. To sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as a feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is." - Einstein's speech 'My Credo' to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin, autumn 1932, Einstein: A Life in Science, Michael White and John Gribbin, page 262


110 posted on 02/11/2003 7:31:44 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
Perhaps we could bring Alamo-Girl's distinction between nephesh and neshama into play here ... What do you think, my friend?

Yes, I agree. The longer I live and the more I think about these "things", the more I come to believe that life itself and the manner in which we exercise our Free Will is the lesson, and the first step, if you will, seems to me to be "overcoming the fear" and that requires understanding. A mouthful but FWIW, bb, as always.

111 posted on 02/11/2003 7:33:17 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: betty boop; Alamo-Girl
The fancy Hebrew notwithstanding, I think it will be misleading to order the intellect (which I presume must be distinguished from consciousness) as a receptivity between two of sources of fundamentally different things--at least not without some major redrafting. The first step toward a revision is to abandon the notion that these two actions are in some way a polar opposites. Otherwise we will land ourselves in a horrible dualism--something already intimated in suspicion of passion. Next thing you know we'll be doing the pendulum swing, hating the all renaissance and digging ourselves under for a disembodied utopia, sine resurrectione

A body-soul dichotomy, as with any dualism, is a setup for the tyranny of one over the other. And a prior synthesis or a fundamental arche to the body-soul or form-matter antithesis (I use Kant's word on purpose) is not to be found in Greek or Enlightenment thought (and the Hebrews weren't even Greek!)

112 posted on 02/11/2003 7:36:45 AM PST by cornelis
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To: cornelis; Alamo-Girl; beckett; Phaedrus
A body-soul dichotomy, as with any dualism, is a setup for the tyranny of one over the other. And a prior synthesis or a fundamental arche to the body-soul or form-matter antithesis (I use Kant's word on purpose) is not to be found in Greek or Enlightenment thought....

cornelis, thank you for your cautionary statements with respect to dualism. Yet I don't see how the body-soul distinction necessarily must be thought of as constituting polar opposites. I imagine there must be a fundamental arche that unites the two at some level, for these two "aspects" need each other to express a human life; i.e., they constitute a unity. Yet given the limitations of language, to speak of either of the aspects requires us to "intend" one or the other; and intentionality implies a kind of artificial uprooting out of the fuller context in which each of the aspects appears and mutually participates in the other. In this sense, it distorts to some degree the thing we're thinking and speaking about. In this sense, "we murder to dissect." So we have to remember that the separation was an artificial one all along.

Does this make any sense?

113 posted on 02/11/2003 8:21:53 AM PST by betty boop
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To: cornelis; betty boop
Thank y'all for your posts!

cornelis: The first step toward a revision is to abandon the notion that these two actions are in some way a polar opposites. Otherwise we will land ourselves in a horrible dualism--something already intimated in suspicion of passion.

The dualism already exists, the conflict has always been there. It was recognized thousands of years ago by the Hebrew word usage in the Bible. It is at the root of Theology - from Judeo/Christian to Eastern Religions. Freud confirmed at least in part – the Id and Superego. Both sides practice tyranny within us as we exercise our free will – do I watch the soap opera or play with the kid?

IMHO, if we truly wish to communicate - we must tailor the message to the recipient. If it’s an English audience, we don’t speak Spanish. We don’t sell ice to Eskimos. And if the audience is particularly sensitive to an issue, that’s the one you raise - play the race card to win an acquittal for O.J.

Likewise here – conservatism doesn’t appeal to the carnal man, the nephesh - so I suggest we speak to the neshama. In other words, why not exploit the difference which already exists to further conservatism?

I do not, and cannot, address the philosophical issues you raise. I only speak to the practical ones – how to get the conservative message a fair hearing.

114 posted on 02/11/2003 8:37:10 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
I don't see how the body-soul distinction necessarily must be thought of as constituting polar opposites.

Neither do I, but that is only because of others have made the mistakes before me. The body-soul distinction was just an example. But with respect to the Hebrew, I am afraid we run the risk of building our edifice on the analysis, rather than on what the analysis is contingent on.

I don't blame Alamo-Girl for sticking to her guns here, but as I understand it, we need to make doubly sure whether this dualism which has always been there is fundamental. If you build your epistemology on it, you'll be more Greek than Hebrew.

115 posted on 02/11/2003 8:42:05 AM PST by cornelis
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To: betty boop; Askel5
I missed the library log when you posted it. I see R. Weaver, but what about Ideas Have Consequences, especially the introduction....is that "in the house"? If not, you must proceed to get it, betty...its a "don't miss".
116 posted on 02/11/2003 10:00:31 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: cornelis; Alamo-Girl; Phaedrus
...we run the risk of building our edifice on the analysis, rather than on what the analysis is contingent on...we need to make doubly sure whether this dualism which has always been there is fundamental.

I acknowledge the danger, cornelis. On the other hand, I don't think that Alamo-Girl means to construct a system, to "build an edifice" here. Personally, I doubt the dualism is fundamental. Yet to speak the language of nephesh and neshama really is to speak the language, not of ontology or epistemology, but rather of metaphor (perhaps even myth). It does allow us a way to account for observable differences between the behavior of the Parisian mob, and what Phaedrus' British mathematician was doing. To that extent, I think it has real value. Plus Alamo-Girl has developed this metaphoric language to account for specific, observable differences between socialist totalitarianism and the conservative position. This seems useful -- just so long as we remember we're dealing with metaphors.

117 posted on 02/11/2003 10:12:06 AM PST by betty boop
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To: KC Burke
I've missed that one, KC Burke! It's simply amazing how many books I haven't read! :^) Thank you for the recommendation -- I'll take you up on it, and get a hold of Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences.

Thanks again!

118 posted on 02/11/2003 10:16:59 AM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Thank you so much for your post and for the clarification of the issue!

Treating it as a metaphor is fine with me. My concern (and the reason I dared to contribute) is to suggest a way to "get through" to this spectator society (LOL!)

119 posted on 02/11/2003 10:25:53 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
When I was first reading Ideas.., I read the introductory portions about his views on nominalism and modernity late at night. I got so upset that someone had written such a concise summary almost 50 years ago and I was just then reading it in 2001 that I couldn't stand it. I had to stop, get up and re-read it aloud.

It is a tour de force.

120 posted on 02/11/2003 10:32:37 AM PST by KC Burke
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To: Alamo-Girl; cornelis; Phaedrus
My concern (and the reason I dared to contribute) is to suggest a way to "get through" to this spectator society (LOL!)

I think it could work just that way, Alamo-Girl. Most of those spectators wouldn't understand cornelis' (valid!) objection anyway. They just want somebody to "paint them a picture."

121 posted on 02/11/2003 10:45:52 AM PST by betty boop
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To: KC Burke
I got so upset that someone had written such a concise summary almost 50 years ago and I was just then reading it in 2001 that I couldn't stand it. I had to stop, get up and re-read it aloud.

Funny, I had the same reaction to Burke's Reflections, which anticipates the methods of our modern totalitarians in great detail -- from 1790!!!

Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences sounds like a great book, KC! I'll get me a copy.

122 posted on 02/11/2003 10:51:10 AM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop
Thank you for your post! Strangely, a Freeper (The Great Satan) just posted this jewel on another thread:

But, like the man said, nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people.

Talk about timing ... LOL! Anyway, you have my caution about spectators and my suggestion of targeted sound bites. I leave the intellectual heavy lifting to you.

123 posted on 02/11/2003 10:52:52 AM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: JohnHuang2
muy excellento! great post...
124 posted on 02/11/2003 11:00:52 AM PST by chilepepper
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To: betty boop; Alamo-Girl
Most of those spectators wouldn't understand cornelis' (valid!) objection anyway.

You are exercising your cordial virtues in more ways than one and so I should naturally hesitate to defend anything such as myself to note that the failure of discourse cuts right through "us" and "them."

125 posted on 02/11/2003 12:11:34 PM PST by cornelis
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To: cornelis
You are exercising your cordial virtues in more ways than one and so I should naturally hesitate to defend anything such as myself to note that the failure of discourse cuts right through "us" and "them."

Yes, that was pretty arrogant of me, wasn't it? Normally I try to be inclusive. In my own defense, I've been seeing quite a few "mobs" lately. It's got me a little unhinged....

126 posted on 02/11/2003 12:26:50 PM PST by betty boop
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To: Carry_Okie
I enjoyed your comment on his comments. The One who Loves us and Pursues us so diligently, inevitably makes Himself known to those who hunger for Truth...like Whitaker Chambers and M. Scott Peck.

People who would run run from a "Savior" cling to Truth.

127 posted on 02/11/2003 12:31:54 PM PST by Dutchgirl
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To: Dutchgirl
I'll quote something from a draft of a book I wrote:
When one conducts any inquiry into the motives, beliefs, and aspirations of people, especially the habitually rich and powerful, one is inescapably led to the grand sweep of history stretching back 6-10,000 years. It really isn’t such a terribly long time. It is a history of the propagation of ideas, far more efficient and with a great deal more continuity than is commonly understood. It is a humbling thing that forces one to confront some undeniable choices.

I would be thus remiss not to say that this process of inquiry led me to the importance of a renewed relationship with God Jesus Christ. It’s that thing about morality. It is a logical consequence to the study of such a history. It may not be a logical requirement for ecosystem management, but it is seems to be so when considering the transaction overhead among humans, so capable of untrustworthy and self-destructive behavior. It was certainly a requirement for the faith and stamina that it took me to crank out such a beast of a book, particularly in the all too frequent moments of despair at my own inadequacies as a writer. If you got this far, thank you for your forbearance. There was a cause.

I had been self-abused for over ten years of intensive and expensive humanist training that had rendered many pleasurable gestalts invited through deep regression. They were an opening for interests outside that which I was given. I was being taught to think I had all the answers while simultaneously opening myself to those suggested. I thought I knew everything, just as I had been told to think. Unfortunately for the humanists, the integrity in conduct and the search for truth they emphasized led me to seek essential Truth.

Truth was the undoing of their philosophy.

The sensual enlightenment that came with such realizations of suggested abstraction became a crowd of competing perspectives that were destructive to clarity. Unfortunately, they weren’t my realizations and they weren’t my thoughts. I have since bid them back to their own lives and, subsequent to having begged for His forgiveness, I have thanked God for the rediscovery of my own. Life is simpler, now.


128 posted on 02/11/2003 1:29:34 PM PST by Carry_Okie (Because there are people in power who are truly evil.)
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To: betty boop; cornelis; Alamo-Girl
[Dualism] seems useful -- just so long as we remember we're dealing with metaphors.

Conceptual dualism is the beginning of differentiation and analysis and so, I would suggest, it is essential, though we would (all?) agree, I presume, that overconcentration on these mental constructs can, and has in the past, obscured an (the?) underlying unity. This reflects only our limitations and weaknesses, I would suggest.

But I am an optimist. Each human being is unique and that is amazing considering our numbers. Yet we are all human. Physics explored the nature of materiality and found first energy, then immateriality, to be at its core. Physics is pressing ever closer toward the unification of all (Walker comes clearly to mind here, bb).

129 posted on 02/12/2003 6:41:30 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: KC Burke; betty boop
I got so upset that someone had written such a concise summary almost 50 years ago and I was just then reading it in 2001 that I couldn't stand it.

This has also happened to me a great deal in recent years. I found my college education to be highly deficient and it was upsetting. The "good news", I suppose, is that the internet has allowed the interchange of ideas without mediation by the academic (or any other) "elite". Very valuable. And Thank You -- I will be joining bb in buying Weaver's Ideas Have Consequences.

130 posted on 02/12/2003 6:48:55 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Phaedrus; Alamo-Girl; cornelis
Conceptual dualism is the beginning of differentiation and analysis and so, I would suggest, it is essential, though we would (all?) agree, I presume, that overconcentration on these mental constructs can, and has in the past, obscured an (the?) underlying unity. This reflects only our limitations and weaknesses, I would suggest.

Well said, Phaedrus!

131 posted on 02/12/2003 7:27:44 AM PST by betty boop
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To: Cicero
Perhaps the most fascinating and terrifying aspect of Communism was its ability to banish truth from human affairs, and to force whole populations to “live within the lie,” as President Havel put it. George Orwell wrote a prophetic and penetrating novel about this; but few Western readers of that novel knew the extent to which its prophecies had come true in Central Europe. To me it was the greatest revelation, when first I travelled to Czechoslovakia in 1979, to come face to face with a situation in which people could, at any moment, be removed from the book of history, in which truth could not be uttered, and in which the Party could decide from day to day not only what would happen tomorrow, but also what had happened today, what had happened yesterday, and what had happened before its leaders had been born. This, I realized, was the situation that Burke was describing, to a largely incredulous readership, in 1790. And two hundred years later the situation still existed, and the incredulity along with it.

Having lived in Poland (1981-3) during Martial Law and the crackdown on Solidarnosc, I can identify with the author's perceptions on "real-life" Communism, especially the observation that Communist governments "banish truth from human affairs" and force people to "live within a lie." Revisionist history is a tool of oppression. It relegates the individual to a meaningless speck of matter whose very proof of existence can be removed by the State.

As a free people, it is our obligation to attack the untruths, past and present, that come not only from government, but also, from our educational institutions and societal leaders. The history of the United States is being bombarded by revisionists in the name of political correctness ignoring the context of the times. I find the ignorance of young Americans about our history the stuff that will rend the fabric of our culture and leave us without a national character and identity.

132 posted on 02/12/2003 7:29:20 AM PST by kabar
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To: kabar
ignorance of ... our history You hit the nail on the head. Often a willful ignorance. borne from simplification: the past is too difficult for proof, and proof is safe. Think of the simplicity of common reason: everybody agrees on that! Of course, all such simplified proof is exclusive. It rejects evidence that doesn't fit it. And as Aristotle reminds us (who is also part of our history) first principles are without demonstration. Which is just another way of saying, I think, first principles are religious. It is interesting to note that the antagonism to history walks hand in hand with the antagonism to religion.
133 posted on 02/12/2003 7:59:04 AM PST by cornelis
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To: Phaedrus; betty boop
Thanks for the heads ups! Hugs!
134 posted on 02/12/2003 3:05:34 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
The search for a common language seems to be the main challenge these days. And the search is made more difficult, given the increasingly polyglot and "multicultural" character of our native nation, not to mention the sheer impermeability of the reigning political orthodoxies with respect to the reception of new insights, experiences, or information....

Was there another thread where this point was raised. I recall this was discussed somewhere else--the Hayek thread? Do you know? Where else does Scruton raise the problem of communication? Does he get it from Voegelin?

All I could find on that was: Henceforth I understood conservatism not as a political credo only, but as a lasting vision of human society, one whose truth would always be hard to perceive, harder still to communicate, and hardest of all to act upon. And especially hard is it now, when religious sentiments follow the whims of fashion, when the global economy throws our local loyalties into disarray, and when materialism and luxury deflect the spirit from the proper business of living.

135 posted on 02/13/2003 2:53:04 PM PST by cornelis
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To: Phaedrus; betty boop; Alamo-Girl
On the point of communication, which interested all of us, I really think that confusion about the orders of monism, dualism, as well as kinds and genus is the one of the greatest cause for disrupted dialogue (the other is egoism, willfulness, or other such hubris--an ordering all the same).

Our discussion about passion was hurled onto the metaphors of nephesh and neshamah. Nephesh, according to A-G, is the thought-mechanism of the animal soul and the source for Marxist thought, and neshamah, the as the source from which conservatism derives power from Truth revealed to the spirit. The one source leads to relativity, the other submits to higher purposes and yielding moral absolutes.

This last metaphor, I suppose, could be in some way analogous to Scruton's tradition.

I cautioned against the usefulness of this ordering and I will tell you why. The placement of these two sources, in a sort of opposition between an "us" and "them", does not answer whether these two sources belong to the same orders, as if they belong to the same genus. Sure, they are here conveniently found together, even beginning with the letter n.

The metaphor of these two sources was furthermore complicated with the body soul dichotomy, the supremacy of common (or public) reason, as distinct from the private I presume. All of this then is found to come together in a master receptacle called the consciousness, some central nexus that lies passive to a monolithic and ubiquitous nature, or reality, which is something I don't believe.

I do believe right understanding here makes all the difference in our attempts to communicate. The unique understanding of Plato led him to record the Gorgias and suggest ways of realizing dialogue after failure. It provides a unique answer that has not yet been discussed.

Of course this is only FR, but I suspect all of you consider yourselves as a cadre of significant members, always devoted to aletheia with every sincere motive.

Through all this confusion, I extent my mortal hope that the best and brightest could slug it out and leave "them" alone to their happily chosen perdition. : )

136 posted on 02/13/2003 3:39:05 PM PST by cornelis
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To: JohnHuang2
An interesting account of one man's personal odyssey to escape the fantasy world, that the Left has created for Western man over the past century. But what a dismal picture he paints of the British "intellectual" community today. No wonder they like Clinton. He reflects the fantasy perfectly.

The Chapter in my Conservative Debate Handbook, just published two days ago, The Persuasive Use Of Images, illustrates the method by which the Left has been undermining American values--and promoting racial antagonism, at the same time--by substituting fantasy images for the actual historic experiences of the American people. It is more and more obvious, that the way to counter the left, is to return to an understanding of the actual dynamics of genuine positive human progress--as opposed to change and destruction in pursuit of fantasy.

The writer in the essay, you have posted, found in Burke an understanding of the rational and actual continuum which is a healthy society. We need to apply the lesson of his lifetime to our approach to the youth. We need to cut to the chase, and demonstrate the obvious. There is too much wasted effort, trying to argue with the Left in terms of their own fantasies. That accomplishes nothing. The obvious reality is that people progress via a many generational quest; that developing a clear perception of the building process that one's ancestors embarked on, and why, is the foundation for anything worthwhile to follow.

William Flax Return Of The Gods Web Site

137 posted on 02/13/2003 4:08:26 PM PST by Ohioan
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To: cornelis; betty boop; Phaedrus
Thank you for your post and the explanation!

The placement of these two sources, in a sort of opposition between an "us" and "them", does not answer whether these two sources belong to the same orders, as if they belong to the same genus.

I really did not mean to cause such a ruckus, I was just offering a suggestion on how to communicate or promote conservatism to the general public.

Every human has his own nephesh and neshamah tugging at him in opposite directions. His free will determines which way he will turn - one moment he can be liberal, the next conservative. But, IMHO, he will trend in one direction or the other depending on whether he seeks gratification or completeness. In other words, it's not "us" and "them." The battle is within each of us.

This is moot to the debate of political philosophy. But perhaps you will find the distinction useful when attempting to promote conservatism to the inattentive and disinterested public.

138 posted on 02/13/2003 7:45:19 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: kabar
Your 2 paragraphs at #132 were eloquent, forceful, moving. How do we communicate these truths to our children within the context of a culture in decline? This is not intended as a rhetorical question. Can we make them understand?
139 posted on 02/13/2003 8:22:57 PM PST by Phaedrus
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To: cornelis; betty boop; Alamo-Girl
When I was much younger, the "with it" popular culture instructed "Don't trust anyone over 30". Now that I'm much older, I find that dictum exactly and precisely wrong. Until one has lived long enough to begin to question those "truths" we all absorb by osmosis from society and discovered how bankrupt they actually are, only then can one begin to learn. The point I suppose is that the biases I have accumulated are based upon experience, upon living, which I trust. Nonetheless I remain open-minded, far more open minded, probably, than many Christians might find comfortable. The point of this short statement is context. Because it is written or studied or revered or promoted by society does not make it so.

On the point of communication, which interested all of us, I really think that confusion about the orders of monism, dualism, as well as kinds and genus is the one of the greatest cause for disrupted dialogue (the other is egoism, willfulness, or other such hubris--an ordering all the same).

Yes, confusion reigns but as noted earlier, most are not interested and so we must "count them out". To characterize this (and find an excuse for borrowing from one of my all-time favorite movies, Bull Durham), it's like a Martian talking to a Fungo.

Our discussion about passion was hurled onto the metaphors of nephesh and neshamah. Nephesh, according to A-G, is the thought-mechanism of the animal soul and the source for Marxist thought, and neshamah, the as the source from which conservatism derives power from Truth revealed to the spirit. The one source leads to relativity, the other submits to higher purposes and yielding moral absolutes.

This last metaphor, I suppose, could be in some way analogous to Scruton's tradition.

I cautioned against the usefulness of this ordering and I will tell you why. The placement of these two sources, in a sort of opposition between an "us" and "them", does not answer whether these two sources belong to the same orders, as if they belong to the same genus. Sure, they are here conveniently found together, even beginning with the letter n.

Here I would agree and disagree. I find the contrast useful and meaningful beyond the surface level in terms of its correspondence to reality because Man does have an animal, material aspect (which to me is not a negative, but more on this at some other time, perhaps) and a spiritual one (not obvious only because of pervasive popular cultural propaganda). My criticism would be that the characterization of Man cannot and should not be forced into such small and limited and thus inappropriate boxes. What we are is much more, qualitatively. The dichotomy is too pat and the words are woefully insufficient. But then, any either/or set of alternatives is too pat.

The metaphor of these two sources was furthermore complicated with the body soul dichotomy, the supremacy of common (or public) reason, as distinct from the private I presume. All of this then is found to come together in a master receptacle called the consciousness, some central nexus that lies passive to a monolithic and ubiquitous nature, or reality, which is something I don't believe.

I don't understand the underlined portion. What is it you don't believe? That consciousness is real? Or that it is central? Or what? And why?

I do believe right understanding here makes all the difference in our attempts to communicate. The unique understanding of Plato led him to record the Gorgias and suggest ways of realizing dialogue after failure. It provides a unique answer that has not yet been discussed.

I would like to hear it discussed. The implications of this statement, though (and I do not intend to put words in your mouth), seem to be that it is possible to communicate in all instances with all people and that perfect communication would lead to right action. I believe that both assumptions, if they are being made, are absolutely and demonstrably false.

Of course this is only FR, but I suspect all of you consider yourselves as a cadre of significant members, always devoted to aletheia with every sincere motive.

This raises my hackles. Should it? You are here, voluntarily, discoursing. And presumably learning. I sincerely doubt you will learn more or better in "the university". You find yourself here among some exceedingly sensitive, deep, accomplished and open-minded thinkers (betty boop comes readily to mind). In the university you will find the first 3 but not often the 4th, and that is a critical difference.

Through all this confusion, I exten[d] my mortal hope that the best and brightest could slug it out and leave "them" alone to their happily chosen perdition. : )

I suppose I would say that the brightest is not necessarily or always the best (by any stretch) and that I, for one, would not admit to much, if any, confusion.

140 posted on 02/14/2003 9:42:07 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: cornelis; Alamo-Girl; beckett; Phaedrus
Dear cornelis, you appear to be in high dudgeon about something lately; but for the life of me, I can’t figure out what. So until such time as I might be better informed as to the particulars, I’ll just assume that your interest may be in a reconsideration of Plato’s Gorgias (380 BC) in terms of its meaning and relevance to our own time.

You wrote, “confusion about the orders of monism, dualism, as well as kinds and genus is the one of the greatest cause for disrupted dialogue (the other is egoism, willfulness, or other such hubris--an ordering all the same).” You worried that use of the Kabbalist (sp?) “metaphors” of nephesh and neshamah might muddy up the waters of discourse: “The placement of these two sources, in a sort of opposition between an ‘us’ and ‘them,’ does not answer whether these two sources belong to the same orders, as if they belong to the same genus.”

Plato draws dualistic distinctions; he speaks of body and soul. But he also had a myth that accommodates the view of one common humanity, a vision of unity. That was the myth of the divine puppeteer, and the “golden” and “base” cords that animated the actions of the human “puppets” – where the golden cords could draw the individual human soul into a divine life “in the fullest measure that human nature can admit.” The way I look at it, the terms nephesh and neshamah refer to propensities in an individual human soul to respond to either the pull of the “golden,” or the pull of the “base.” And I think this is within Alamo-Girl’s description of those terms. (I hope she will let me know if that’s not the case.)

You later wrote: The metaphor of these two sources was furthermore complicated with the body soul dichotomy, the supremacy of common (or public) reason, as distinct from the private I presume.

I don’t presume that. I’ll take the body-soul duality the way Plato saw it. More on that in a minute.

All of this then is found to come together in a master receptacle called the consciousness, some central nexus that lies passive to a monolithic and ubiquitous nature, or reality, which is something I don’t believe.

Well, I don’t believe it either, cornelis. Consciousness is not some kind of passive nexus mediating “a monolithic and ubiquitous nature.” That was Callicles’ entire argument, in a nutshell – wouldn’t you agree?

The unique understanding of Plato led him to record the Gorgias and suggest ways of realizing dialogue after failure. It provides a unique answer that has not yet been discussed.

Let’s take a look at this “gorgeous” work. The mise en scene: Callicles invites Socrates to his house, where the eminent guest of his hospitality, the great “rhetorician” Gorgias, has been holding forth all afternoon to a very large company of other invited guests. Socrates particularly wants to meet Gorgias, because he has a few questions he wants to ask of this famous and highly esteemed figure. We soon learn that what Socrates had in mind is the test of the statement or postulate: It is better to suffer evil than to perpetrate it.

Fast forward. (Lurkers, please go read the dialog. I promise to put up the link presently.) Socrates is able to maneuver Gorgias into total silence, on the basis of the logical inconsistencies of Gorgias’ argument. The only way that Gorgias had left to him to assert his position would have required him to say out loud the most despicable and “base” things about human nature and the general constitution of reality. So he presently clammed up.

Then stepped into the breach one Polus, a disciple, I gather, of Gorgias. In due course, Socrates made short order of him, on identical grounds. Polus presently clammed up as well, and for identical reasons.

Which left the field to Callicles. One gathers he was also a pupil of Gorgias. But he was not as scrupulous in his discernment of moral truth as either of his predecessors in the dispute with Socrates had been.

Of Callicles, what can one say? To my mind, a description of his character is best summed up in these lines from Heraclitus (Plato’s “long shadow,” on Voegelin’s view):

Eyes and ears are bad witnesses/For men whose souls are barbarous.

In Callicles we have a human creature of the 4th century B.C. maintaining with perfect equanimity that all human laws are but conventions, in effect fabricated out of the perceived need by whatever ruling class might hold the reins of power at any given point in time, to support whatever happens to pass for the cultural, political, and economic status quo. To this concept he opposes the idea of “natural law” – which is decidedly not the idea of “natural law” that Christian theology has advanced. The “natural law” of which Callicles spoke was, in fact, the law of the jungle. The law of brute power: the law of “human advancement” at the expense of one’s fellow human creatures. Arguably, it is a kind of “law” of which both Thomas Hobbes and Charles Darwin would have approved. [And then would presumably have had to devise ways -- instantly -- to constrain precisely this behavior, so deleterious in practice to the welfare of human societies down the ages.]

Throughout this dialog, Callicles sneers at, and makes veiled threats against Socrates. And Socrates recognizes the bad faith, the animus towards himself; yet he bears it all in good grace and good humor – despite being well aware of the personal danger he faces in confronting this character. In particular, Callicles was quite prescient in this regard, for he informed Socrates that Socrates might himself be brought up on public charges sooner or later, and have to answer for his “crimes” in due course.

But Socrates is not to be daunted by these veiled threats. Well he understands that, in the end, the final judgment is not man’s to make. And it’s here we have to remember the “dualism” of Socrates/Plato which prefaces, IMHO, the idea of a Unity that can contain the two:

“Death, if I am right, is in the first place the separation from one another of two things, soul and body; nothing else.”...

Socrates further maintains in what follows that, in an improvement by Zeus over the former order of Chronos, human souls are judged “naked,” by “naked” judges.

Which is the very approach or posture taken by Socrates toward Callicles all along. For all of Callistes’ barely contained spite, Socrates was generous towards him in all respects. The suggestion is that Callistes, when he must confront the final judgment, “naked spirit to (fearsome!) naked Spirit” – as inevitably he must, on Plato’s view -- would probably not fare so well, or be so generously treated….

And from the merely human point of view, why should he be, since Callicles thought fit to espouse the following:

“…how can a man be happy who is the servant of anything? On the contrary, I plainly assert, that he who would truly live ought to allow his desires to wax to the uttermost, and not to chastise them; but when they have grown to their greatest he should have courage and intelligence to minister to them and to satisfy all his longings. And this I affirm to be natural justice and nobility. To this however the many cannot attain; and they blame the stong man because they are ashamed of their own weakness, which they desire to conceal, and hence they say that intemperance is base….they enslave the nobler natures, and being unable to satisfy their pleasures, they praise temperance and justice out of their own cowardice.”

Unfortunately, this voice seems to sound a great resonating chord in our own time -- echoing down the course of a couple millennia by now, and yet so timely to the modern ear.

In the discourse of Callicles, you are hearing a case mounted in favor of unaccountable power, of the invasion and usurpation of the sphere of the individual human being, of totalitarian thought and behavior.

Of contempt for all life, human or otherwise. And a rebuke to God Himself into the bargain.

Who needs this sh*t??? What kind of civilized polity can be constructed on Callicles’ stated grounds?

FWIW.

141 posted on 02/14/2003 7:11:55 PM PST by betty boop
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To: All
Here's the link to Plato's "Gorgias":

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Academy/3963/books/gorgias.htm

142 posted on 02/14/2003 7:44:20 PM PST by betty boop
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To: All
p.s.: It's 78 pages of typescript. Motivated readers could "do it" in an afternoon. But then one might want additional time for reflection...about what is really a most ancient problem in human affairs that has not, til this day, been "conclusively answered."

Of course, the folks who give you this (i.e, Callicles') explanation tend to hold human history in contempt as a source of knowledge or wisdom....

143 posted on 02/14/2003 7:51:07 PM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop; Phaedrus
Thank y'all so much for the heads ups on your excellent analysis and background! I just scanned the link. It looks fascinating. I'll be reading it tomorrow. Hugs!
144 posted on 02/14/2003 8:41:38 PM PST by Alamo-Girl
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To: betty boop
Unfortunately, this voice [of Callicles] seems to sound a great resonating chord in our own time -- echoing down the course of a couple millennia by now, and yet so timely to the modern ear.

Chilling. Callicles, thy name is Clinton.

145 posted on 02/15/2003 5:20:06 AM PST by Phaedrus
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To: Phaedrus
Chilling. Callicles, thy name is Clinton.

Yes, Callicles is the very model for a Bill and Hill....

146 posted on 02/15/2003 7:41:14 AM PST by betty boop
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To: betty boop

BTT


147 posted on 02/15/2007 4:50:25 PM PST by supremedoctrine ("Talent hits a target no one else can hit, genius hits a target no one else can see"--Schopenhauer)
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To: Billthedrill; Little Bill

Ping for more thought.


148 posted on 02/15/2007 6:02:07 PM PST by Little Bill (Welcome to the Newly Socialist State of New Hampshire)
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To: betty boop
My Grandfather, a simple Mormon Mechanic, disliked Burke, and disliked the French Revolution mainly for its rejection of the past in law and heritage.

He felt that the Founders took the idea of continence to its logical end, we were from England and those laws and customs that we inherited and were compatible with a Republic should hold force.

149 posted on 02/15/2007 6:19:20 PM PST by Little Bill (Welcome to the Newly Socialist State of New Hampshire)
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To: Little Bill; supremedoctrine; Alamo-Girl; metmom; hosepipe
My Grandfather, a simple Mormon Mechanic, disliked Burke, and disliked the French Revolution mainly for its rejection of the past in law and heritage.

Hey there Little Bill! Long time no see!

How can one dislike a book that dislikes what one dislikes?

By all means, Little Bill, do read Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France yourself. As Scruton points out, the book is about conservatism vs. progressivism (revolution):

To be a conservative, I was told, was to be on the side of age against youth, the past against the future, authority against innovation, the “structures” against spontaneity and life. It was enough to understand this, to recognize that one had no choice, as a free-thinking intellectual, save to reject conservatism. The choice remaining was between reform and revolution. Do we improve society bit by bit, or do we rub it out and start again?

The French revolution was about "rubbing society out" and starting over, from scratch. In the process, human beings devolved into animals: There was nothing left after France was laid waste that could serve as a support to human beings. Everybody was free to "do his own thing" (even quite monstrous things); but then it turned out that only "bestial things" could then be done. (Which is an insult to animals really -- I'm sorry for that; but these humans were "worse" than animals. Animals are incapable of bad will or evil motives....)

The horrors that Burke depicts are monstrous, chilling. Plus Reflections is one of the most eloquent defenses ever written about the millennia-old conservative political (and social) philosophy.

I couldn't recommend the book more highly. And Roger Scruton is a wonderful read in his own right!

150 posted on 02/16/2007 1:45:33 PM PST by betty boop (Beautiful are the things we see...Much the most beautiful those we do not comprehend. -- N. Steensen)
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