Capitalism and the family

Frederick Engels proposed a history of capitalism in his book The Condition of the Working Class in England. Gareth Jones discusses his views and quotes from Engels extensively:

By ‘dissolving nationalities’, the liberal economic system had intensified ‘to the utmost the enmity between individuals, the ignominious war of competition’. ‘Commerce absorbed industry into itself and thereby became omnipotent.’ Through industrialization and the factory system, the last step had been reached, ‘the dissolution of the family’. ‘What else can result from the separation of interests, such as forms the basis of the free-trade system?’ Money, ‘the alienated empty abstraction of property’, had become the master of the world. Man had ceased to be the slave of man and had become the salve of things.’ The disintegration of mankind into a mass of isolated mutually repelling atoms in itself means the destruction of all corporate, national and indeed of any particular interests and is the last necessary step towards the free and spontaneous association of men.’

Fascism

It is predictable that whenever someone other than a Democrat wins election to the Presidency, we start to hear about “fascism” all over the place. Reagan, Bush and now Trump are “fascists.” This demeans and trivializes a term that actually means something.

According to The Oxford Guide to Philosophy,1) Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Guide to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005 fascism is:

Political doctrine combining ethnic nationalism with the totalitarian view that the state should control all aspects of social life. Fascism is thus opposed both to liberalism—individual liberty and fulfillment being held to be relative to the nation’s, rather than vice versa—and to communism—class-identity and aspirations being held to threaten national unity.

If anything, the left has pushed an agenda through educational institutions, the State and corporations that has more to do with controlling all aspects of social life. Donald Trump is many things, but he is not a fascist. Like the boy who cried wolf, the left is weakening us against real fascism in the future by throwing the word around whenever they disagree with someone.

References   [ + ]

1. Honderich, Ted. The Oxford Guide to Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005

Scruton on Derrida

In his 1994 essay “Upon Nothing” Roger Scruton addresses Deconstruction. He takes Derrida apart, saying:

Deconstructive writing has a peculiar surface, in which technicalities float on the syntactic flood and vanish unexplained downstream…
The main subject matter of that sentence is itself: the words whirl around each other, and are eventually swept away without settling into a meaning. The Derridean style refrains from stating anything. It quickly withdraws from any proposition that it sets before us, and spirals off into questions – questions which are themselves so factitious and self-referential as to deny a foothold to the sceptical outsider….
Derrida’s style abounds in childish wordplay, in invented words and deformations of syntax, in a wild and seemingly pointless erudition. It is a delirious style…

The Proletariat is the New Israel

Berdyaev writes:

In order to understand the meaning of the sociological determinism of Marxism and of the illusions of consciousness which it exposes, one must turn one’s attention to the existence of an entirely different side of Marxism, which is apparently a contradiction of economic materialism. Marxism is not only a doctrine of historical and economic materialism, concerned with the complete dependence of man on economics, it is also a doctrine of deliverance, of the messianic vocations of the proletariat, of the future perfect society in which man will not be dependent on economics, of the power and victory of man over the irrational forces of nature and society. There is the soul of Marxism, not in its economic determinism. In a capitalist society man is completely determined, and that refers to the past. The complete dependence of man upon economics can be explained as a sin of the past. But the agent which frees humanity from slavery and establishes the best life, is the proletariat. To it are transferred the attributes of the chosen people of God; it is the new Israel. This is a secularization of the ancient Hebrew messianic consciousness. The lever with which it will be possible to turn the world upside down has been found. And there Marx’s materialism turns into extreme idealism.

Berdyaev on Russian Darwinism

Nicolas Berdyaev writes:

Russians are always inclined to take things in a totalitarian sense; the skeptical criticism of Western peoples is alien to them. This is a weakness which leads to confusion of thought and the substitution of one thing for another, but it is also a merit and indicates the religious integration of the Russian soul. Among the Russian radical intelligentsia there existed an idolatrous attitude to science itself. When a member of the Russian intelligentsia became a Darwinist, to him Darwinism was not a biological theory subject to dispute, but a dogma, and anyone who did not accept that dogma (e.g. a disciple of Lamarck) awoke in him an attitude of moral suspicion. The greatest Russian philosopher of the nineteenth century, Solovev, said that the Russian intelligentsia professed a faith based upon the strange syllogism: man is descended from a monkey, therefore we ought to love one another.

The Greeks Sought for Contention not Truth

Augustine refers to Cicero on the subject of Greek philosophers in the City of God:

But, as Cicero says, mere logomachy is the bane of these pitiful Greeks, who thirst for contention rather than for truth.

He is referring to De Oratore, where Cicero writes:

…what impressed me most deeply about Plato in that book was, that it was when making fun of orators that he himself seemed to me to be the consummate orator. In fact controversy about a  word has long tormented those Greeklings, fonder as they are of argument than of truth…

The Modern Radical

For the modern radical is as confident in the moral expression of his stances and consequently in the assertive uses of the rhetoric of morality as any conservative has ever been. Whatever else he denounces in our culture he is certain that it still possesses the moral resources which he requires in order to denounce it. Everything else may be, in his eyes, in disorder, but the language of morality is in order, just as it is.

Alasdair MacIntyre, After Virtue 

Etc. Etc.

In an article called The Meme Hustler, Evgeny Morozov brings up Alfred Korzybski and writes:

He also encouraged his followers to start using “etc.” at the end of their statements as a way of making them aware of their inherent inability to say everything about a given subject and to promote what he called the “consciousness of abstraction.”

Winfried Noth says:

The remedy recommended by Korzybski against traditional Aristotelian language is a language reform. For example, he recommends the use of indices to specify uniqueness in time and space, of quote to specify inadequate terms, or of “etc.” to indicate the incompleteness of sentence meanings. 

As someone who reads documents for a living, this use of etc. is a plague. People use it all the time to indicate open ended lists of items, and it is the enemy of Hemingwayesque or Orwellian precision in language. Although I use it myself quite a bit, I am growing to hate “etc.”.

Greek and Persian Slavery

Gary North writes:

From the point of view of the slaves, the Greeks’ defeat of Darius’ Persian army in 490 B.C. at the battle of Marathon was a  disaster. So was the defeat of Xerxes’ fleet at the battle of Salamis in 480. Liberation from slavery had been imminent. The textbooks never consider this possibility. The Greeks are viewed as defenders of liberty and culture; the Persians are seen as barbarian tyrants. But Persia allowed the Israelites to return to their land and worship God openly (Ezra, Nehemiah). Christian students seldom connect the two accounts. It is as if the Persians were two different societies: one tolerant (the biblical account) and the other barbarian (the Greek version).

This strikes me right now because I am listening to the (awful) Republic of Plato and because I just saw the Cyrus cylinder. We do seem to stereotype the Greeks as freedom loving while the Persian barbarians were tyrants (Victor Davis Hanson and 300 come to mind), but Sparta was a horrible tyranny, and Plato’s Socrates seems to be in love with authoritarianism. I am starting to think that the love affair with Plato and Socrates is due to most people having never read them.

Jordan on Plato

James Jordan discusses philosophy and says:

Philosophy, an icon of the mind, is more subtle than (idolatrous) worship through images. In the ancient world, there came a time when the wicked had matured in evil to the point where they no longer made obeisance to any gods at all, but only studied “the divine.” This is the development of “philosophy,” which came about in pagan lands at about the same time as the prophetic movement was raised up by God among His people. Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), Kung Fu-Tsu (Confucius), Lao-Tse, Plato, and Aristotle were roughly contemporary. Each sought to replace worship with contemplation, a further step of apostasy from God.

Each of these three was a Cain. Virtually from the beginning, philosophy was political philosophy, designed to support the city of man. Philosophy was to be the religion of the state, the new form of the “court prophet.” The quixotic pre-Socratic philosophers had rejected personal gods and worship, and had debated what “ultimate being” was like. Full-fledged philosophy arrived with Socrates and Plato, who sought to bring this horrible thinking into the city and persuade the people to stop worshipping personal spirits and refound their cities on the empty consolations of philosophy. The people had enough sense to reject Socrates’ Satanic temptation, putting him to death, and Plato decided to express such ideas indirectly in the form of cryptic dialogues. Eventually Aristotle was able to reconcile the city and the political rulers to the fundamental ideas of Socrates and Plato, and as the teacher of Alexander the Great, set these notions in motion.

The differences between Confucius, Plato, and Buddha should not blind us to their fundamental sameness. Lao-Tse, the Plato of China, advocated an inner contemplation. Plato advocated a new and more radically anti-God kind of political order, wherein contemplated abstractions such as The Good would replace the worship of living gods. Buddha took a more anti-political position, leaving the city to do its business while advocating a kind of dropping out of society. But this position is still in the overall context of doing philosophy (religion) in political terms. Aristotle, heir of Plato, managed to reconcile Plato’s radical ideas with practical politics, as Confucius, heir of Lao-Tse, did in China.

In a ghastly misinterpretation of reality, many Christian thinkers decided that the philosophy of Plato and his associates was an improvement over idolatry. Actually, it was something far worse. The heathen idolater still recognizes that persons govern his life, and he still worships these persons. While distorted, such a view of reality is far closer to the truth than is a philosophy that denies personal gods and rejects acts of submission and worship. Plato does not represent an advance beyond idolatry, but a deepening of it.