April 27, 2015

Low But Solid Ground

"It is impossible to overlook the extent to which civilization [Kultur] is built up upon a renunciation of instinct.” ― Sigmund Freud, Civilization and Its Discontents

As I said last week, the awareness of the fact that the world consists of many diverse cultures is not a new insight and has been recognized for at least 2500+ years. Yet, oddly enough, the word “Culture" is of relatively recent vintage in the Western lexicon.

There is simply no ancient Greek word that can be translated as such—even despite the fact that the recognition of the disparity between Nature and Convention is the foundation of all Political Philosophy. Plato, in his Allegory of the Cave, even basically gives a perfect description of what Culture is: a collection of symbols and signs, virtues and heroes that unite a group of individuals into a united whole. This failure to specifically name it mainly arises from the fact that all pre-Modern societies were wholistic—i.e. there was no distinction between public life and private. Modern, pluralistic societies, though, have invented a way in which individuals and groups with differing conceptions of the “Good” can live together more or less peacefully: our Laws are not considered divinely inspired, instead, are based on calculation and Reason.

April 20, 2015

Ain't Gonna Work On Maggie's Farm No more

"Just as the soil needs cultivators of the soil, the mind needs teachers. But teachers are not as easy to come by as farmers." — Leo Strauss, What Is Liberal Education

I’ve been talking a lot recently about the concept of Culture in my writing.

This, again, is another one of those big words that we throw around all over the place today, despite it having lost all meaning. Now, when we say "Culture," all we mean is any random group of individuals who happen to have shared values and at least some sort of collective hopes and dreams. It is truly amazing, though, how far this word has fallen from its original meaing, and the implications that this has had for our society.

April 19, 2015

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be Judged

“In a sort of ghastly simplicity, we remove the organ and demand the function. . . castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” — C.S. Lewis, The Abolition of Man

Is it really possible to live a completely non-judgmental existence?

So often today this is touted as some sort of ideal, but judgment is really just a synonym for Reason. Do we really believe that Reason is a bad thing now? We claim to want better, more rational social policy, yet destroy all ground upon which we could construct it.

The real problem here, though, is what this theory that everything is equal and unjudgable is now used for. I don't believe anyone can truly be completely non-judgmental—it is far too dehumanizing. But it is now often employed as a bludgeon to silence people. We now publicly shame individuals for "shaming"—i.e. judging—others. We're told we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe, except if it happens to be that there is right and wrong. If you do believe that, then you are evil—apparently.

I believe that it is possible to judge the action and not the actor—to have compassion for the individual, while not just indiscriminately accepting everything that they do. Have we really become so fragile that we must be validated in every little thing that we think and do now?

 4 Ways Non-Judgmental People Are The Worst

April 17, 2015

What's So Good About Nature?

“Everything is good as it leaves the hands of the Author of things; everything degenerates in the hands of Man.”Rousseau, Emile or On Education

In America today, we've become so obsessed with consumer products being "all-natural" with "no artificial ingredients." But we seem to exempt our-Self from this criteria. What does it mean for a Human Being to be natural, to fulfill the Philosopher's dream of living according to Nature?

Check out my new piece exploring these questions and more: What's So Good About Nature?.

April 13, 2015

In the Hall of the Philosopher King

"You have shown me a strange image, and they are strange prisoners. Like ourselves, I replied." — Plato, The Republic

How determined are we by the age in which we live? Are we all merely swept along by the current of our particular times or is it possible to mount our will against the swell and truly be an "individual"?

All epochs have a Zeitgeist, a certain “spirit of the time,” which determines the intellectual, artistic, rhetorical and fashion trends of that society. And if one wishes to have a career within said society, one must be unabashedly timely in order to be “relevant.” In other words, one must accept the prevailing forms of taste, or its not likely that anyone will care what you are doing—at least not the mass of society.

So who—or what—determines the “taste” which is deemed acceptable in any given age?