The so-called “Culture Concept” Destroyed Western Civilization

The so-called “Culture Concept” destroyed Western Civilization.  Now that there is a general recognition that civilization is being systematically destroyed, and there are a list of immediate scapegoats, beginning with, but hardly ending with “Islamic terrorism” it is imperative that the root cause be identified.  Actually, in spite of the wolves howling at the door, civilization in a material sense continues to limp along and satisfy the daily needs of the vast majority.  But civilization as an idea was long ago subject to barbarous assault, and without the idea of civilization it remains but a matter of time before the material benefits of civilization.

It was the culture concept which eclipsed the civilizational capacity to distinguish good from evil at the societal level.  Since this is a weighty claim, I should make it clear what I mean by the “Culture Concept.”  First of all, it has to be made crystal clear that human groups have always had different traditions and customs, and human beings have always understood that there were a variety of life ways practiced throughout different ages, climes, and countries.  The acknowledgement of what we today call “cultural differences” was not something that suddenly descended from the academic towers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rather, the “culture concept” represents a repackaging and rethinking by academic elites (and subsequently everyone) of how to understand the educationally imparted, non-physical, characteristics of human groups.  Previous to the enlightenment the different institutions of the nations were ascribed to the various gods that they worshiped.  From the point of view of the new religion of secular humanism which increasingly replaced Christianity in the West from the 18th century onward, an alternative theory had to be devised to account for human institutions and their variability.

Contrary to the vague notions which are conjured up by the word “Humanism”  often indistinguishable from humanitarianism, secular humanism is a crypto-religion with its own highly dogmatic and precise doctrines.  Perhaps the key figure, if not in the foundation of, at least the buttressing of this doctrine at the theoretical level was the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.  The culture concept is essentially thinking about human institutions from a neo-Kantian view.

What do I mean by “thinking about human institutions from a neo-Kantian view.”  Negatively, it means bracketing out of all supernaturalitic influences.  Positively, it means that human being invent their own institutions, either through a heroic frenzy of Prometian creativity, or through a long period of trial and error.  Since there is no standard outside of human minds to judge “culture” it becomes an irriducable primary, and its own justification.   Humans promulgate thought forms and decide what is good and evil.  What corresponds to the thought forms they have promulgated is good, and what deviates from them is evil.

There are two variants on this post-Kantian theory of the human mind making its own world.  One is species wide and one is ethnic.  Hegel took up the idea that there was a species wide mind which sorted out all the various categories of existence, it passed through various stages in its evolution, but was not capable of external judgment hence the Hegelian dictum “Whatever is real is rational and whatever is rational is real.”

The ethic theory developed as a neo-Kantian reaction to the species-wide evolutionary mind of the Hegelians.  This was the  culture concept that we are familar with, in which each ethnic group posits its own collective mental world.  Again, since there is nothing outside the human mind, there is nothing that can call each culture to account according to a higher standard.  There is no spiritual distinction between civilization verses barbarism which can be invoked.  Sure enough, according to a consistent application of this neo-Kantian reasoning, the use of barbarism, and later civilization to describe qualatative differences among the institutions of the nations gradually passed out of use.

One can easily see where this is going.  Since there is no higher spiritual criterion by which groups can be judged, and since group conflict, like individual conflict, is inevitable…then a lowest, rather than a higher common denomiator must be invoked.   The “culture” of neo-Kantian humanism is only the next to last stop before the final destination.  Culture must in the end give place to materialism, and humanism to inhumanism.

So it has gone with the modernist/humanist movement. With God it is differen, for one of the primary characteristics of God is judgement among the nations according to their works… “Jacob I have loved and Essau I have hated.

He is not a relativist.

 

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Genetic Entropy finally starting to make waves

Genetic Entropy finally starting to make waves

Although stated from time to time as a scientific hypothesis, the theory of devolution, or negative evolution if you will, has had a hard time attaining recognition in a culture which congratulates itself on measuring “progress” from imbecilic proto-humans. The idea none the less has refused to go away. Richard Watley, an early contemporary of Darwin, put it pointedly “An Aristotle may be nothing more than the rubbish of an Adam.” (And that from a man who had great respect for Aristotle, having reintroduced his logic to a 19th century audience).

Now Dr. John Stanford, in his recent work on Genetic Entropy has brought forth rigorous arguments which indicate that mutation is predominantly maladaptive. Being a student of history and society rather than genetics the most I can add to that is to note that human beings certainly don’t give any indication of geting better morally.

What atheists and gnostics are going to make of this when it becomes recieved wisdom is anyone’s guess, but some indication of the fact that genetic entropy is starting to percolate into the culture comes from the movie Prometheus. Although Prometheus is a rather flawed attempt to mix science fiction and horror plots, on the symbolic level it does manage to visualize genetic entropy in a compelling fashion.

The non-Christian response is likely to be a gigantic yawn…if not a laugh. Something along the lines of “So people are getting dumber…I always knew that!” These people also think that God wants us dumb so he can dominate us. Thats exactly what a god who was immanent to the created universe (like Satan) would like to do…however that’s not the God who Christians worship.

Our God made us smart and made us to last. Like the promethean figures of science fiction, Adam was a veritable superman. So much for physics and noetics. The problem was ethics…in addition to being brainy and physically perfect, Adam wanted to be morally independent of his creator. He got that independence (albeit exchaged for the subtle despotism of Satan) and was forced to endure the curse of mortality.

Gentile myths of the fall accord pretty well with what the Bible says. What makes the Bible different is that it also gives us a scientifically realistic view of genetic entropy. Of course at the time of Darwin this was still “future science.” The interval between Darwin and Sanford has been a long time to waste on a flawed paradigm. Especially considering the fact that we aren’t getting any smarter!

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March 7, 2013 · 5:45 am

Creationism, The Principle Behind The Ontological Dualism of Humanity and Nature

The Natural Sciences vs. the Human Sciences, the contribution of General Creationism

Christian creationism, whatever subschool is in question (Gap, Framework, Old Earth, Young Earth etc.) goes beyond the bare assertion of creation and makes the fall a central principle of a Christian anthropology.  This is confusing to people who come to creationism for the first time, even those who might otherwise be predisposed to accept creationism on principle.  Here I want to make a case for distinguishing a general from a specific (or Christian) creationism.  There was a general creationism which undergirded all classical humanism, a humanism which is to be distinguished from the post-evolutionary “skeptical humanism” of the modern Humanist Associations.  The ideas of human dignity and personal rights are largely products of this creationist humanism which came into prominance at the time of the Western renaissance.

Later I will go into somewhat more detail on how this creation-based humanism is distinguished from its more complete Christian archetype, and to what extent it was a kind of bootleged Christianity, suggled past the vanities of the flesh and resulting in the kind of ameliorations of the human condition which were characteristic of the earlier Western revolutions.

Creationism’s mightiest enemy, Aristotle, was defeated long before the advent of Darwinian naturalism.  In contrast to Darwinians, the Aristotelians had a world-view which not only had considerable emprical evidence in its favor but which also had a tight  conceptual framwork.  Aristotelian eternalism was a self consistent whole which didn’t have to deal with the paradox of the initiation of time (aka “Big Bang”) a factor which weighs uneasily on the concience of secular science.

Enter Maimonides

With the rediscovery of Aristotle Christians of the 12th century had the  option of either keeping the eternalist view out  of the Augustinian synthesis by fiat, or accomodating it by taking a double world view stance, with faith on one side and science on the other.  At the time this was called Averroism, but it should look very familiar to anyone knowledgable about liberal theology from the 19th century onward.

Of course “nobody can serve two masters” and the double world view leads to either secularism or fideism, but not both at the same time in the same individual!  Note at this juncture the distincition between the benign duality of the natural and human sciences, which I am plugging for here and the contradictory eternalist/creationist distinction.  In the first case it is a matter of two different theories for two different objects, and in the second two different theories for the same object.  Please keep that in mind.

Fortunately Aquinas and other theologians unhappy with Averroism’s violation of the law of non-contradiction had the rabbi, Moses Maimonides (Egypt based Sephardi, 1142-1204) to do their homework for them.  Maimonides pointed out that natural law, or in simple terms the ability to keep objects “still” enough to investigate their properties, did not reqire a seemless eternal universe such as that posited by the Aristotelians.  It did not require an infinit continuum, only continuity from a begining.  The other competing world view, called occasionalism, didn’t allow for relations within time, and hence failed a major prerequisite of being a basis for science…the necessity positing causes and effects.  But scriptural creationism (remember, like Christianity, Judaism posseses Genesis) is not the “continuous creationism” of the occasionalists.  As Maimonides was at pains to point out in his Gide for the Perplexed,  scriptural creationism is foundational creation with subsequent continuity.   As such it provides a perfect “floor” for the building up of scientific knowledge.

The above is an oft told tale, albeit one which deserves frequent reiteration.  However I want to take this story a bit further and point out that the solidity of creationism, even in the very generalized and non-Christian form that it takes in Maimonides and his scholastic successors, is precisely the basis on which the benign dualism of natural history and the humanities was laid.  One result of this is what was called “science” after Galileo, and another was what is termed the “renaissance” of civilization in Western Europe.  Neither of these were unmixed blessings, but the point at hand is that neither would have existed at all without a creationist prologue.

Today creationism confronts a monistic naturalism which is more sophisticated in its methodology and has greater empircial depth than anything the Aristotelians were familiar with.  On the other hand these strivings toward monism don’t have the consistency of the Aristotelian synthesis, but rather resemble ad hoc conjectures which are both contradictory and subject to intellectual fashion trends.  In a sense the great battle between creationism and eternalism has been won decisively.  The argument against evolutionism is essentially a mop-up operation against scattered and dissolute bands of desperados.  Of course I’m speaking from a purely conceptual viewpoint, and fully recognize that, trapped as they are within the framework of modern politics and culture, most people are just as “perplexed” today as when Maimonides put stylus to parchment.

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Ontological Dualism of Nature/Humanity Founded on Creationism

To the reader

In the immediate future I hope (God willing!) to make a categorical survey of “creationism” in its broadest sense.  First of all this entails making a distinction between creationism in general and what may be called Christian, or specific, creationism.  Much of the misunderstanding and prejudice associated with the creationist movement, both pro and con, can be attributed to a conflation of these two categories.  Broadly speaking, general creationism has been neglected even though it has had important historical consequences.

Creationism may be defined as the bare doctrine of the creation of the world ex nihilo, i.e., “out of nothing.”  This is a necessary but not sufficient doctrine for specific creationism, which not only adds the doctrine of the fall but makes it central to any understanding of anthropology.

Disagregating general from specific creationism helps us get a better handle on ontological questions.  As interesting and important as chronology might be, (and lets face it, when most people think of “creationism” they automatically start thinking in chronological terms) the prior issues have to do with the “is-ness” not the “when-ness” of things.  Apart from theology, the most salient ontological question was always “What does it mean to be human” or more precisely, are “human beings” a separate category from “nature” or just one of its sub-divisions.  Giving a postive answer to this question yields an ontological dualism.  I also submit that this dualism is a necessary prerequisite for humanism in the good sense of the word, when we use it to designate the upholding of human dignity and personal rights.  In other words it is foundational to the older Western revolutions, who’s influence has spread throughout the world and become the basis for contemporary international society.

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Pico’s Resolution!

Onward Christian Anthropologists!

Last year I let this blog go quiet, but in the meantime I have been trying to flesh out some ideas about Christian Anthropology, which are now ready (or at least semi-ready) for publication.  First, on a personal note, I need to make it clear to any past readers of this blog that I have gone from a rather hazy Anglo-Catholic stance on Christian doctrine, to a staunch Evangelicalism.  While this doesn’t necessarily impinge on every issue in Christian Anthropology, there may be certain differences in tone which hopefully wont be a “skandalon” to long time followers of this blog.  You can be scandalized if you wish…just don’t let it become a “stumbling block” in your spirtual walk.

 

Secondly, and of much more relevance to Christian Anthropology per se, is the fact that I have gradually transited from being “creationist curious” to acnowledging creationism as an indispensible starting point for any seriously Christian consideration of the doctrine of human nature.  This doesn’t mean that I intend to add to the very extensive work done by the so-called “scientific creationists.”  I don’t doubt the value of this work, but it does seem to me that there is a certain nurd-like ambience to that movment, which has very successfully emulated the  “facts and only the facts ma’am” attitude of secular physical scientists.  In this process the social sciences have tended to get left out in the cold, which I think is a pity.  What is really needed is some sort of collective effort…a continuation of, say, the journal of Creation in the Social Sciences and the Humanities which was heroically fielded by Eleen Myers and her associates from the late ’70s to the early 90’s.

Indeed the decideratum is not so much the development of a separate “creation science” as a critique of evloutionism’s deepest and most salient motivations.  I don’t think that the gates of evolutionary doctrine will long resist acritical psychological investigation which clearly shows that the roots of the “deep time” metaphysic in the mentality of sin.   To demonstrate that evolutionism is gnostic, and that gnosticism is fundamentally psychologistic rather than objective, should be the long term goal of any Christian anthropology which deals in first principles and does not merely emulate the eccleticism and random empiricism of secular anthropology.

Having said that, I am going to initiate this blog’s revival with an upcoming series on one of the more wildly speculative, and yet empircal, Christian anthropologists, Arthur C. Custance.  While I don’t necessarily agree with everything which Custance held to, his thinking was one of the more sustained attempts to delve into the social (and in his case physiological) consequences of a creationist anthropology.   None the less, since his intellectual legacy has been marginalized by contemporary science and theology, it seems that begining with an investigation of Custance’s ideas should open up all sorts of neglected and important avenues of thought…at least for yours truely.

But I hope others will join in!

 

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Burn ’em at the stake!: Refuting Cowen’s Libertarian Heresies

Tylor Cowen goes to bat against paleolibertarianism

Tylor Cowen, who has artfully managed to turn economic analysis into a running commentary on life style enhancement, has recently given a succinct summary of his objections to what he no doubt considers the “fundamentalist” version of libertarianism.  Many people would like to replace this older ideology of the right, which might be called paleolibertarianism, popularized from the time of Albert J. Nock to that of Murray Rothbard under the slogan “our enemy is the state” with somthing like “look at the state we’ve  gotten ourselves into…can’t something be done to improve it?”  Tyler Cowen is by no means the only person who shares this point of view, he is simply its most articulate advocate.  The idea is that the monker “libertarian” is just too good to be wasted on anarchists and other of their ilk who really want to radically curb the principle of coercion in public life.  Rather it should be awarded to the respectable oppenents of leftism: the social democrats, neoconservatives, and life style liberals who otherwise would have nothing better to call themselves than “cosmopolitans.”

It is to Cowen’s credit that he has come up with a list of priciples which distinguish these pro-capitalist cosmopolitains from libertarians, and that he has admitted that in the eyes of the latter the former are heretics.  In an address to the Institute of Humane Studies he formulated a series of principles which, in his mind at least, distinguished pro-freedom cosmopolitans from libertarians.  This is, of course, a “galaxy far far away” from yours truely, and moreover I am relying on second hand information, the blog of skepticlawyer who seems to live in Australia (at least my own hemisphere).  None the less to the extent that I can reconstruct Cowen’s address, the principles seem to be five in number:

1.  People are freer now that they were in the past

2. The proportional size of the state has diminished in relation to the growth of civil society.

3. It is meaningful to speak of postive as well as negative rights.

4. The establishment of the rule of law is anterior to any possible calculus of freedom vs. unfreedom among a population, and a prerequisite for any advance in freedom.

5. The cultural values of a population must be considered anterior to any abstract notion of the advance in freedom.  Less freedom may be preferable, in the eyes of the population, to the sacrifice of other values to the end of greater freedom.

These are weighty statements which almost guarantee the consent of our prudence and common sense.  Whether they are true is yet another question.  I hope some mind equal to the task will refute them in their totality and preserve the radical integrity of the libertarian movement.  After all a slogan like “look at the state we’ve gotten ourselves into…can’t something be done to improve it” is less likely to send people to the barracades than “hate the state.”  But then of course, that may be the real motive for the cosmopolitans’ defection from old-style radical libertarianism.  It may be  an attempt to put prudence and self-preservation ahead of principle, certainly an understandable motive…but one which opens up the possibility of refutation.

I for one find it difficult to resist the temptation of chiping away piecemeal at these “heresies”…if only to see if some deeper foundation can be discovered for the paleoconservative position.  Tylor has thrown down the gauntlet…now let’s see how many will take up the challenge!

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Sudha Shenoy: In Memoriam

A Woman in the True Tradition of Political Economy

Sudha Shenoy 1947-2008, was more than an economist, she was a keeper of academic traditions, a living lore-mistress, a transition belt between cultures and generations of scholars. She was one who both introduced me, and then reintroduced me, to the world of Austrian economics, which was quite a feat in itself, since in those days I was a kind of refugee from a different cognitive world. Sudha was the kind of economist who could speak to a disaffected social scientist or even literary critic in such terms as to make the “dismal science” of economics come alive as a branch of the humanities.

I really only knew her briefly, but now that she is gone a host of memories crowd in on me…things that she said in an off handed way which struck everyone present as profound, yet largely went unrecorded for posterity. For example, she once conjectured the “throw away hypothesis” that most Austrian economists came from marginalized religious backgrounds, that is to say, they were more likely to be the children of atheists, Quakers, or Jews than, for example, Methodists. Her implication was that the principles espoused by Mises and others could be seen as an amplification of the rhetoric of dissent (which in the Anglo-Saxon world included Catholics like Neuman). She herself was a dissenter from her own tradition, for she had become a Buddhist by choice. Most Westerners would be hard pressed to distinguish a Hindu from a Buddhist, and I imply no invidious comparison, but for Sudha it was a characteristically intellectual choice…a rejection of cast and mythogogy for reason or “dharma” a Sanskrit term which approximates the Greco-Christian term “logos.”

Another shocking manifestation of Suda’s dissenting mentality was her rejection of the cult of Mohandas Ghandi. At the time I met her there was a vigorous trend among libertarians to incorporate Ghandi among the icons of the movement on the pretext that there was an unbreached continuity between the nonaggression principle and a strategy of nonviolence. Although there was never a gentler person than Sudha Shenoy, she was quick at spotting and denouncing cant in whatever cultural guise it appeared. Once she explained to me that even the wife of the Great Souled One considered him a madman. Well, considering that her husband adopted celibacy without calling a family conference to discuss the matter in advance…Mrs. Ghandi may have had some insight that the rest of us lack.

Yet for all of her critical acumen, Sudha was a conservative thinker in the very best sense. She was impatient of those neologizing disciplinary distinctions which seem based more on the unionization of intellectual nitch-holders than on real differences in subject matter. I remember a debate at George Mason over who had been the first to recognize the division of labor. Cantillon was said to have gotten it earlier than Smith, while others claimed that it was all to be found in the writings of the Spanish Scholastics. Sudha settled it with one word: “Plato” which compelled our assent, for everyone (well almost) remembered the passage of the Republic where Socrates had described specialized exchange within his soon-to-be-reformed “city of pigs.” Although Plato seldom appears on reading lists compiled for the inspiration of libertarians, the passage is there and its priority is unquestioned.

That was Sudha. She was never one to reject a valid insight, no matter of what obscure and dubious provenance. This made her a balancing influence within the world of Austrian scholarship. Among the Misesians she was a Hayekian, and among the Hayekians she was always trying to push towards a more fundamental and radical reinstatement of liberty. In a wider sense, her mind encompassed strands which had been sundered since the time of what Karl Jasper called the “Axial Age” i.e. of c. 600B.C, up to the present: Greek philosophy, Indian metaphysics, British political economy, the Mengerian revolution, contemporary social science, and American libertarianism. Yet the result of these influences was not a miasma of eclecticism, but a mind all the more focused on a single goal…a world governed not by coercion but by spontaneous and tacit agreements. No doubt Suda would wish, in lieu of mourning the loss of that mind, that we should redouble our efforts in pursuit of its goal.

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