Monday, June 25, 2018
What is “Revelation” for Jordan Peterson?
A few quick comments on Anna Marchese’s interview with Jordan Peterson for the Jesuit review America. The interview, published in April, garnered attention because Peterson discussed one of his own experiences of God, sparked in the presence of a sculpture he’d completed. Here I want to address more general issues. And so: the interview as a touchstone for giving my own (tentative) Christian take on Peterson.
In this interview, I think Peterson’s off the mark in a few formulations, but in general he gets it: he gets the deep structure that makes the West what it is; he gets that this is not merely a cultural detail of our Western past, but a fundamental element of the West that is non-negotiable, as the presence of water is non-negotiable if one wants to call something a “lake”.
Also, as Peterson sees, the West’s understanding of the Logos is a realization vis-a-vis Being that means the West is onto something: which is to say that losing the trail will also mean losing whatever else works about Western civilization, which is now (in my view and I think Peterson’s too) running on fumes left over from previous centuries.
I think Peterson is off, however, on various things. In this interview, he’s off when he speculates about what preachers believe or don’t believe. Sure, there are pastors and priests that fit his description, but these are certainly not all pastors and priests. When it happens, it’s mainly a matter of three things: a weak formation; a lack of drive; a lack of intellectual acumen. Which is to say that there are plenty of pastors who haven’t grasped truths Peterson himself has grasped. Is that any surprise?
He’s also off when he speculates on why so many churches are nearly empty. It’s not that the churches aren’t “modernized”, but rather that Western societies are still too much under the spell of Enlightenment scientism. I suspect that spell may be starting to wear off, though I may be wrong. Post-Enlightenment science has made the West strong; simultaneously, post-Enlightenment scientism has weakened it. We need to jettison the scientism while continuing to practice the science.
Typical for a North American, Peterson also puts too much stress on preaching as the essential thing that happens in churches, while ignoring the centrality of ritual and sacrament. That’s an unfortunate result of dominant Protestantism.
In more general terms, I believe Peterson’s biggest problem is that he takes Jung’s archetype theory too seriously and doesn’t take the possibility of revelation seriously enough. Yes, he uses the term revelation, but I suspect he doesn’t mean by it what orthodox Christians do: namely, that it is the Triune God who reveals, not a process of archetypal instantiation. Peterson, if I’m correct, still seems uncertain how this revealing God would be distinct from something in the Self. Oddly, for me, he keeps repeating that “the West is right”, but seems to think this is a matter of a certain learning process the West successfully went through, or a certain serendipitous instantiation of archetypes in the West’s stories that led to an intellectual leap. Of course, in my mind, if “the West is right”, it is because of more than just a lucky instantiation.
At least one of my learned friends thinks I’m misinterpreting Peterson, and insists his thinking is closer to mine that I realize. That may be so. In any case, I do think we’re very lucky to have Peterson. Has there been a secular public intellectual in living memory who can speak so compellingly on certain elements of Christian? Yes, it’s only certain elements, but Peterson’s ability to hit these points home so clearly is a gift to us. I pray for a gift of grace that may convert him to the fuller Christian vision, and faith. Perhaps, if my friend is right, Peterson has a fuller Christian vision than I realize. I have great respect for his project, and admiration for his tenacity and political insights, but have my doubts on this latter point. I will keep following his work and encouraging others to do so.
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Posted by Eric Mader at 4:22 PM No comments:
Labels: Jordan Peterson, Jung, orthodox Christianity, revelation, scientism
Sunday, June 24, 2018
Idiots / 白痴: A Public Service Announcement 英/中
There are idiots in every country in the world. Idiots can be annoying or even dangerous. The total number of idiots in the world at present is unknown, but this number, whatever it is, is certainly very high.
Sometimes idiots can even become national leaders. In that case millions of people will suffer.
It is important to know how to recognize idiots and to know what kind of idiots they are so that you can protect yourself and your loved ones from danger or many wasted hours.
But I don’t really want to write about idiots here. What I want to write about is pandas. Pandas are not really bears like most people think. They are cats pretending to be bears. Pandas are large, stinking vegetarian cats posing as bears. They do it to appear special.
If you see a panda doing its usual roly-poly act in a park, do not approach it to take photos. Do not waste time warning others gathered round it. They are likely already under its rollicking spell and will not listen. Get yourself and your family to another park as quickly as possible.
Pandas should be illegal. The only thing worse than a panda is a kung-fu panda. And the only thing worse than that is a kung-fu panda in 3-D.
How long are you going to let them fool you? They are going to eat through all the bamboo forests in the world and then they will start eating domestic livestock and children. There are videos to prove this.
That pandas are cats and not bears should be obvious to everyone. All you have to do is look in the encyclopedia.
In fact cats are not even mammals. What they are is reptiles that have evolved fur so as to appear to be mammals. Cats may seem cute when you look at them, but this is just an act. When humans are not looking cats commit all manner of evil and unhygienic acts.
If you see wild dolphins in the ocean, you may want to swim near them, but this is not a good idea because wild dolphins might not like you and also sharks often follow dolphins because they feed on them.
If they think you are being a pain, wild dolphins can kill you by butting you with their heads. But even if the dolphins ignore you, the shark may interpret your swimming which is less graceful than the dolphins’ as the movements of a dolphin having a seizure, and it then may attack you because it thinks you are easy prey, which is just about right, you dumb New Age fuck.
Some authorities believe cats are actually trying to take over the universe.
Chameleons that have not encountered predators for a long time may become so lazy that they forget how to change color. Such chameleons are good for nothing and do not even deserve to be called chameleons.
We hold these truths to be self-evident.
為避免自身和親人遭逢不測或浪費太多時間,知道怎麼 辨別白痴,並能看出對方屬於哪一類型的白痴就是兩大關 鍵。
熊貓根本是目無法紀。而比熊貓還讓人束手無策的,恐怕就只有功夫熊貓了。不過比起功夫熊貓,3D 的功夫熊貓 更是令人一籌莫展。
This and many other important public service announcements can be found in from Eric Mader’s Idiocy, Ltd.. Check it out at Amazon. Dryest humor in the west.
《白痴有限公司》: 還有犀牛、蝙蝠、obasans 、長頸鹿 、真英雄、台北秘史 and more. 你可以在台灣買到:
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Labels: Eric Mader, Idiocy Ltd., idiots, language, prose poem, satire, 枚德林, 白痴有限公司
Saturday, June 16, 2018
Reminder! / 注意事項!
Cows moo, dogs bark, sheep bleat, horses neigh, donkeys bray, cats meow, ducks quack, roosters crow, lions roar, wolves howl, ants are quiet, pigs grunt, elephants trumpet, hyenas laugh, hens cackle, llamas are usually quiet, moths are very quiet, crows caw, pigeons coo, mice squeak, trout are quiet, moles are quiet, chameleons are quiet, bears growl, oxen low, whales sing, salamanders are quiet, stag beetles are quiet, bass are very quiet, owls hoot, crickets chirp, parrots talk, impala are quiet, manatees are quiet, haddock are excruciatingly quiet, snails are quiet, lobsters are quiet, centipedes are quiet, sloths are quiet; porcupines resist all our efforts at communication: they are quiet; dace are quiet; salmon are quiet; earthworms refuse to tell us what they know: they are quiet; flounder are quiet; termites are quiet; after all our coaxing the mayflies remain quiet; hedgehogs are quiet; turtles are quiet; both the carrot and the stick have proven of no avail: walleyed pike persist in a dogged and perverse silence that apparently nothing will break.
乳牛會哞,狗會汪,綿羊咩咩叫,馬聲嘶嘶,驢聲喔喔, 貓會喵,鴨會呱,公雞會高啼,獅子會怒吼,狼會嚎,螞蟻很 安靜,豬聲侯侯,大象會嗷,鬣狗會笑,母雞咯咯咯,大羊駝 通常都保持沉默,蛾一向非常沉默,烏鴉嘎嘎嘎,鴿子咕咕咕, 老鼠吱吱吱,鱒魚不會出聲,鼴鼠不會出聲,變色龍不會出聲, 熊會低聲咆哮,公牛的嗓音低沈,鯨魚會唱歌,蠑螈靜悄悄, 鍬形蟲靜悄悄,鱸魚非常安靜,貓頭鷹會呼呼叫,蟋蟀會唧唧 叫,鸚鵡會講話,黑斑羚寡言少語,海牛寡言少語,黑線鱈寡 言少語到令人尷尬的程度,蝸牛不太說話,龍蝦不太說話,蜈 蚣不太說話,樹懶不太說話;豪豬完全抵制我們為溝通所做的 一切努力:牠們默不作聲;代斯魚默不作聲;鮭魚默不作聲; 蚯蚓拒絕交代自己知道的一切:牠們悶不吭聲;比目魚悶不吭 聲;白蟻悶不吭聲;我們連哄帶騙後,蜉蝣依舊不言不語;刺 蝟不言不語;海龜不言不語;事實證明,不管人們來軟的、玩 硬的都沒用:一意孤行,堅持封口到底的大眼梭子魚,顯然不 會因為任何事而打破沉默。
This piece is from Eric Mader’s Idiocy, Ltd.. Check it out at Amazon. Dryest humor in the west.
《白痴有限公司》: 還有犀牛、蝙蝠、obasans 、海豚、真英雄、台北秘史 and more. 你可以在台灣買到:
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Labels: animals, Eric Mader, Idiocy Ltd., language, prose poem, satire, 枚德林, 白痴有限公司
Thursday, June 14, 2018
Muñoz vs. Deneen: Whence Our Parade of Horribles?
A blog post by Rod Dreher brought my attention yesterday to a new critique of Patrick Deneen’s hard-hitting Why Liberalism Failed. I didn’t find the critique, by Deneen’s colleague Vincent Philip Muñoz, anything like a decisive blow. It’s a strong essay, but seems more a matter of pleading than dispassionate analysis of where we are at. Leaning on the Founders’ good intentions, it describes a ship that has already sailed, one replaced by a new ship built by new shipwrights who have fudged the original blueprints to match their new priorities. I do suspect that possibility of fudging was too much there in the Founders’ blueprints, but that the fudging was not inevitable. I also suspect the sleek new ship presently leaving harbor is not seaworthy.
Muñoz’s essay, then, though well worth reading in full, is not finally strong enough to dislodge Deneen’s arguments.
But one of the commenters on Rod’s post, using the pen name Haigha, weighed in as follows:
The burden is not on Muñoz to prove that liberalism does not inevitably lead to the contemporary parade of horribles; the burden is on Deneen to prove that it does inevitably lead there. His argument doesn’t come anywhere close to doing so. As an empirical matter, we have one single iteration of the Enlightenment and the subsequent history of Western civilization. There’s no compelling reason to think that if we had more iterations, the results would necessarily be this way. The United States was doing quite well, and was more liberal than it is now, until the early 20th Century. Who knows what would have happened if there had been no WWI, or if the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness had been foreseen and stamped out early, or the conflation of science and atheism?
Since he obviously can’t prove his thesis empirically, Deneen is left with logic. Here, again, he fails by a mile. As Muñoz notes, the bad things that he claims are inherent in liberalism simply are not, as a logical matter. Take a look at this speech by President Coolidge. He explains the logic of liberalism properly understood, and how it not only is not incompatible with Christianity, but is in fact the most Christian system, because the Christian assertion of universal equal dignity necessarily leads to the conclusion that human interactions should be primarily consensual. The logical distinction between saying, “I have no right to prevent you from doing X”, and saying, “If X floats your boat, that’s great!”, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t.
I notice that Rod and Deneen both like to talk about global capitalism as if it’s something qualitatively different from what existed in the past. It’s not. Our economy was infinitely freer and more “liberal” in the Nineteenth Century. Global capitalism is just the result of advances in technology and wealth that enable us to engage in the specialization and exchange that make us rich on a much broader scale, and with more participants. Capitalism has advanced with technology, in spite of increasing statism, not because of it.
As for Casey, the Supreme Court is not, in fact, the authoritative interpreter of the Constitution. It has the indisputable final word only with respect to the disposition of individual cases or controversies where it has jurisdiction. The other branches need not respect a Court ruling that purports to strike down a statute on a blanket basis, or grant itself jurisdiction at the margins. And even if the Court were authoritative, that would not be remotely sufficient to establish that the Constitution is compatible with whatever the Court says, since the Court can obviously get it wrong.
Dreher: “For you conservative readers who believe that classical liberalism can be saved, I’m eager to know how you think that might be done, given the cultural realities of our post-Christian age.”
One of the reasons I’m attracted to this blog is that I have the same instinct that animates “The Benedict Option”: That the bulk of the population is too far gone, but that a smaller, core group might be able to keep the faith. If that’s true of orthodox Christianity, it may also be true of classical liberalism. Bring together those who understand that the equal dignity of men and women does not imply sameness; that “you may” does not imply “you ought”; that fences are generally there for a reason; that the scientific method neither is nor implies an ontology or a metaphysics; that we have unchosen duties. Teach those truths to each other and to our children. Build networks for cross-patronization and support. Gather geographically. In time, maybe even build up a great enough concentration to press for autonomy or independence.
In short, make classical liberalism part of the BenOp. There need be no paradox–Coolidge and the men he cites certainly wouldn’t have seen one.
My reply lower down the thread:
@Haigha gives the most concise, hardest-hitting critique of Deneen I’ve yet seen anywhere:
The burden is not on Muñoz to prove that liberalism does not inevitably lead to the contemporary parade of horribles; the burden is on Deneen to prove that it does inevitably lead there. . . . [We] have one single iteration of the Enlightenment and the subsequent history of Western civilization. There’s no compelling reason to think that if we had more iterations, the results would necessarily be this way. The United States was doing quite well, and was more liberal than it is now, until the early 20th Century. Who knows what would have happened if there had been no WWI, or if the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness had been foreseen and stamped out early, or the conflation of science and atheism?
[President Coolidge] explains the logic of liberalism properly understood, and how it not only is not incompatible with Christianity, but is in fact the most Christian system, because the Christian assertion of universal equal dignity necessarily leads to the conclusion that human interactions should be primarily consensual. The logical distinction between saying, “I have no right to prevent you from doing X”, and saying, “If X floats your boat, that’s great!”, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t. Exactly. This is certainly much better put than Muñoz puts it. If you have your own blog, Haigha, or write elsewhere, I’d love to know. In different forums, I’ve been trying to argue this last distinction to no avail for quite some time. Of course the answer is always: “If you don’t affirm us and agree with us as to what truth is, you are quite simply a bigot, your bigotry clearly comes from your religion, don’t you know about separation of church and state, you don’t belong in the public arena,” blah blah blah. Bland emotive assertions accompanied by no understanding of the separation clause. And yet, sadly, this understanding of the American project now gets a pass from tens of millions of Americans.
I fully agree with Rod and others here (cf. @pjnelson) that what we are witnessing is not a conflict between religion and secularism, but rather a conflict between different religions. On the one hand, orthodox Christianity; on the other, a new religion of the Perversely Desiring Self. What troubles me most in recent years is the fact that our elites and our courts are not secular enough. They are showing themselves adherents of a new religious vision, the Rainbow Cult, one with its own martyrology, its own rituals, its own sense of the divine. That divine is located not in any old desiring self, such as most of us, but rather in, let’s say, a teen drag queen who takes the moniker Divine, and who comes out “bravely” as intersex and gay at the same time. And if ze was ever rejected by ze’s parents or “backward” elements in ze’s community, all the better. Ze is already in this new cult a St. Sebastian on digital canvas, pierced by the arrows of normie evil.
One might not agree with me that Obergefell and what followed represents the rise of a new religion. But I’d ask: Would any other group besides our now worshiped LGBTQwerty tribe have been given the right to redefine an institution as fundamental as marriage? Because, in my view, they did not in fact “expand marriage rights”. What they did is redefine marriage. Would any other tribe have been able to do this, out of the blue as it were, after little more than a decade of rallying? I highly doubt it. It could only happen because of a certain something that the LGBT cause had picked up in the meantime. That something was a kind of religious aura, a Kool-Aid charisma that had already infected our culture on coast and coast (rather than from coast to coast, as the latter included a Middle America then still mostly unflooded by said Kool-Aid).
And this is why I wish our elites had stuck more to their secularism. That they had not become proselytes of a new cult.
But to return to the question of classical liberalism and its role in our present, Rod puts it like this:
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that most Americans today were religiously engaged. Would that have stopped the kind of liberal economics that have eviscerated communities? Or the other cultural developments that have deracinated modern people? I don’t see how. Whether the Founders realized what liberalism was capable of or not, the fact is that the deepest principles of liberalism are antithetical to the kind of virtues necessary to sustain liberalism. It’s a paradox.
I think this is basically right, and so, regardless of Haigha’s brilliant critique, I still incline more toward Deneen’s argument as offering something essential. Which is not necessarily to say that we have any better choices at the moment than liberalism. Perhaps Haigha is right that we need to focus on developing Benedict Options for both the orthodox religious and for those who still support classical liberalism.
I’m aware that Haigha, in some respects, is presenting a position similar to Muñoz’s. But I’m interested especially in Haigha’s stress on the alternative historical possibility that American culture had foreseen the results of “the conflation of women’s rights, sexual libertinism, and male-female sameness … or the conflation of science and atheism,” as I’m also interested in the following: “The logical distinction between saying, ‘I have no right to prevent you from doing X’, and saying, ‘If X floats your boat, that’s great!’, is obvious and elementary. For Deneen to be right, he has to collapse that distinction, and he can’t.”
I’d be curious how Deneen himself would respond to these various critiques. Of course in his book he makes very clear that hatching any ambitious new political blueprint to replace liberalism would be dangerous and likely self-defeating. But what would he say to Haigha’s arguments? Further: Is there any value in a Benedict Option of classical liberalism, if only as a means to temper the excesses of late liberalism?
Check out my Idiocy, Ltd. and begin the long, hard reckoning.
Posted by Eric Mader at 3:36 PM 1 comment:
Labels: American Founders, LGBT, liberalism, Patrick Deneen, Rod Dreher, Vincent Philip Muñoz, Why Liberalism Failed
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