Random quotes

“Truth implies freedom, because in the regime of freedom an arbitrary authority cannot impose dogmas according to its good pleasure: the human mind is at the same time subject to truth and free because of it.”

Chantal Delsol, “L’idée d’Université”, quoted on Siris, October 10, 2017.

“Wilder Penfield, an early-twentieth-century neurosurgeon who pioneered seizure surgery, noted that during brain stimulation on awake patients, he was never able to stimulate the mind itself—the sense of ‘I’—but only fragmented sensations and perceptions and movements and memories. Our core identity cannot be evoked or altered by physical stimulation of the brain.

“Relatedly, Penfield observed that spontaneous electrical discharges in the brain cause involuntary sensations and movements and even emotions, but never abstract reasoning or calculation. There are no ‘calculus’ seizures or ‘moral’ seizures, in which patients involuntarily take second derivatives or ponder mercy.”

Michael Egnor, “A Map of the Soul“, FirstThings.com, June 29, 2017.

“Political correctness is a serious problem, and it has an authoritarian tendency. … It is an obligatory, enforced participation in a fluid, liquefied moral world. We are told that we are not required to think or live in any particular way—except that we can’t think or live in ways that constrain, compromise, or even throw doubt on anyone else’s free decision to think or live differently. Taken to its logical extreme—everything is permitted as long as it permits everything—this becomes a paradoxical totalitarian toleration that is all the more dangerous because it deludes those who promote it into thinking that when they drive all dissent from the public square, they are ‘including.'”

R.R. Reno, “The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism“, First Things magazine, October 2017.


Song of the Day

I thought that I’d outgrow this kind of thing.
Tell me, aren’t we supposed to mature or something?
I haven’t found that yet.
Is this as grown-up as we ever get?
Maybe this is as good as it gets.
And the years go by,
But I think the heart remains a child.
The mind may grow wise,
But the heart just sulks, and it whines,
And remains a child.

Everything But the Girl, “The Heart Remains a Child” (1996).

Assorted quotes

It was the girls’ state championship track meet in Connecticut. A Cromwell High School freshman who calls himself Andraya Yearwood and “identifies” as female sped to victory in the 100- and 200-meter races. The 2016 winner, Sarah Hall, now a junior, came in second. She had this to say to reporters after being vanquished by a male runner that the State of Connecticut calls a female runner: “I can’t really say what I want to say, but there’s not much I can do about it.” Her succinct words capture the depth of the perversion that transgender ideology will impose upon us all. We will have to accommodate ourselves to lies, knowing that truthful words will be punished.

R.R. Reno, “The Public Square,” First Things magazine, August/September 2017, p. 67.

We need to get our heads on straight about all this. Political correctness and campus protests are not threats to elite institutions and their promise to the young that they guarantee success. The radical ideologies are part of a choreographed dance. “Unlike the campus protestors of the 1960s, today’s student activists are not expressing countercultural views. They are expressing the exact views of the culture in which they find themselves (a reason that administrators prove so ready to accede to their demands). If you want to find the counterculture on today’s elite college campuses, you need to look for the conservative students.”

R.R. Reno, “The Public Square,” First Things magazine, August/September 2017, p. 68 (quoting William Deresiewicz).

Part of that imperial arrogance in our own day, I believe, is the insistence that we, the empire, the West, America, or wherever, are in a position to tell the societies that we are already exploiting in a thousand different ways that they should alter their deep-rooted moralities to accommodate our newly invented ones. There is something worryingly imperial about the practice itself and about the insistence on everybody else endorsing it. It is often said that the poor want justice while the rich want peace. We now have a situation where two-thirds of the world wants debt relief and one-third wants sex.

N.T. Wright, Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978-2013 (Minneapolis:Fortress Press, 2013) (H/T to The Millennial Star).

And again, who are the fascists?

I’m not taking this blog totally political, but I wanted to help this story get circulated. Not in defense of Trump or white sumpremacists (as the story itself makes clear), but because people risk being beaten for nothing but appearing in public, and on the thinnest of grounds, and there’s not nearly enough outrage over it. I consider this fascistic terrorism since the goal is to make people afraid to air certain views publicly. You may think it’s a grand idea when these tactics are used against those you disagree with, but what happens when they disagree with you?

H/T to Junior Ganymede.

A headline I thought I’d never see

From the Washington Post, no less:

Black-clad antifa members attack peaceful right-wing demonstrators in Berkeley

In case it’s not clear, the reason I’m surprised is that a mainstream media organization that isn’t Fox News is clearly stating, in a headline, that the left was the aggressor while the right-wingers were “peaceful.” I would have expected them to either ignore it or somehow portray it as the right-wingers bringing it on themselves, especially in the wake of Charlottesville.

A small sign that the world isn’t completely insane quite yet. Or am I too cynical?

Why do conservatives conserve?

An online acquaintance recommended that I read the book “The Reactionary Mind: Conservatism from Edmund Burke to Sarah Palin” by Corey Robin. This is a book of previously published essays, with an introduction in which the author introduces his thesis. The thesis, basically, is that conservatism/reactionism/rightism (he uses the terms synonymously) is an ongoing effort to stamp out any attempt by the lower orders of society to improve their lot. (Also they’re violent and racist.)

I just finished the (39-page) Introduction of the book, before the essays start. I’m trying to keep an open mind, but find myself calling foul or BS on every other page.

First, his attempt to define the right as the side which always tries to beat down the lower orders, seems like a tautology. Rightists try to beat down the lower orders; those that beat down the lower orders may be identified as rightists. If you define it that way, then any time you see this happening in history you can attribute it to the right. But what if there is an instance where the left does it? Or is that possibility defined out of existence?

Shouldn’t you first define an ideology, and then talk about what its adherents have or have not done historically? That way we can identify the subjects first, and observe how they act afterwards; and not define them by how they act — those who do good on the left and those who do bad on the right.

For example he speaks of the abolition movement as a movement of the left, and the resistance to it as a movement of the right; apparently based on the definition of the right as that which tries to suppress the efforts of the lower orders to better themselves. But the abolitionists were mainly Christians and Republicans. Aren’t modern rightists also mainly Christians and Republicans?

If I’m called a conservative at the present time because I want to conserve certain things, or return them to how they were, that’s fair enough. But I may not be aligned ideologically with someone who wanted to conserve things 150 years ago. Possibly someone who agrees with my worldview would want to change things at one time, and conserve things at another. Shouldn’t our purported ideological affinity depend more on the kinds of things I/they want(ed) to conserve, rather than the desire to conserve per se?

People often say, “But Christians and Republicans weren’t conservatives back then,” as if they had mysteriously switched roles with modern atheists and Democrats. Well, maybe that’s because slavery wasn’t something that they wanted to conserve! If you brought them in a time machine to the present day, do you suppose the Christians of 1860 would be conservative or liberal with regard to the question of, say, gay marriage?

Is it mysterious that devout Christians of today, and devout Christians of 150 years ago, would agree in opposing both slavery and gay marriage? I for one would have expected that, since the motivating factor in both cases is the Christian faith, which remains essentially the same.

Up to now I haven’t had a problem with the labels “conservative” and “liberal” to describe political leanings or identities in the present context. But I’m realizing that it does present problems when trying to tie together people from one era to those of another, based solely on their tendency to want to progress or conserve. It’s often remarked by modern conservatives that “progress” is meaningless unless you have a fixed standard by which to judge whether or not you’re progressing. Simply moving “forward” can be neither good nor bad in itself; it’s only good if you’re moving towards something good. But how is “good” to be defined? To define it as “that which progresses” is to reason in a circle.

Well, the same applies to the word “conservative”. It can’t be a virtue to conserve per se. Whether to conserve or progress must be judged by some standard. That standard is the better criteria by which to group the people of one age with those of another. I happen to be conservative today because I consider some of the values that are being discarded by my society, to be worthy of conservation. It doesn’t follow that I would have considered slavery as being worthy of conservation. I conserve (at the present time) for the sake of what I consider good, in accordance with my faith and not just for the sake of conserving; certainly not for the sake of preventing the “lower orders” from bettering themselves!