Straussian Temperature Check

Straussians East and West cling to political teachings that Strauss made viable, but are no longer useful today. That’s not a reason to stop reading Strauss, because he pointed beyond outward teachings, perhaps more emphatically than any philosopher before him.

Our political situation is straightforwardly bad. Even if it is beyond saving, it would still be a good thing if reasonable men didn’t betray their fellows or capitulate to the mob in their hearts. Straussians do more of the latter than the former. For reasons I will discuss in this essay, Straussians remain far below the “philosopher” and have largely fallen prey to modern doxxies in an embarrassing way. Specifically, Straussians are antiracist and antireligion and this leads them to accept, in their own hearts (i.e., not esoterically as a mask) political decisions that degrade the universities and politics in general.

To put our current situation bluntly: whites and normal people are legal subordinates to racial minorities and “the disabled.” Our political class has decided to put an end to all forms of “discrimination”; they aren’t going to “work for it” by persuading the citizens (i.e., treating them like free people). “No more discrimination. No threats to the safety and happiness of the people will be permitted!” Strauss explicitly called that communism. Why do the Straussians fall prey to communism if their teacher and guide was opposed?

East Coast Straussianism

East Coast Straussians usually, in my experience, come to Strauss as liberals and do not substantially change. They have the fundaments of their earlier beliefs reinforced. I have even seen some become rabid leftist hyenas who still get hired by respected conservative Centers.

This happens because part of the philosophic teaching, the Platonic teaching especially, has to do with the source of virtue and vice. I discussed this in some detail in my introduction to Straussianism, where I talked about the excellent book by Professor Leibowitz.

This teaching can be summed up as “knowledge is virtue.” If knowledge is virtue, then the source of vice is not the “will,” but ignorance. I am not concerned with persuading you of this position in this essay. Really, if you are interested, read Leibowitz’s book. The upshot of the teaching is that people are in a sense “innocent” of their misdeeds. Everyone wants to do what is good, but those who do not do what is good act out of ignorance. If they knew better, they wouldn’t do the misdeed. The Apostle Paul wrote “I do what I hate” in opposition to this teaching.

A corollary of this teaching: men cannot obey commands they think are bad for them. It’s impossible. When people make “sacrifices” in obedience to a higher authority, they do so for some reason, expecting to avoid some evil (being a coward, for example) or obtain some good (praise). If men cannot obey some commands, even moral dictates, then it makes no sense to get angry at them when they are disobedient. What they need is education, not punishment. Punishment implies that they “should have known better,” but they couldn’t have known better, because if they did they would have acted differently.

This teaching can lead one to moral skepticism, and indeed such skepticism is the position of many East Coast Straussians, if not most. Take gay marriage as an example. They say, “well, a person’s inclinations in this way cannot be helped.” And they draw a liberal or skeptic’s conclusion from this: therefore the law should be changed. They will talk the same way even about cannibalism. But for some reason this generous spirit doesn’t, in my experience at least, reach to things like “racism” or “sexism”—i.e., the aristocratic view of politics and romance.

You can get an East Coast Straussian to attack BAP as vulgar and, in the same evening, say “Cannibalism is understandable.”

The East Coasters have their finger on something true, but so many of them lack the strength to see things through to their end. I do think “virtue is knowledge” and its corollaries are generally reasonable. But that doesn’t mean one cannot distinguish between good commands and bad commands and treat accordingly those who are unable to follow good commands. Just because someone is “innocent” insofar as they are just ignorant doesn’t mean their crazy ass wouldn’t be better off dead, or that citizens lack the right to clap them in chains and throw away the key. If East Coasters want to give a pass to cannibalism… why don’t they also give a pass to making examples out of ignorant men? I will tell you why: they believe skepticism requires toleration and maybe even affirmation because people need that.

Let’s say for the sake of argument that it is impossible to know the true religion. The East Coaster thinks this means he, as an honest and consistent man, ought to tolerate the religions of others. However, if it is impossible to know the true religion, why wouldn’t a government just choose the religion that suits it best since it’s as potentially true as any other? The East Coaster tolerates out of a sense of moral obligation. He brings a moral ought to the skeptical “there is no ought.”

This argument is not my argument. I think you can reasonably deduce that some things are preferable to others, that some character traits are better than others, etc. If people are simply unable live up to what is good… well, I hardly give myself a pass for my own failings and I don’t feel like being harried into constantly giving consideration to the “disabilities” of others as well. It’s tiring, okay? And when such “care and concern” for the failings of others is legally enforced, when they demand your respect for their failings with the force of law, well, then, it’s just insolence repackaged as justice.

In sum: the East Coast Straussians have a philosophic argument that shows the “innocence” of misdeeds and misinterpret innocence to mean “harmless” or even “equal.” This view leads them to excuse the insolence of others. Many good men have tenure and should rebuke all calls from the political commissars (Human Resources et alia) to grow more inclusive and “supportive.” If you don’t stick your neck out once in awhile…

East Coasters Malign Socrates in A Strange Way

East Coast Straussians tend to think that philosophy actually corrupts people. They think philosophy and politics are at odds, because philosophy teaches “amorality” whereas politics relies on certain prohibitions and honors.

I would contend that Socrates did not corrupt either Alcibiades or Critias, but that he made them better especially when they were around him. This is the explicit position of Plato and Xenophon. I know some snigger at the idea, but I think that’s because they think philosophy justifies base desires.

But besides the historical Socrates, there is a general question about whether or not philosophy is compatible with politics. East Coast Straussians tend to think the philosopher is a bad citizen. This is ridiculous. The philosopher is only ever a bad citizen in a bad regime, so to whatever extent a regime is bad to that extent a philosopher will be a bad citizen. Is it unselfish to be willing to fight with other men to acquire possessions? Is it unselfish to run risks so that you too can enjoy the fruits of citizenship? Is it anti-political to run the risks only so much as is necessary? Yes, I know, a political community might rely on a variety of unphilosophic speeches—“only doing the bare minimum is cowardly!”—but to whatever extent they do they are corrupted.

The best regime may not come into existence outside of speech, nevertheless every actual regime is measured by it. The philosopher is not at odds with this regime, he is integral to it.

Saying the philosopher is at odds with politics is like saying it is irrational to want leisure and all the good possessions available to men. I will admit that Socrates did, in some ways, play the woman to get his wealth. But get wealth he did, as well as a hot wife that he liked (who was perfect for the life of philosophy and therefore perfect simply), access to the most promising youths, and invitations to the best dinner parties in Athens.

Socrates was not stressed out or sad. He led a materially excellent life. I know a lot of East Coasters who are often very sad and deprive themselves of many good things. Sometimes they’ll even cope and talk about the pleasures of thought and how Socrates “lived in 10,000-fold poverty.” Please stop coping this way. None of that is true. You can’t think well if you eat garbage food, don’t have sex, and live in fear of political commissars and student wrath. How can you be philosophic and stressed or sad? Philosophy precludes such miseries. Yes, it might not even be your fault that you’re sad but that’s the rub isn’t it?

The conservative East Coasters

There are conservative East Coasters. These latch onto the distinction between the Ancients and Moderns. I am going to go through an argument I have had with a very dear friend many times.

Real Christians like the emphasis Strauss put on the quarrel between the ancients and moderns because they dislike the atheistic vibe the moderns give off. They also interpret the ancient focus on “human nobility”… they view this focus as an affirmation of community and the family, as opposed to the modern focus on “the individual.”

However, these affinities lead to bad results. Elijah del Medigo is a good example, and my essay about his view of the Ancients and Moderns is a good supplement to the critique that follows.

Community, family, God, equality… these are the values of the conservative East Coaster. I want to excise equality from that list. I want to free their souls from that error.

“The modern focus on the individual is degrading. We are not meant to be atomized units of commercialization and consumption. We are political animals. We are meant to find our fulfillment in loving relationships. Modern philosophy is dehumanizing and therefore it can never … the left can never be truly humanitarian. The leftwing is totalitarian.”

This speech is misbegotten. The things you actually revere are incompatible with your moral commitments. You revere the family. Yet, the family is based on exclusion and “selfishness.” Do you think the Left hates the family because … why? The left hates the family because it is patriarchal and self-interested (putting “your own” first) or it doesn’t exist. You revere community. Yet, community is premised on the existence of a citizen class that undergoes great labors for great benefits. Do you think the Left hates the benefits because … why? The left hates the benefits of citizenship because those benefits always require the elevation of some men over others. These benefits require what is called exploitation and discrimination. You revere God. Yet, reverence for God is based on high standards of human conduct. Whoever claims obedience to God is easy and “for everyone” belittles the divine. The egalitarian is the true atheist. Do you think the Left hates God because all men are equal in the sight of God? The left hates God because the dogmas of Christianity obfuscate its potential egalitarian and leveling tendencies: belief in the Christ, concern for Baptism and Confirmation, the Apostle’s Creed, these are things people just believe are important and have nothing specifically to do with the equal treatment of all human beings. Dogmas set a people apart. Dogmas are a sign of God’s favor. Upholding the dogmas of Christianity against the enemies of Christ is Western and not everyone can be Christian or Western. Every hierarchy, including this one, is anathema to the leftist dispensation.

The degradations of modern life are not the result of technology or “individualism.” The degradations are the result of egalitarianism. Enlightenment liberalism produced world conquest, strong communities (which are always premised either on conquest or a strong holding-action), healthy families, and the spread of belief in Christ far beyond the bounds even the Apostle Paul achieved. It was not the modern philosophers who encouraged the world you see and loath. Rawls is not the heir of Locke. Not even Rousseau was as insane as that two-bit academic philosophaster.

Aristotle is not your refuge in this argument. Aristotle bluntly stated the justice of piracy. He advocated for “natural slavery.” He taught the effect of the environment on race. He taught patriarchy. Even if these are “exoteric positions” and he “esoterically” thought piracy was evil, slavery unjust, and all races equal… even if all this is true, he thought his public teaching about these things was salutary. But really… in what world is the “secret teaching,” the truly dangerous teaching, “all men are created equal”?

Aristotle emphasized the difficulty of virtue and its sweetness. He pushed for habituation and law. Try to square an emphasis on habituation with equal rights for everyone including a slave class. Do people magically acquire virtue the day after they cease being enslaved? Are you required to share power with people who have been poorly habituated? One of Aristotle’s actual esoteric teachings is the rarity of true friendship because friendship only occurs between good men. And the same goes for politics: true politics occurs between friends or men who are approximately good. Now try to square that sense of community, of community based on virtue, with egalitarian notions about the evils of slavery. Natural slaves cannot even have friends, according to Aristotle. How are they going to be good citizens?

But the Southerners were evil. America sinned.

The West Coast

I have already criticized the West Coast in my reply to Tom West. I will try here to cover some different ground, though the opening is similar.

West Coast Straussianism began with Harry Jaffa and is carried on today by his star students, Tom West and John Marini being the clear leaders in this regard. Jaffa produced a public teaching he thought would steel American citizens against the leveling tendencies of communism, while leading promising students to philosophy.  Unfortunately it does the opposite.

I remember a debate I attended as a boy. The Creationist Dwayne Gish and some evolutionary biologist from the local university were debating Darwinism. I went to the debate because I was dragged by my childhood friend’s mother, who was an atheist so I don’t really know what that was about. In any event, I came away completely intoxicated with the idea that science proved the existence of God. The thing (science) I always assumed was the greatest danger to my beliefs turned out to be completely in my camp! I liken this youthful experience to what West Coast Straussians undergo when they hear loving equality means revering their ancestors and especially the founding generation. I thought, “you mean Christians are the real scientists!?” And they think, “you mean patriots are the real antiracists?!?!”

Well, I matured. And I will say here that neither Jaffa nor West take the antiracism morality seriously. They both distinguish between antislavery and antiracism. However… they permit the antiracism morality to linger and many of their students, even some of their brightest students, become thorough antiracists.

Keeping young men patriotic, and even making a few new patriots (I have seen it happen), doesn’t do much good when their patriotism continues to lead them down the path of communism. They aren’t even as conservative as Eisenhower. I once met a grad student who said the only statue he would defend would be Lincoln’s! And here is where I really have some problem with the public teaching of the West Coasters.

When that kid said he would only defend Lincoln’s statue another young conservative, one not trained in the Straussian school berated him. And this is what I think happens to a lot of West Coast Straussians: they go in patriotic, latch onto the “Equality Principle,” and proceed to misinterpret all the original reasons they had thought America is good and communism detestable. Imagine thinking your initial love of America and detestation of lefties was because “communism is actually more racist and discriminatory.” That turn of mind actually takes place in many West Coast students and it’s an injustice.

But let us put aside the effects of West Coast Straussianism and get down to brass tacks.

Criticism 1: anticommunism is incompatible with antiracism

Let there be several ways of getting at the definition of communism. First, communism is the attempt at ending all “discrimination” through force. Second, communism is the belief that virtue can be taught, easily, through a method. Third, communism is the attempt to acquire the benefits of esteem through force. Aristophanes mocked all this in his Assemblywomen. Strauss rejected communism in many places, but especially in his lecture Why We Remain Jews. There he refused even to use the word “discrimination” without putting scare-quotes around it.

Today we are under the boot of increasingly communist laws, even if we haven’t gone full-retard. The only way to combat these laws is to reject liberalism entirely or return to Jefferson and Madison’s understanding of liberalism. The latter can only happen in thought, considering the times and the quality of American citizens.

Jefferson understood equality to mean men had a number of equal rights, none of which amounted to a right to be included. These rights did not even, in Jefferson’s mind, demand the respect of others when those others were pressed by necessity. Southerner’s were bound by natural rights (equality) to free their slaves as soon as they were able to do so without impairing their own rights and liberties. And if ever they freed their slaves, they were under no obligation to include them in society or the political community unless they could do so, again, in a way commensurate with their own rights and liberties. Getting butthexxed by the North was not Jefferson’s idea of fulfilling the dream of the Declaration. He advocated colonizing the slave class or spreading it out very thinly over the vast expanse of America so as to disperse the burden of its political education. Neither of these things happened and we see the result in the streets today.

If you do not take Jefferson’s view, then America owes its former slaves and indeed everyone it has ever harmed in pursuit of its own independence and greatness. You cannot rest complacently with mere political (legal) equality, because the socio-economic gains of whites as a result of their ancestors is palpable. Yes, I know, you can talk all you want about “moral agency” (“we are all responsible for our actions and destiny”), but that is just a lack of imagination talking. Starting from the bottom is more difficult, and while people do still make it out… well, it remains more difficult and that matters! If things are easier for a class of people because of injustice then their enemies have a right to remonstrate against that “privilege.” America’s quest for its own independence and greatness made things easier for the citizen class and more difficult for many other classes of people. If you think that is necessarily unjust, then you are on your way to communism.  

Lincoln-worship tends in that direction in young people today.

Criticism 2: philosophy is about the right of nature, not natural rights.

Strauss points this out in The City and Man. I do not have my book handy, but the upshot is that natural rights are a democratic stand-in for natural right. The right of nature can be summed up as good men have a right to pursue their advantage. This is a reckless teaching because you tempt everyone to think they have a right to pursue their advantage according to their subjective understanding of that. i.e., you tempt bad men to think they have a right to act as good men do, to claim the advantage for themselves that good men claim.

Only the good man’s subjective understanding is “objective,” i.e., according to nature and therefore good. Everyone else’s is distorted: their desires are irrational. Even if what they want is a good thing, they want it in the wrong way, etc. The modern philosophers were more fearful of bad men taking the privileges of the good men and so produced a more esoteric teaching than their ancient forebears.

Instead of saying good men have a right to pursue their advantage, the modern philosophers decided to legitimize only a few desires outright: life, liberty, and property. All men have a right to pursue these things. They don’t have a right to pursue dominion except as a matter of strict necessity (to avoid dying or becoming slaves).

Don’t let bare speech get in the way of your understanding here… think in terms of a sliding scale: to whatever extent you are good, to that extent you have a right to pursue your advantage.

The natural rights teaching falls apart of its own accord because it too must abide by the right of nature. (Nature is unavoidable.) Let’s use Locke as an example: every man has a right to life liberty and property, unless he is a certain level of bad, in which case you can imprison or even kill him. I know Locke deploys various maneuvers to avoid the obvious fact that only people approximately good have the right to pursue life, liberty, or property. For example, he tries to always refer to criminals as subhuman (noxious things, beasts, etc). Nevertheless, the point stands for Locke: you have to be “reasonable” to pursue life, liberty, and property.  He just tries to maintain that all adult men are reasonable, because he was producing a teaching to influence natural democrats.

Hobbes deploys his own maneuver to escape the obvious: he says even the worst man has the right to try to save his life (he has a right to escape death row, or to flee battle and act the coward). But the right of nature is inescapable and Hobbes is forced to come to terms with it eventually: the vainglorious are rightfully restrained simply, i.e., he doesn’t merely say “the timid rightfully restrain the vainglorious” but that the vainglorious are just bad. In admitting this Hobbes gives way to the right of nature in the midst of his promotion of a very limited set of natural rights.

Maneuvers like these push back the demands of nature or reason a few steps. They invite the reader to question the author and keep the truth of nature out of harm’s reach. But producing salutary teachings about nature, teachings which take into account the peculiar weakness of the times, is not the only reason for “esoteric” writing. Look at Nietzsche: he very openly taught the most dangerous things about nature. But even he was forced into teaching contradictory things. The fact of the matter is that it is impossible to just “say” the truth because each man has his own weaknesses and confusions. Whatever you write requires correct interpretation. A writer with true talent acts as a sort of prophet, bringing the truth of nature into the hearts of his readers because he himself has been afflicted with their thoughts and concerns. The prophet or philosophic-writer is a timely man outside of time.

When the West Coast Straussians pretend that modern natural rights are universal and timeless guides to political life, they take the position of a specific teaching, a specific regime. The regime they support is invariably a democratic regime. Talented writers like Tom West try to show the elitism at the heart of that very democratic teaching, but … I think it is Nietzsche’s time because as I said in the previous section, Jefferson’s view of things ended at Appomattox. It needs to be said again and again: the writer of the Declaration and the drafter of the Constitution held political positions that were defeated with bullets. That the West Coasters laud the Declaration and Constitution, but refuse to give any credence or even teach the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions or Madison’s magisterial Report of 1800 is near incredible. I think they don’t do so because they recognize we cannot bring back the original founding consensus. The material (our citizens) is too corrupt and irrational.

To conclude this section: natural rights don’t make sense because men have to be good to some extent, i.e., humans as humans do not have rights. Not only is the teaching about natural rights not true simply, it is also deleterious today. Whites are legal subordinates to minorities! Teaching students that our founding generation was unjust rather than not ideal[1]—and you necessarily teach this when you elevate Lincoln above Jefferson and Madison—prepares them (the students) to accept legal subordination as penance.

If the natural rights theory is not true simply, and if it is no longer politically salutary, then the West Coasters should stop teaching it.

Mount Rushmore Post-Script

I was just told today to watch Trump’s Mount Rushmore speech. “It’s as if someone gave a Claremonter (West Coaster) the stage. The entire speech runs along the lines you reject in this essay… and that speech will do a great deal of good!” You know, I accept this line of argument. I could nitpick a few things… like how the speech praises America’s “inclusive” history but also calls for the American government to put “Americans first.” There are many of these small inconsistencies that, I think, plague The American Mind. Nevertheless, the speech probably did much good. But I ask you, which parts of the speech did more good than others? I contend that the speech was strongest when Trump was praising American accomplishments (building things, going to space, ‘forging’ great men) and not when he was touting our antiracist and antislavery history. I contend that saying those things does little more than assuage the American conscience, whereas listing our accomplishments is actually inspiring.

In any event, a message that is good for the spectators at Trump’s rally should be substantially different than the message you deliver to your promising graduate students. That’s okay!

Conclusion: Straussianism is Good

Writing this essay will not get me much “clout” on twitter. Talking about Strauss appeals to, I think, fewer than 50 of my followers. I am not trying to score points. I am using the only public platform I have to argue with Straussians about what they teach and in many cases actually believe. I will always call myself a Straussian out of gratitude to Strauss and his students.

But dear friends, it is time to act and save your universities. Universities are supposed to be where the best congregate with the best to talk and have sex. I experienced open and free debate in college. It wasn’t so long ago that you could actually have arguments about issues that make people very angry and touchy. The place I went to college doesn’t even exist anymore. Colleges are everywhere capitulating to psychopaths and moral fanatics. Moral fanaticism is not about “tradition,” it is always and forever more closely tied to “egalitarianism.” The aristocrat is the philosopher’s natural ally, not the people who promote degeneracy and skepticism. Habituation and Law, being the backbone of Aristocracy, are regime-level qualities more closely allied to philosophy than moral skepticism. You have to stop the moral fanatics from destroying the elitist quality of university life… or at least stop attacking the anons who do speak up.


[1] If you say, “no, we teach the justice of the founding generation…” Look, you know you don’t teach that. You only teach that their ideal was perfectly just. West admits this frankly in many public discussions. He doesn’t believe it in his heart though, I don’t think. You can see basically my entire argument here esoterically taught in his book. At least that is my contention.

Tocqueville on Fake Revolutionary Abstractions

“When we study the history of the Revolution, we see that it was carried out in precisely the same spirit in which so many abstract books on government are written. The same attraction for general theories, for complete systems of legislation and exact symmetry in laws; the same contempt for existing facts; the same confidence in theory, the same taste for the original, the ingenious, and the new in institutions; the same desire to remake the whole constitution all at once, following the rules of logic and according to a single plan, rather than trying to fix its various parts. A frightening sight! For what is merit in a writer is sometimes vice in a statesman, and the things which have often made lovely books can lead to great revolutions.

“The language of politics itself then took on the quality of that spoken by authors; it was full of general expressions, abstract terms, ambitious words, and literary turns of phrase. With the help of political passions which used it, this style spread to all classes and descended with unusual ease even into the lowest…

“…What is unique is that we have kept the habits we took from literature, while losing almost completely our old love of letters. I have often been astonished, in the course of my public life, to see people who never read the books of the eighteenth century nor those of any other, and who strongly despise writers, preserve so faithfully some of the chief faults which the literary mind produced before they were born.”

The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856), Book III, Chapter 2, “How Around the Middle of the 18th Century Intellectuals Became the Country’s Leading Politicians, and the Effects Which Resulted from This”  

Thanks to secret friend for this quote!

What is Straussianism?

Mutual Influence of Theology and Philosophy by Leo Strauss ...

I am posting a piece critiquing the Straussians in a few days, and thought a short companion essay explaining Straussianism would be helpful.

Leo Strauss was a German Jewish émigré who ended up spending the majority of his career teaching at the University of Chicago. From that perch, he had access to many talented youths whom he led to an interest in political philosophy. Many of these went on to become professors in prominent universities and he himself was widely praised as a talented scholar for some time. Eventually he published an essay ridiculing the sorry state of political science and the social sciences generally. After this, his work and students garnered more scrutiny and blackballing. While they did in fact make their way into many institutions and even the federal government, into places where they really did influence the direction of America, this influence is by and large spent, relegated to an increasingly small number of prominent schools. Though plenty of departments across the nation still provide ready homes for these scholars who, I would say, make up the best sect in American academia.

What did Strauss teach these promising young pupils? Strauss focused on a few principal themes that run through the Western political tradition. In this he is quite different than any philosopher to come before him, insofar as those philosophers typically spoke to a specific people about their God and their law (Maimonides and Alfarabi come to mind) or about universal truth, like Aristotle or any of the Enlightenment thinkers. (Nietzsche too, insofar as “truth is manmade” is obviously a claim to universality. Something of which Nietzsche was perfectly aware so don’t think this insight does anything substantial to his position.) Unlike these earlier philosophers, Strauss wrote books about thinkers throughout the political tradition and tried to show, contrary to an easy relativistic view, that they were not all giving different interpretations of “reality” or something like that, but that they were all talking about the same things and indeed all agreed on the essentials, that where they appeared to differ was a matter of political rhetoric in order to make the truth palatable for their time (this includes Maimonides and Alfarabi, by the way).

This attempt to attune the truth to the times, Strauss (and many others before him) called “esoteric writing.” The esoteric/philosophic writer speaks in the terms that are used and popular in his time, and tries to show how all virtue and all good things… he tries to show where these things have their ultimate source. Philosophic writing is an invitation to a discovery of the truth of things, an invitation which must be given in terms that can possibly be understood by contemporary readers. In other words, you cannot just “tell” someone the truth. It has to be discovered if it is to be “possessed” or understood.

Strauss invited his readers to this discovery by focusing on a few “tensions” or “conflicts”: the conflict between the ancients and moderns, the conflict between Athens and Jerusalem (aka Reason vs. Revelation), and the tension between politics and philosophy.

When it comes to the conflict between the ancients and moderns, Strauss teaches that the moderns are relativistic while the ancients were not. This is his baseline teaching and it was already familiar to English readers through the works of many Christian thinkers. Indeed, this aspect of Straussianism was meant specifically to appeal to Christians and especially Thomists in the fight against the leveling forces of communism (and not merely USSR Communism). The moderns openly or almost-openly taught atheism and materialism and if they appeared not to teach these things, their positions implied atheism and materialism as foundations. The moderns were teachers of evil, or were driven to foolish teachings out of “antitheological ire.” They were actually angry with God and his Church and wanted to bring these edifices down. Ultimately modern philosophers are responsible for “moral relativism,” because they taught Skepticism (atheism + materialism) in order to win the fight against religious persecution. The ancients on the other hand were interested in the promotion of nobility and they were not materialists. In this conflict, Strauss sides decisively and openly with the ancients.

When it comes to the conflict between Athens and Jerusalem, or Reason vs. Revelation, let me quote the most famous passage:

If we take a bird’s eye view of the secular struggle between philosophy and theology, we can hardly avoid the impression that neither of the two antagonists has ever succeeded in really refuting the other. All arguments in favor of revelation seem to be valid only if belief in revelation is presupposed; and all arguments against revelation seem to be valid only if unbelief is presupposed. This state of things would appear to be natural. Revelation is always so uncertain to unassisted reason, and man is so built that he can find his satisfaction, his bliss, in free investigation, in articulating the riddle of being. But, on the other hand, he yearns so much for a solution of that riddle and human knowledge is always so limited that the need for divine illumination cannot be denied and the possibility of revelation cannot be refuted. Now it is this state of things that seems to decide irrevocably against philosophy and in favor of revelation. Philosophy has to grant that revelation is possible. But to grant that revelation is possible means to grant that philosophy is perhaps not the one thing needful, that philosophy is perhaps something infinitely unimportant. To grant that revelation is possible means to grant that the philosophic life is not necessarily, not evidently, the right life. Philosophy, the life devoted to the quest for evident knowledge available to man as man, would itself rest on an unevident, arbitrary, or blind decision. This would merely confirm the thesis of faith, that there is no possibility of consistency, of a consistent and thoroughly sincere life, without belief in revelation. The mere fact that philosophy and revelation cannot refute each other would constitute the refutation of philosophy by revelation. (Natural Right and History 74-75)

In spite of that quotation, Strauss clearly sided with philosophy. So that should be taken into account. Likewise, he clearly sided with Athens. But his choice in this conflict led to a different course of action than his choice in the conflict between the ancients and moderns. He sided with the ancients and openly attacked the moderns. On this question, he sides with Athens and Philosophy but openly promotes the dignity of Jerusalem and Revelation.

Third, Strauss discussed the conflict between politics and philosophy. Athens killed Socrates and many Straussians believe that this was in a way just, because they believe that Socrates really did “corrupt” the young, that philosophy corrupts the young by turning them away from the noble pursuits of politics towards the private life of philosophy. This question is in large part what my other essay is about.

Now that I have stated Strauss’ positions as basically as I could, let me tell you what developed out of those teachings, what “the school” teaches. And I will try to do so generously.

When it comes to the atheism of the school, I am not joking when I say it is the norm. The clearest book on this was written by professor Leibowitz: An Ironic Defense of Socrates. In that book, he argues that the question of religion has been bungled by most. The question is emphatically not about whether or not god “exists,” but whether or not we—from our perspective—can actually obey commands if we think they are bad for us. He comes down on a solid “no.” You cannot obey a command if you think it is bad for you. Full stop. If you cannot obey a command you think is bad for you, then you cannot blame those people who do not obey commands. They couldn’t help it. And if you can only obey commands that you think are good for you, well, then, what do you think that means about your relationship to god? Are you obedient to him or obedient to your reason? You are only ever obedient to God when what he commands aligns with what you think is good for yourself. God(s) might exist, how can a philosopher or anyone say he definitely doesn’t? but that isn’t the point at all.  This little argument sparked off a giant debate in the Straussian world. By the way, Nietzsche belittles this argument as a Socratism in BGE—he points out that this argument makes little leftists out of halfwits. But the Straussians are hated as crypto-fascists!?! It is almost only ever other Straussians who accuse their fellows of being too leftwing. Pangle is somewhat famous for this. I add this bit about Straussians criticizing their fellows as lefties to recommend the school to you.

On the other questions, the Straussians tend to be hardly distinguishable from rather fluffy conservatives and have most definitively split when it comes to whether or not patriotism is a virtue. I recommend the essay by Anton in UNZ, which covers well the disagreement between the “East Coast” and the “West Coast” Straussians. I only add one thing:

The East Coast Straussians really do not think the “modern philosophers” were philosophers. They read the ancient philosophers for understanding and write about the modern philosophers to show that they themselves understand philosophy better than Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau among others. And look I kind of get it… when you are reading the “great books” you tend to agree or disagree with authors, but I promise you this is a low way of reading. Almost all the major authors in the canon can show you the way if only you know how to read them. Relativism is a mirage produced by nonessentials being different in different times… and people placing too much importance on those nonessentials, thereby seeing disagreement on them as signs of an inability to agree about the most profound things. Let’s take an extremely obvious example and I will be done with this essay: say in one time it was absolutely important for your people to reject clothes made of two materials because a ruinous political faction, a political faction that would betray your people over to their enemies, promoted the fashion of mixed materials, a fashion common among the enemy. So a philosopher might openly oppose wearing mixed-material clothing in his writings. Now apply that to most questions that “grip the populace” and you have a provisional but true answer as to why philosophers appear to have different “philosophies” or “descriptions of reality.”

Dominique Venner

In English we have 2 works of Venner’s, both brought to us by Arktos publishing. For A Positive Critique is, I think, the first book he published (1962) and The Shock of History came near the end of his life: it is a written interview (presumably done over email). So I beg your patience if you are a thorough Venner buff in the French style: From these two books and from the simple story of Venner’s life, I have great respect for the man, but I am not able to know Venner as well as I should like from the works I have.

Venner is French; I am American. His notion of cultural renewal and “a secret and more noble Europe” appeals to me because there is and always has been a “secret America.”

“Before taking part in politics, the Hindus first made a return to the source of their tradition.” The Hindu nationalist eschewed politics (as Venner understands the word) in order to focus on the secret and noble Hindu. Venner admires their focus on scouting movements and education. There really isn’t any use in fighting political battles if there isn’t a side worth fighting for, and only the secret and noble strain of a civilization is worth the fight. If the nobility of your blood or creed or race or whatever defines your nation (or whatever collection of things defines your nation) has no chance at succeeding at politics, politics is bunk for the time being. Venner turned historian in order to do his part in the cultivation of promising youth.

The historian is the ideal man in Junger’s mature theorizing: the historian achieves greatness within himself and this is what permits him to interpret the great men and their influence on history. Historians with poor eyes, impoverished souls, only bungle history and mislead young people. Such historians obscure the secret nobility of their people (supposing it exists—it doesn’t always).

Venner took this seriously and turned historian, giving up political activism as largely ineffective in the midst of so much decline. And not only decline… he recognized that the French people had terribly declined, but he also recognized that even the good men had (and have) no chance at wielding political power, an option only open to the financiers and the few statesmen who stand at the heads of independent states.

For Venner, politics involves the ability to make the most important decisions, which ultimately culminates in decisions of life and death. He follows Schmitt in this way and strikes me as a profound reader of Schmitt. Secret France had no access to this power. I do not know about France today, but I think it is obvious that good Americans do not have access to this power either. In fact, just recently, decent citizens were disabused of a long held notion that they had the right to control their police forces and lock away local criminals. The financier George Soros and others began gradually, but are quickly taking this right for themselves.

Politics must be put aside for the cultivation of the youth. “Thus a Young Europe, founded on the same civilization, the same space, and the same destiny, will serve as the active center of the West and of the world order. The youth of Europe will have new cathedrals to construct and a new empire to build.” This was his activist hope in 1962; only the immediacy of his hopes changed over time. He never lost sight of the youth of Europe: “This awakening [of Europe] will undoubtedly come. When? I do not know but I am positive it will take place.” (2012)

What to Preserve—The Hidden and Secret Elite

“Junger always distanced himself from the infamous and disgraceful acts of his time. He proved that despite the disappearance of the European aristocracy as a social class, the qualities of honour, self-sacrifice, and of conduct could survive in those of elite character who, in decadent times, constitute a sort of hidden aristocracy.” (32) (all quotes from here on out are from Shock)

“[Stefan George] even before 1914, began to outline his idea of a ‘secret Germany,’ embodied by a small elite belonging to a ‘Poetic state,’ opposed to the materialistic society of his time. His poems called for the awakening of a secret elite to protect the ancient flame.” (42)

You cannot just say what makes someone elite. If you could, it would be much easier to be “elite” and there wouldn’t be an elite. Let it suffice here to say, the exertions undertaken by the dissident rightwing are the groundwork for preservation of what is good: BAP’s Sun & Steel, the broad agreement around reading and discussion unbowed by fake morality, new projects, and a longing for real camaraderie.

I am aware that as an internet phenomenon, insofar as we are, there is no camaraderie in the old style. There is a lamentable side to this, but to be sure there is a virtue to be found in it as well. When your life is forced down certain avenues—and much of life has been forced onto the internet—you have to make a virtue of the necessity. The immense pond of human beings would in fact be much more stifling and unhygienic if we could not make the connections we are making over the internet. The groups we are forming in our locales are enriched as a result of our connection online, through which we have access to men we otherwise wouldn’t. I am not saying there haven’t been horrific consequences … our political life has been raped; you understand that. But if you’ve been injected with semen and cannot abort, you might as well bring forth new life as best as you can.

The Wordy Right: A Basis for the Hidden Aristocracy

“The first act by which we free ourselves from tyranny, by which we enter into intellectual and moral rebellion, is to free ourselves from the power of words. It is by means of words, by their seductive, corrosive, and intimidating power, that an able system captures those it wishes to neutralize or dominate, and it does so well before falling back on more dangerous weapons. … From the depths of the Gulag, Solzhenitsyn heroically reconquered his inner world, making himself a free man in spite of the barbed wire fences and guard towers that surrounded him. Solzhenitsyn said that he first had to conquer the lie that Communism had instilled within him, the lie that constituted the crux of his difficulty. Words are strategic implements. To give yourself your own words, and above all to give yourself a name, is to affirm your existence, your autonomy, your freedom.” (62)

Venner leaves the reader with that thought at the end of Chapter 6, and then starts in on a 3 chapter run discussing the history of Europe, where he seeks to provide a diagnosis to his English readers of the problems that beset Europe, specifically, the problem that a set of words has imposed upon Europe and the way out.

Venner does not like America and who can blame him. I have a number of criticisms of his view of America and of what follows, but I am saving that for a follow-up essay.

We start with what is highest: Venner’s view of the gods. Europe is currently guided by two gods and needs a return to the god Apollo. The Hebraic God and the Titan Prometheus currently are the strongest gods in Europe. Prometheus is in some sense the god imposed upon Europe by the Enlightenment and the Hebraic god was an Asian import, whose first foothold came through Plato but later, of course, through the Jews. It was good that the Olympian gods overthrew the Titans and bad that they were replaced by the One God of the Hebrews. We must return to Homer and retrieve the true meaning of Europe.

Taking things out of the realm of the gods: we have to oppose politics through abstractions and moral hypocrisy. We have to recapture the possibility of Tradition and Loyalty in our time.

“Tradition … is not the past, it is that which does not pass away. It comes to use from that which is most distant but always present. It is our interior compass, the benchmark of all the norms that suit us and that have survived all that has tried to change us. Look at the role of women…” (83)

Venner is emphatic on the role of women: the Homeric view of the ideal woman, the feminine virtues, have largely survived (as a remnant, not completely intact) since Homer’s Penelope. If Christianity had had its way, there would be no celebration of the bodies of Women in sculpture: the nude statue or painting would be forbidden. If Christianity could not eradicate this, the “North African immigrants” won’t have their way either. European women embody the truly feminine and excel the women of other traditions, which is why it is only in the European tradition that women are celebrated as they are.

Our tradition also contains a guiltless view of human life, though Christianity successfully attacked this. The truly European religions “made no pretence of being privy to a transcendent ‘truth’ and imposed no ‘morality’ from on high. Natural morals (do not kill, do not steal, honour your father and mother, respect your neighbor’s wife, etc.) were taught through tradition. Everything changed with the introduction of the Hebraic monotheism, which tore morality out of the hands of tradition and put it into those of a divine arbiter who threatened grievous punishment in the afterlife to those who broke the rules. This new ‘morality,’ according to Manent, through its often perplexing interdictions, introduced a conflict between ‘what men do and what men say.’ If we take the notion of secularism in the current sense of the word, the separation of politics from the ‘monotheistic religion,’ it may appear as though there has been an implicit return to the freedom of ancient polytheism, without the pantheon of gods.” (89-90)

So to repeat: the enemies are abstraction, nominalism, and transcendent morality (the ‘theological virtues’ if we are going to call a spade a spade). Tradition teaches “natural morality” and is, as tradition, inherently concrete and not abstract.

Our tradition teaches that we are, in a large sense, the playthings of the gods and in this life… we have the option of striving and though we hope for the best we may run up against a tragic catastrophe. This is okay because tragedy is part of the fertility of tradition: if your life is a tragic one … look, you should consider yourself lucky to be worthy of a tragic eruption. It means you were a significant part of the tradition. As for everyone else, they are only expected to be normal citizens—“do not kill, do not steal, honour your father and mother, respect your neighbor’s wife, etc.”—not tortured by unrealistic and perplexing divine commands whose violation can result in an eternity of torment.

The transcendent morality on the other hand, through its “often perplexing interdictions,” makes men into hypocrites: political action requires the violation of transcendent morality, all real striving must disregard it and you cannot keep men from striving. If you require men to turn the other cheek you just make them into hypocrites; you divorce speech and deed.

Europe toppled the transcendent morality, reasserted itself, in the person of Machiavelli—but it did so by having recourse to the Titan Prometheus, i.e., a reliance on utilitarian or techno-scientific culture. It did not regain its Homeric footing, but it did heal the division of speech and deed. I won’t go into an extensive explanation of the evils of the Enlightenment, which are well known: materialism & skepticism impoverish. If Europe is going to completely reassert itself, it must revive a respect for Apollo, either literally or metaphorically, to counterbalance the Promethean excesses.

Apollo

“The metaphysic of the unlimited, which has been the driving force behind human progress, has suddenly met its limit. The question we must now ask is: how can we rediscover the Apollonian aspect of our civilization in order to counterbalance the Promethean excess?” (16)

“The European spirit ignores moderation which was a rule among the ancient Greeks, at least before Plato. Apollo against Prometheus, in a manner of speaking. At that time, before the fifth century, a number of Greek philosophers and mathematicians endeavoured to learn about nature (phusis) using reason alone.”

European man must forego his addiction to progress through technology and abstraction; he is to moderate himself which means he is to return to tradition. On the one hand technology and abstractions sever European man from concrete problems… they hide from him the primal concerns of life and death. On the other, specifically with respect to abstract notions of “the good” (a holdover from Plato and Christianity), abstractions about “Man” have plunged Europe into a fit of disloyalty to itself, or disloyalty to its ancestors and their tradition; the abstraction “man” has prostrated Europe before the interests of the refugee-profiteers.

The god Apollo would permit Europeans to be loyal to themselves again. He would orient Europeans to the concrete reality faced by every tradition. The Europeans must recognize their position in the world as a unique people, which must undergo trials and undertake adventures and exertions if it is going to survive. The Apollonian aspect would return order and limit to the “unlimited metaphysics”: Europeans will see themselves as a living tradition that can but shouldn’t permit itself to die. Europe must permit itself a moral faux pas… there is a sense in which every living thing has to face up to the fact that it has no choice but to think of itself, to see itself as a mortal creature whose only security lies within its own resources. Apollo is the god of resourcefulness, of order for the sake of life. And beyond this moral faux pas… Apollo calls upon Europeans to re-cultivate the spirit, to see that they cannot avoid the problem of man: no artificial creation can save man from himself.

“The security of peoples resides in their homogeneity, their resolution, their intelligence, and the bravery more than in miraculous weapons or treaties.” (101)

Venner’s Suicide

Venner killed himself 7 years ago today. He did so not in rejection of the Apollonian; that was not the point. You can kill yourself for the sake of life. It does not take much imagination to see how. I do not have time or the inclination to go into his justification and doubt it is even proper… if someone questions this action of his, well, he defended himself quite eloquently on this score. You can find a justification of suicide in Shock as well as his suicide letter.

But let’s briefly look at history’s two greatest suicides: Cato and Socrates. Cato despaired. He had spent his life fighting for a Rome that no longer existed and he knew no other reason for living than for the glory and virtue of the Republic. If you have no reason to live, why do so? I know there are many arguments about “you just don’t know! You cannot play god!” But I think such protests … look, try living your entire life devoted to something and then live with the realization that what you lived for is over. I myself like to think you can always make a virtue of necessity, but maybe that is not always the case.

Socrates goaded the Athenian people into killing him and in so doing protected his friends and glorified philosophy. I don’t know if you know, but he was going to die at some point anyway and was quite old when he did. What if he had run away to Sparta or wherever? Would Plato have been passed down to us? Xenophon?

All honor to Dominique Venner whose accomplishments are still unfolding.

The Lebanotarian’s Library of BAP-exandria (25-29)

Episode 26:

BAP discusses the history of Russian Oligarchs
Only Russians have Oligarchs don’t you know


First a youtube of Rachmaninff Preludes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7koDS7aVfdk&feature=emb_title

Casino Moscow by Matthew Brzezinksi simonandschuster.com/books/Casino-M…

Godfather of the Kremlin: Looting of Russiaby Paul Klebnikov
abebooks.co.uk/book-search/ti…

Spy Game with Robert Redford and Brad Pitt. Old school CIA versus new school

Spy Game (2001) – IMDb Directed by Tony Scott. With Robert Redford, Brad Pitt, Catherine McCormack, Stephen Dillane. Retiring CIA agent Nathan Muir recalls his training of Tom Bishop while working against agency politics … https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0266987/

Operation Gladio , a CIA operation in Italy and throughout Western Europe
washingtonpost.com/archive/politi…

Armand Hammer – ENTREPRENEUR AND INNOVATOR

Armand Hammer | American businessman Armand Hammer, American petroleum executive, entrepreneur, and art collector. The son of a doctor, Hammer had made his first $1,000,000 through his enterprising ventures in his father’s pharmaceutica… https://www.britannica.com/biography/Armand-Hammer

Erich Traub, one of many operation paperclip assets from Germany and DISCOVERER of Lyme disease spitfirelist.com/for-the-record…

Write up on the relationship between Franco and the Falange in Spain

Franco, Fascism and the Falange – Not One and the Same Thing by Norman Berdichevsky (Sept. 2008) The long term misunderstanding and simplification of RIGHT vs. LEFT terminology in political discourse is responsible for the misconception that “The RIGHT” with i… https://www.newenglishreview.org/Norman_Berdichevsky/Franco,_Fascism_and_the_Falange_-_Not_One_and_the_Same_Thing/

French Integralism….Vermeule, careful what you wish for! en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Action_Fr…

Finally the rogues gallery, starting with Boris Berezovsky

Boris Berezovsky: An Oligarch Dies Boris Berezovsky was a man of grand, Shakespearean scope. And Putin’s Russia is no country for grand personalities. https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/boris-berezovsky-an-oligarch-dies

I present Masha Gessen, neolib mouthpiece. Will not link anything. Physiognomy speaks a thousand words

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Anatoly Chubais: “reformer” that liberated Russia of it’s wealth and natural resources

Anatoly Chubais | Russian economist and politician Other articles where Anatoly Chubais is discussed: Yury Luzhkov: …particularly First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoly Chubais. Luzhkov frequently squared off against Chubais over the handling of the pri… https://www.britannica.com/biography/Anatoly-Chubais

Interesting news item out TODAY related to Mikhail Khodorkovsy, who Putin PUNISHED

Dutch Court Reinstates Order For Russia To Pay $50 Billion In Yukos Case A Dutch appeals court has reinstated an international arbitration panel’s ruling that Russia must pay $50 billion in compensation to shareholders in the former Russian oil giant Yukos — a ruling… https://www.rferl.org/a/dutch-court-to-rule-in-50-billion-yukos-case-involving-russia-khodorkovsky/30441112.html

Christina Kirchner of Argentina, small potatoes criminal compared to the Clintongs

Argentina’s Kirchner charged with fraud, assets frozen https://www.businessinsider.com/afp-argentinas-kirchner-charged-with-fraud-assets-frozen-2016-5

Episode 27:

“Finally some Nietzsche”
BAP & particularly Bronze Age Mindset has been referred to as “Beach Nietzsche” even though insiders know the reading list is far longer. Here we have a Chill Beach-side chat with BAP.

Goethe wearing a cape

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Reputed pollster Rich Baris

Richard Baris | Big Data Poll Richard Baris is the Managing Director of Big Data Poll (BDP) and has been the Director of the PPD Election Projection Model since it debuted in 2014. https://www.bigdatapoll.com/team-members/richard-baris/

Nietzsche Beyond Good and Evil aphorism 248

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Nietzsche Ecce Homo gutenberg.org/files/52190/52…

From Camille Paglia’s Sexual Personae referring to Goethe (above) Tiresias, the blind Greek Prophet

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Tiresias the Blind Greek Prophet: Britannica.

Nietzsche : The Gay Science; section 356

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Nietzsche: The Gay Science; section 361

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Nietzsche: The Gay Science; section 362 (Napoleon)

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Georg Christoph Lichtenberg:

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg | German philosopher and physicist Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, German physicist, satirist, and writer of aphorisms, best known for his ridicule of metaphysical and romantic excesses. Lichtenberg was the 17th child of a Protestant pas… https://www.britannica.com/biography/Georg-Christoph-Lichtenberg

New Contribution from @Semmelweis7: Gobineau on male and female peoples

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Episode 28:

Colonialism Mindset
Movie about South Boston “The Town”

The Town (2010) – IMDb Directed by Ben Affleck. With Ben Affleck, Rebecca Hall, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner. A longtime thief, planning his next job, tries to balance his feelings for a bank manager connected to an earlier he… https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0840361/

Pierre Van den Berghe The Ethnic Phenomenon
Guru to @Steve_Sailer

The Ethnic Phenomenon https://products.abc-clio.com/abc-cliocorporate/product.aspx?pc=E3580P F

Roger Devlin – Heartiste where are you goodreads.com/author/quotes/…

Russian play Olbomov

Oblomov: A Play in Three Acts ebook by Frank J. Morlock – Rakuten Kobo Read “Oblomov: A Play in Three Acts” by Frank J. Morlock available from Rakuten Kobo. Based on a novel by the Russian writer Ivan Goncharov, this dramatic comedy features his eponymous hero, Oblomov.… https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/oblomov-a-play-in-three-acts Theo

Vinneman author of Europa Visconia, Europa Semitica
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vasconic_…

George Borjas video on Immigration. @CityBureaucrat has links to more:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vQngkB1Wl8k&feature=youtu.be

The Unheavenly City The Unheavenly City book. Read 3 reviews from the world’s largest community for readers. A discussion of the nature and fture of the urban crisis focusin… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/3640842-the-unheavenly-city

The Doric temple of Segesta in Sicily en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Segesta

Carthage colony in Sicily en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ancient_C…

Greek Colonies of Italy en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magna_Gra…

Jacob Burkhardt the History of Greek Culture

History of Greek Culture History of Greek Culture book. Read reviews from world’s largest community for readers. This monumental work by a distinguished European scholar presents… https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/345718.History_of_Greek_Culture

Wiki explaining the four major tribes of Greece en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Achaeans_… Sybaris of Magna Graecia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sybaris

Emperor Hadrian of Rome who larped as a Greek.

Hadrian Hadrian was Roman emperor from 117 to 138 CE and he is known as the third of the Five Good Emperors (Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, and Marcus Aurelius… https://www.ancient.eu/hadrian/

Finally St Patricks day, who does it better?

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Finally last one do you know of someone who suffers from FECAL AlCOHOL SYNDROME ?

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Episode 29:

I bring to you notes from Episode #29 of #CaribbeanRhythms

Quarantine preparedness stack Elderberry: PipingRock.

NAC, which raises glutathione levels , reducing inflammation.

Chaga Mushrooms: Healthline.

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Chaga and coffee products:

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Roasted Octopus Salad with Chilli Mayo (WHOA)

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Levi Strauss on cuisine:

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Epicharmus, a Greek Poet: Britannica.

Sappho 2, a fragment from the Greek Poet.

Athenaeus 3rd century Greek poet.

Pindar’s Olympic Odes.

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Jeff Gannon – rent boy past?

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Middle ages Greek comedy is written up here.

Write up on the Greek Symposium.

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Shibuya Businessmen…is this how you contain Coronavirus?

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I bet you can’t find this anywhere else, Sancocho edition: 1. Columbia 2. China

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I bet you can’t find AUTHENTIC beans and rice: 1. India 2. Afreaka 3. Columbia 4. Louisiana

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Moldbug Calls on The Bronze Age Pervert

Mencius Moldbug: The Deep State vs. The Deep Right

No one can touch the ruling class directly, through legitimate or illegitimate political action; but indirectly through art disruption is possible. The art-right is the way forward. The Brietbarts, the populists who started this revolution produced hackneyed and not real art. Real art aims at what is highest in man and isn’t concerned with an audience… art isn’t mere propaganda.

Nevertheless, art is dangerous and everything dangerous is a weapon. Every regime is also an aesthetic—i.e., every regime relies on the dangerous weapon—and currently the only weapon in town is the democratic aesthetic.

Bolshevism was an aesthetic experience. Nazism was also an aesthetic experience. And democracy remains one. To play in this league, to compete on this historical scale, requires aesthetic gestures of great power: strong gods.

The way an aesthetic break is established… an aesthetic break is established when the old aesthetic becomes incapable of telling the truth: post-ossification, there are vested interests, long devoid of any vital power, which continue to believe in their right to dominance, but find themselves in need of increasingly massive, indeed infinite, financial resources to reproduce their lies, to get their lies into the heads of the populace. Spending massive amounts on false narratives is a sign of desperation. The legacy elite are afraid and this is a sign of coming change. [This inevitability of regime change is the closest Moldbug comes to saying the world is essentially Just. I at least have always felt a devious optimism when reading his persuasive descriptions about regimes that cease being able to tell the truth.]

In this war, there is no room for compromise: everything old must be burnt off so that what is alive can grow. The sculptor is not here to compromise with the politician. The painter isn’t producing a paint-by-numbers… his paintings are not predetermined by the lines and boundaries of a focus group. The writer isn’t trying to persuade academics and pundits. Art must be an action that subdues the opponents only incidentally… i.e., art must exude dominance.

The world cannot be won by force. She must be seduced by greatness.

BAP is good at burning, but has no positive program. He is like Nietzsche and is setting fire to everything—necessary, but not sufficient. In time this will no longer be enough. In time, every “no” will have been said. A “yes” will be required.

A Response:

Moldbug says there is no way to act politically or violently against today’s oligarchs. I completely agree. So then, why isn’t BAP’s “sun and steel” program, with its promotion of male camaraderie, not a “positive project”? It gives men something to do. Does a “positive project” have to encompass a whole society? I doubt it. If we don’t even have a Club Tropical Excellence, how can we aim at reforming all of society?

In any event, the Bronze Age Pervert isn’t interested in offering guidance to mass society but the war-band, the assembly of armed men, and the small brotherhood… none of these groups need to be told what they want. BAM was a necessary book because of how much the obviously good things are mendaciously attacked today. The Pervert does offer compelling and interesting descriptions of model men, but most importantly he clears the way for a naturally healthy young person to follow his actual desires rather than be slowly crushed by fake moral claims.

As far as Moldbug’s hoped-for institutions… I imagine institutions grow up out of a great burst of life and that talking about the “art right” is, in a sense, useless; the great artists come of their own accord. Moldbug recognizes this in his essay. He both calls for the creation of institutions and notes their basic nullity when it comes to producing great art. Great art requires telling the truth about nature, and is therefore not always producible by just any regime: great art can only be produced by the regime that can tell the truth given the present circumstances. Great art is always consonant with the regime of the future, or an impending modification of the present regime. There was a time when art supported democratic regimes, because it was the democratic regime that could tell the truth. This is no longer the case. Moldbug therefore focuses on BAP, who represents the best thing we’ve got, the closest a new regime has come to finding a voice.

The writers at The American Mind decided to ignore the focus of Moldbug’s essay. They decided, each writer in his own way, to passively suggest to Moldbug that they would prefer he write about Christian things instead. With the exception of Haywire’s petulant essay, none of the writers even mention the Bronze Age Pervert! This is an embarrassing mistake. Moldbug did not write the essay because he wanted to explain the power of art on politics–that is kid stuff. Everyone and their mother knows about the power of art. Moldbug wrote the essay because he wanted to draw attention to BAP and goad him onto another book.

Zero HP Lovecraft: The New Tlön

Lovecraft argues that everything will be new but it will still be Christian. You won’t even recognize the new church. That’s the basic gist of his essay and it is in line with the Christian Philosopher Arthur de Gobineau’s observation about the Christian religion:

We do not find that Christianity has ever given the world a unique type of civilization to which all believers belong. The Church adapts itself to everything.

Lovecraft doesn’t mention BAP, but he passively suggests that BAP’s aesthetic, the aesthetic Moldbug wrote to promote, is compatible with the Cross.

Readers and listeners of BAP know he has indeed defended Christianity. He calls for its reformation. He defends the passion of Christ against the usurpers of that passion.

They had a chance and still do, to take on the idolatry of the holocaust and the idolatry of slavery. These idolatries do everything they accuse me of, but a thousand times bigger, and yet they say nothing. This imagery of the holocaust of slavery, have been used to appropriate Christian concepts and imagery of the passion story… Explicitly appropriated it. This NYTimes 1619 project… They twist it now into this new religion that serves the passive-aggressive, feminized, pagansim or gnosticsim of the modern state. It wears this garb one day and calls it ‘liberal democracy’ the next day. And these self-righteous faggot trads who put on the garb of religion themselves … they dare say not one word against it.

Caribbean Rhythms #19

Meadowcraft & Keegin: Resurrection Aesthetic

Meadowcraft & Keegin argue that the old world died at the Somme. It is time for something new. Although it is time for something new, we should borrow from Christian civilization. This requires an anthropology of the “whole human person.” Modernity is individualistic so it doesn’t see the whole human person because it doesn’t look for God. Understanding the “whole human person” means subordinating Athens to the Gospel, seeing man as a “frightened, doomed animal, adrift in a hostile and chaotic cosmos.” I know they say this view of man is from Athenian tragedy… but it isn’t and they give no evidence for their position—they like the idea that man is broken and in need of salvation and so they attribute their more perverse desire to the Athenians and save the optimism for the Gospel.

Look, if this is your kind of thing, there is always Flannery O’Conner. But this “whole human person” thing… it’s ugly. By “whole” they mean to say you aren’t allowed to ignore the ugly; the broken are saved by God so surely they have a demand on you as well. You cannot just love good people, you have to love “whole” people, i.e., all the people, without discrimination. It’s an egalitarian essay and as such stands as a passive-aggressive rejection of Moldbug’s view of art which doesn’t care for the “whole” person but what is best in man.

Rachel Haywire: Who Owns Vitalism

Rachel implies that Moldbug is ripping her off: she claims to have come up with the term “the Art Right.” I mean, it just isn’t that impressive of an accomplishment to turn the phrase “Alt Right” into “Art Right”… I wouldn’t be surprised if more than two people had the idea on their own. I doubt anyone cares who came up with the phrase. There is no substantive argument in her essay: she asserts that Moldbug lacks credentials. She takes some baseless swipes at BAP too, after pretending to be hardly aware of who is; that is, she resents him and wants to display that, but also needs you to know she is way too important to take notice of him. Haywire is a harpy, nothing more. I have a hard time understanding why they actually published this essay. [Maybe she and Moldbug are old friends, and her tone is a kind of aggressive-banter. I don’t know.]

James Poulos: I Know Why the Caged Man Tweets

Poulos argues that better men will learn to be content. He ends the essay on that note anyway.

And after a while, many of them [men who have tried very hard to be perfect] will fall deeply in love what surrounds them—even, or perhaps especially, if it isn’t strictly beautiful.

The reason men must learn to be content with less is that the “problem” of man is insoluble: nothing can be done that will give a truly ambitious man what he wants and so he has no choice but to humble himself and accept the constraints placed on him by nature and God. I wonder why he thinks the problem is insoluble if it is possible for man to humble himself before nature and God—if it were truly possible to so humble oneself before these pillars, then wouldn’t you expect that humility to be the solution? He says religion won’t do it: perhaps he means “religion” like those people who say “It’s a relationship with God not a religion” I don’t know, that could be what he means… but he seems pretty adamant that there is no solution whatsoever.

I assume Poulos is taking on BAP indirectly, when he writes:

But it has pushed men into feeling as if the dam that must soon burst, spilling big male energy back into the world, will create a mighty river on which the right kind of helmsman can take a shortcut to sweet relief from the ugly aesthetic experience of being trapped and knowing it. An aesthetic will rise, hoisted aloft by a Cosmic Chad… so commanding a command performance will be performed that the trap will be sprung, men will be able to be men again, justified by their role in completing a fitting, pleasing whole!

Even if this quotation is not aimed at Bronze Age Mindset… I believe it is, but it doesn’t matter to my argument whether it is or not. (However, it does speak to the dishonesty of this reply and the others: why write responses to an essay about the Bronze Age Pervert and resolutely refuse to recognize him or his work?)

There seems to be this notion that men shouldn’t aim for “perfection” because it doesn’t work for all men all the time, that men inevitably become dissatisfied even if they get what they want. I mean, what is the evidence for Poulos’ claim that the problem of man is insoluble? Maybe the problem of society or mass society is insoluble, but why is that the case for every man everywhere? Maybe it is just very difficult to solve the problem of man and most people fail?

Poulos’ claim is not unlike the sophistical claim that there is no “human nature” because, unlike fire that burns hot everywhere, man is variable.

If there is a human nature then the problem of man is not insoluble… his problems would arise from ignorance of that nature, from aberrant desires rather than good desires. Or to put it another way, if we take Poulos’ view, man is in the unenviable position of having to fight against his desires; he appears more miserable than every other animal; he is irremediably confused, divided, and at war with himself. Contentedness under great constraint or after exhaustion is his only option.

Conclusion

The aesthetic of BAP’s Bronze Age Mindset and Caribbean Rhythms isn’t Christian, but Christianity is malleable and can be reformed. Perhaps Zero HP Lovecraft aims at something like that. As for Meadowcraft, Keegin, and Poulos … I want to ask if it is okay to try to be beautiful, to try to go after the beautiful things, to ignore and avoid the ugly and unsavory things, and above all seek independence from the fake moral claims of others? The point of their responses strikes me as only tangentially about art and primarily about putting makeup on egalitarian moral constraints, on the same moral constraints conservatives have been laboring under unsuccessfully for decades. Whether or not these had their heyday is beside the point: they are dead; we do not want them resurrected. Readers and listeners of BAP are interested in how to improve, not how to avoid being bad. That desire is the fertile soil Moldbug sees and BAP is the cultivator to whom Moldbug appealed. Why didn’t the responses take Moldbug seriously?

Elijah del Medigo on The Divide between the Ancient and Moderns

Elijah del Medigo recently wrote a longish piece about what ails modernity, in which he follows the Straussian line from NRH and the essay “The Three Waves of Modernity.”

I am going to summarize the sections of Medigo’s essay and posit a few questions about his thesis as I go. His thesis in sum: liberal political theory produces bad politics, and is in fact the progenitor of communism and fascism which are also bad. You can find his essay on his blog Thoughts out of Season.

Liberalism and the End of History & Liberalism and Nature

Liberalism is the child of modern political philosophy and modern political philosophy promotes the conquest of nature—specifically, human nature. Liberalism is pacifist and pacifism is contrary to nature. There is a “genuine struggle of war and famine” that makes history, and this struggle is overcome by liberalism. Trying to escape war and famine doesn’t sound that bad though; indeed, the desire for tranquility (a release from war and famine) sounds Biblical as well. So… there is a difference between the Biblical utopia and the liberal utopia, between the Platonic utopia and the Baconian utopia: liberalism is dishonest. It distracts men with fake wars (war on drugs, poverty, etc) and fake threats, whereas the Biblical utopia never forgets human neediness and therefore human nature. Liberalism enervates man and obscures the genuine struggle whereas the Bible and Plato elucidate human nature and orient man accordingly. Everyone’s political philosophies are aiming at a paradise, but the paradise of liberalism is fake and gay. Liberalism is the secularized return to the Garden of Eden.

Question: It’s unclear whether liberalism is anti-nature (and therefore different from ancient political philosophy) because it is trying to “immanentize the eschaton” and is “millenarian,” or because “it replaces the genuine struggle of war and famine with a purely political counterfeit.”

Socialism and Fascism

Liberalism is the father of socialism and fascism. Socialism seeks to attain the liberal utopia through illiberal means: namely, violence. Fascism “rejects both liberal ends and liberal means, and yet it is still characteristically modern.” Focusing on the volk and Fuhrer, and marrying the “corporation and state,” are modern things, not ancient things.

Question 1: Why are the volk, Fuhrer, and marriage between corporation and state specifically modern? Are there no analogues for these things in ancient political philosophy? There seem to be… Is it possible to link fascism to liberalism without its having this “distinctly modern” character that you assert? Are there really no shared aims and means? And if the “modern” link is indeed all that ties it to liberalism … why can’t there just be two or three or x-# of “modern” political philosophies, or ONE GREAT modern political philosophy of which even liberalism itself is an offshoot?

Question 2: You say, “liberalism seeks to create a simulacrum of History internal to itself, and thus avoid the trauma that accompanies actual history.” Do you mean that liberalism comes to a sort of stasis and then promulgates fake problems and fake solutions, thereby giving people something to do without meaning? Why not interpret the “war for the rights of some minority; the battle for healthcare of some other cause” as signs of decline (and encroaching communism) rather than mere “simulacrum”?

Relativism and the End of History

The basis of toleration is skepticism regarding things religious:

[T]he genesis of the liberal order consisted of the declaration that it does not matter which party is in possession of ultimate truth, which is tantamount to a declaration that for all practical purposes, there is no truth.

Call it relativism; call it nihilism; call it tolerance. However we wish to label it, relativism is built into the liberal scheme of things. This is not entirely a negative phenomenon: it allowed for a cessation of religious warfare.

People who are skeptical of religious claims will not fight others on behalf of those claims. Spreading doubt takes away the justification of violence on behalf of religion.

This relativism plays a role in spawning communism and fascism. Communism offers a more substantive standard, a more liberal liberalism: a liberalism without skepticism, which men will be willing to fight and die for. Communist ideology deepens liberalism, makes something that was largely meaningless or merely a reaction (to religious violence) into a positive political program. Communism is “liberalism more itself.” How relativism leads to fascism is more complicated.

Fascism jettisons everything liberal except for the relativism. Medigo quotes Mussolini: “From the fact that all ideologies are of equal value [the takeaway from liberal relativism], we Fascists conclude that we have the right to create our own ideology and to enforce it with all the energy of which we are capable.”

Question 1: How can liberalism be both a utopian attempt to “immanentize the eschaton” and relativist?… have an ideal and assert that all ideals are relative?

Question 2: Do fascists deny the right of other people to assert and defend their ideals? If they do, then how are they nihilist? If they don’t, same question. In other words: do they really think all ideals are equal? Don’t they really think, as you seem to think, that the liberal ideal is deceitful and therefore cowardly, whereas they are honest and therefore more deserving of recognition?

Fascism and The End of History

Fascism arises out of despair at our inability to return to nature. The liberal declared war on nature and defeated it. Despairing of a return to nature, the fascist views the state as a machine: that’s why he talks about “the Corporation and the State.” There is no internal content to fascism: the only reason it is anti-Jewish is because liberalism tolerated Judaism. The ideal of fascism, its utopia, is perpetual struggle. The obsession for struggle “nurtures an obsession with aesthetics.” This obsession and its adoption of liberal language make it a “grotesque parody” [he calls it this 4 times] of liberalism.

Question 1: What makes fascism mechanistic? You say that “fascism is the mechanistic society devised by Bacon and Hobbes … behind the façade of neo-classical building and martial Romanism.” But Carl Schmitt’s criticism of Hobbes in his The Leviathan in The State Theory of Thomas Hobbes focuses on exposing the liberal’s mechanistic conception of the state. “The idea of the state as a technically completed, manmade magnum-artificium, a machine that realizes ‘right’ and ‘truth’ only in itself—namely in its performance and function—was first grasped by Hobbes and systematically constructed by him into a clear concept.”

Question 2: Why does the promotion of “perpetual struggle” nurture an obsession with aesthetics?

The Dialectic of Modernity & Two Types of Post-Liberalism

Strauss advocated returning to liberalism but this is impossible and undesirable, because it would merely restart the unfortunate dialectic: liberalism to communism to fascism. What is needed is a genuine return to nature, which means a revival of premodern political philosophy.

Concluding thoughts:

Attempts to draw a sharp or principled distinction between ancient political philosophy and modern political philosophy suggests that modernity represents a complete break with antiquity, that something wholly new was wrought by the modern political philosophers. In Medigo’s essay, he asserts that this can be seen in the “un-Natural” principles, aims, and means of modern political philosophy as opposed to the natural character of ancient political philosophy.

However, these attempts strike me as inadequate. Every state, whether it is a massive modern state or the polis of ancient Greece looks up to ideals, seeks to succeed in war and thrive in peace, glorifies struggle and shows a concern for property, and so on. Even the charge that the modern state is “mechanistic” amounts to so much hand-waving, whether the accusation is made against liberalism or fascism … it’s not like the Romans didn’t “balance power” and seek to make institutional corrections that would cut back on mismanagement and corruption. That was the point behind the institution of co-Consuls, and the later addition of the Tribune.

Should we simply deny our eyesight, then? Isn’t the modern world different from the ancient? Don’t the modern philosophers write differently than the ancient? Doesn’t their rhetoric appeal to different passions?

These questions about modernity animate Medigo’s essay, and he illustrates various currents in modern liberal thought that certainly are anti-nature. The questions I asked and this conclusion are not meant to be a wholesale rejection of his thesis. He begins his essay saying “I fully acknowledge its inadequacy, both in terms of sourcing & in terms of coherence” … so I hope my questions and objections are not too “out of season.” In a future post I will provide an interpretation of Strauss’ “three waves of modernity” essay and in the meantime hope he responds to my questions and expands upon his general thesis.

Bolaño’s Cave

“I don’t really know how to explain it,” said Amalfitano. “It’s an old story, the relationship of Mexican intellectuals with power. I’m not saying they’re all the same. There are some notable exceptions. Nor am I saying that those who surrender do so in bad faith. Or even that they surrender completely. You could say it’s just a job. But they’re working for the state. In Europe, intellectuals work for publishing houses or for the papers or their wives support them or their parents are well-off and give them a monthly allowance or they’re laborers or criminals and they make an honest living from their jobs. In Mexico, and this might be true across Latin America, except in Argentina, intellectuals work for the state. It was like that under PRI and it’ll be the same under the PAN. The intellectual himself may be a passionate defender of the state or a critic of the state. The state doesn’t care. The state feeds him and watches over him in silence. And it puts this giant cohort of essentially useless writers to use. How? It exorcises demons, it alters the national climate or at least tries to sway it. It adds layers of lime to a pit that may or may not exist, no one knows for sure. Not that it’s always this way, of course. An intellectual can work at the university, where the literature departments are just as bad as in Mexico, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get a late-night call from someone speaking in the name of the state, someone who offers them a better job, better pay, something the intellectual thinks he deserves, and intellectuals always think they deserve better. This mechanism somehow crops the ears off Mexican writers. It drives them insane. Some, for example, will set out to translate Japanese poetry without knowing Japanese and others just spend their time drinking. Take Almendro—as far as I know he does both. Literature in Mexico is like a nursery school, a kindergarten, a playground, a kiddie club, if you follow me. The weather is good, it’s sunny, you can go out and sit in the park and open a book by Valéry, possibly the most read by Mexican writers, and then you go over to a friend’s house and talk. And yet your shadow isn’t following you anymore. At some point your shadow has quietly slipped away. You pretend you don’t notice, but you have, you’re missing your fucking shadow, though there are plenty of ways to explain it, the angle of the sun, the degree of oblivion induced by the sun beating down on hatless heads, the quantity of alcohol ingested the movement of something like subterranean tanks of pain, the fear of more contingent things, a disease that begins to become apparent, wounded vanity, the desire just for once in your life to be on time. But the point is, your shadow is lost and you, momentarily, forget it. And so you arrive on a kind of stage, without your shadow, and you start to translate reality or reinterpret it or sing it. The stage is really a proscenium and upstage there’s an enormous tube, something like a mine shaft or the gigantic opening of a mine. Let’s call it a cave. But a mine works, too. From the opening of the mine come intelligible noises. Onomatopoeic noises, syllables of rage or of seduction or of seductive rage or maybe just murmurs and whispers and moans. The point is, no one sees, really sees, the mouth of mine. Stage machinery, the play of light and shadows, a trick of time, hides the real shape of something behind the veil of camouflage, not the real shape, but at any rate it’s the shape of something. The other spectators can’t see anything beyond the proscenium, and it’s fair to say they’d rather not. Meanwhile, the shadowless intellectuals are always facing the audience, so unless they have eyes in the backs of their heads, they can’t see anything. They only hear sounds come from deep in the mine. And the translate or reinterpret or re-create them. Their work, it goes without saying, is of a very low standard. They employ rhetoric where they sense a hurricane, they try to be eloquent where they sense fury unleashed, they strive to maintain the discipline of meter where there’s only deafening and hopeless silence. They say cheep cheep bowwow, meow meow, because they’re incapable of imagining an animal of colossal proportions, or the absence of such an animal. Meanwhile, the stage on which they work is very pretty, very well designed, very charming, but it grows smaller and smaller with the passage of time. This shrinking of the stage doesn’t spoil it in any way. It simply gets smaller and smaller and the hall gets smaller too, and naturally there are fewer and fewer people watching. Next to this stage there are others, of course. News stages that have sprung up over time. There’s the painting stage, which is enormous, and the audience is tiny, though all elegant, for lack of a better word. There’s the film stage and the television stage. Here the capacity is huge, the hall is always full, and year after year the proscenium grows by leaps and bounds. Sometimes the performers from the stage where the intellectuals give their talks are invited to perform on the television stage. On this stage the opening of the mine is the same, the perspective slightly altered, although maybe the camouflage is denser and, paradoxically, bespeaks a mysterious sense of humor, but it still stinks. This humorous camouflage, naturally, lends itself to many interpretations, which are finally reduced to two for the public’s convenience or for the convenience of the public’s collective eye. Sometimes intellectuals take up permanent residence on the television proscenium. The roars keep coming from the opening of the mine and the intellectuals keep misinterpreting them. In fact, they, in theory the masters of language, can’t even enrich it themselves. Their best words are borrowings that they hear spoken by the spectators in the front row. These spectators are called flagellants. They’re sick, and from time to time the invent hideous words and there’s a spike in the mortality rate. When the work-day ends the theaters are closed and they cover the openings of the mines with big sheets of steel. The intellectuals retire for the night. The moon is fat and the night air is so pure it seems edible. Songs can be heard in some bars, the notes reaching the street. Sometimes an intellectual wanders off course and goes into one of these places and drinks mezcal. Then he thinks what would happen if one day he. But no. He doesn’t think anything. He just drinks and sings. Sometimes he thinks he sees a legendary German writer. But all he’s really seen is a shadow, sometimes all he’s seen is his own shadow, which comes home every night so that the intellectual won’t burst or hang himself from the lintel. But he swears he’s seen a German writer and his own happiness, his sense of order, his bustle, his spirit of revelry rest on that conviction. The next morning it’s nice out. The sun shoots sparks but doesn’t burn. The person can go out reasonably relaxed, with his shadow on his heels, and stop in a park and read a few pages of Valéry. And so on until the end.”

Response to Tom West

Image result for tom west political theory of the american founding

In what follows, I do not think I am taking issue with Locke’s own understanding, merely with his public teaching, a teaching that today appears incapable of accomplishing what it accomplished in former times. Also, while it is a reply to Tom West, it is not an open letter to him, but an essay meant for the blog.

Why I Criticize the West Coast

I think West agrees that Locke’s teaching, much less the founders’ view of natural rights, isn’t understood any longer. In his seminar at Georgetown Law, he even points out how little understanding there is of the natural rights theory of the founders amongst our political class.

I have watched colleagues try many times to get students to understand the Lockean and Jeffersonian meaning of equality, and to see that Jefferson was not inconsistent. I try to do this myself. What has happened again and again is a class of students goes away thinking they are patriotic for loving the founders, but who merely think the founders were the precursor to Lincoln who was the precursor to MLK. I swear, if I hear MLK mentioned as a relative equal of “Jefferson and Aristotle” one more time I am going to lose it… At the most, the students are inoculated against some of the crazier varieties of leftism. But who cares if they like the “founders,” if the “founders” they love are more left-wing than Eisenhower? They do not understand freedom of association (the right to exclude) unless you are very frank about what that means. Really, you have to be offensive or they will not follow the argument through.

They will not accept that Jefferson believed blacks were inferior to whites and should be excluded from republican society. The students I have talked to only ever really accept … they think “well, yes, the founders were consistent—but they were morally wrong to hold onto their slaves nonetheless.” Not one in ten of a West Coaster’s best students will admit that it was morally justifiable for Southerners to hold onto their slaves in lieu of being unable to repatriate them. Lincoln beats Jefferson every time, unless they simply refuse to acknowledge who Jefferson was. In other words, these lovers of the “founders” do not have that self-assertion that made the founders who they were, and do not even admit self-assertion is a virtue in the most basic concrete terms. Exclusion is inequality. Treating “the other” unequally is racist and Hitlerish. A good West Coaster will teach the students that the founders were anti-slavery, but the students will come out thinking the founders were anti-racist, and hell, even anti-sexist to boot.

In other words, the doctrine of rights and consent cannot accomplish today what it was intended to accomplish, but that does not mean the purpose of Lockean liberalism was ignoble.

The Inconsistency in Locke’s Public Presentation of Natural Rights
(aka, Tom West Accepts the Amalgam Thesis)

What I was pointing out in my post on West’s book were inconsistencies in the public teaching of liberalism—inconsistencies that West himself points out! In brief: rights are practically worthless if they do not command some respect, but under the stress of necessity no sane or reasonable man would blame another for violating the rights of a stranger—as Jefferson points out in his letter to Colvin where he talks about the ships meeting at sea, or in his letter to Holmes where he points out the plight of the Southerners.

Now, if our natural rights represent an ideal, a goal, then that’s another thing entirely—men in desperate situations at sea, or men finding themselves amidst a sea of slaves and willing agitators, can take their bearings by the theory of natural rights, namely, they can see how they should like to live if they ever escape the present necessities.[1] They should like to live in a commonwealth where everyone is good enough, reasonable enough, independent enough not to need to violate the life, liberty, or property, not only of their fellow citizens (although this would be their first goal, and usually the principal means of escaping necessity) but of anyone whosoever. So … the goal is being able to respect the rights of your fellow citizens and avoiding the need to exploit people outside of your society.

But if this is the goal… then why is it also taught by Locke as the baseline? That is, why does he teach that men who violate the rights of others are morally bad men, when that is not the case. Only men who violate the rights of others under very strict and, frankly, fortuitous conditions, are men who “fall beneath the law.” The “quarrelsome and contentious” are the bad men, not the men who violate the rights of others—but Locke is much louder about violating the rights of others than he is in discussing the vices of the quarrelsome and contentious, or the virtues of their apparent opposite, the rational and industrious. I know if you read Locke esoterically, taking into account, for example, his use of the phrase “enough, and as good left” in the fifth chapter of the Second Treatise, you can see he permits the self-assertion of a man who has no recourse but the exploitation of others if he is going to be a freeman. Yes, he permits it esoterically. But exoterically that is not the case. And it is the same game in A Letter Concerning Toleration: you are a bad man if you use the law against a religion, but only when all the religions are Lockean, that is, when all the religions are willing to teach reasonable teachings and promote the general welfare of the commonwealth rather than narrow sectarian interests. Instead of elaborating on the lineaments of the true, aka, Lockean religion, he emphasizes again and again that the bad religions use the law against their enemies. At the very least, the baseline has been the great takeaway, the “lesson learned” by readers of all backgrounds except, in some cases, the West Coast Straussian.

It is this baseline teaching that, today, produces the undesirable effect in the students, of turning them away from the virtue of self-assertion and towards the moraline drug of egalitarian anti-racism, of accelerated abolitionism, whereby they willingly permit themselves and their fellow citizens to be robbed of their property, their liberty, and yes, their lives, for fear of failing to show obeisance to the “other.”  I mean for goodness’ sake, decent citizens actually get themselves murdered because their sense of shame does not permit them to take precautions for themselves or their children. While this is of course rare, it does happen, and in any event, the lesser evils abound. White parents willingly accept the legal and social subordination of their children in education and the job market every single day. “Well Jimmy might’ve achieved more, but goodness, I simply cannot judge that black kid, whose life has been so hard because of racism. He deserves a chance to develop as well. Jimmy will be fine. He is white after all.” Someone immediately call social services on this woman!

And if anyone calls me paranoid or insecure for pointing this out… I don’t care. That is what is always said. Yes, that is the status of self-assertion in today’s America: it is almost always interpreted as neediness or petulance, while ingratitude and insolence pass for “courage” and “justice.” So I will be accused, god forbid I get doxed—but what else am I to do?

The Lockean baseline—do not violate the rights of others or you are a bad person!—has this anti-racist effect unintentionally. Locke was taking aim at different evils.

Whereas in our time, we face “the appalling problem, when one comes to actual cases, of getting men to distinguish between better and worse.” Locke faced a corrupted ruling class suffering under a different moral delusion: “That subjects or foreigners, attempting by force on the properties of any people, may be resisted with force, is agreed on all hands. But magistrates, doing the same thing, may be resisted, hath of late been denied” (sec 231).

A careful reading of the Second Treatise shows that natural rights serve the purpose of assertive but rational self-interest, in much the same way Hobbes taught a more Royal Self-Interest (I think it is time to bring back Hobbes and the Cavalier Poets!).

Let me try to throw what I mean into bold relief: for Locke, the teaching of natural rights, the natural equality and freedom of all men in the state of nature, and the necessity of consent are various ways of approximating the rule of wisdom in a time of mass society. In West’s book, the section he mentions in his comment to my post, he quotes Jaffa saying that consent “as mere acquiescence of the will” is not enough, and that “prudence” is essential to success as opposed to the merely doctrinaire view that if you get the doctrine of rights correct—if all your citizens are orthodox ideologues—you get the whole of government correct (PTAF 52). In that same section, West downplays the role political theory (the “form”) can play, to emphasize the importance that “matter”—geography, ancestry, manners and customs (mores)—plays.[2] It is at this point, and only at this point, where West will admit the “amalgam” thesis has any traction: “to the extent [that you need the “matter”] the amalgam thesis is correct.”

This weakness—and I think West agrees that admitting the amalgam thesis is a weakness, though I am guessing here—is a necessity for natural rights theory because of the Lockean tendency to promote the “baseline” I discussed earlier, rather than the Jaffa-West refashioning of it, that is, Jaffa & West more openly teach the elitist side of the theory whereas Locke eschewed it on account of the practical difficulties England faced in 17th century. Our founders mostly followed Locke, in their combat against certain religious superstitions and, obviously, in their Revolution against the Crown. But it is perfectly possible to have a theory of Natural Right without an amalgam, if you are willing to do the admittedly dangerous and often imprudent thing of openly saying “the absolute rule of wisdom” is the best form of government, as Locke knew full well. Then your theory can take into account the excellencies of men, however varied those may be, and provide a very full description of the “cycle of regimes,” over which the enlightenment philosophers are relatively quiet as compared to the ancient.

Conclusion

In sum: Locke esoterically teaches the rule of wisdom, but promotes a baseline teaching about consent and the rights of life, liberty, and property. In this public teaching, consent approximates wisdom by going some way to ensuring the rulers have the best interests of the commonwealth in mind, and the natural rights approximate wisdom, by going some way to ensuring that moral vanities do not cloud men’s thinking about politics. But this public teaching—the baseline teaching whereby it is morally wrong to violate the rights of others, rather than “not ideal”—suffers from the need for an amalgam, a need that can easily be overlooked in order to produce egalitarian moral blindness and accelerated abolitionism.

In a future essay, maybe … (I should really be writing “professional” articles to advance my “normie” life…) I will explain how to read Locke esoterically.


[1] West points this out when he says “The founders (and Lincoln) looked up to the laws of nature and of nature’s god. In this sense, the founders’ America was defined in 1776 by its anti-slavery principles, in spite of the fact that slavery was then legal in every state.” (PTAF 65)

[2] It is indeed a “based” section, for those of you wondering: (PTAF 50-54).

A Comment on Proverbs 9

Proverbs 9 King James Version (KJV)

1 Wisdom hath builded her house, she hath hewn out her seven pillars:

2 She hath killed her beasts; she hath mingled her wine; she hath also furnished her table.

3 She hath sent forth her maidens: she crieth upon the highest places of the city,

4 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

5 Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled.

6 Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding.

7 He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot.

8 Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee.

9 Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning.

10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.

11 For by me thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased.

12 If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it.

13 A foolish woman is clamorous: she is simple, and knoweth nothing.

14 For she sitteth at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

15 To call passengers who go right on their ways:

16 Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him,

17 Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.

18 But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.


This is an interesting Proverb, because the place of the simple is unclear. Are they good or wicked or what? Both the goddess Wisdom and the temptress call to them, using the same words, and as simple men how are they to know which is which? This conundrum is reinforced in 7-9.

The opposite of the one who scorns is clear enough: it is the one who does not scorn. The opposite of the wicked, however, is twofold: the wise man and the just man.

We are told what wisdom is for and what lacking wisdom brings. Wisdom is for oneself and lacking wisdom is its own punishment, “thou alone shall bear it.”

It is difficult to imagine how a deficiency of this sort would not spill over into injustice towards others, but that seems to be the claim here. If you lack wisdom you suffer for it. But wouldn’t others suffer for it as well insofar as you affect them in any way?

Possibly what is meant is a denigration of justice. Maybe the simple man can also be a just man because he simply never harms others. He may not have the wisdom to benefit them, but at least he doesn’t harm them. Justice would be half or only need half, whereas wisdom would be whole, namely, the knowledge of what is good and bad. The wise man can not only avoid injuring others, he can benefit them as well because he knows what is good for them and what they should avoid.

This denigration of justice must be a concession to the simple. You can be a just man if you remain innocent in the eyes of others.

But can you remain innocent in the eyes of others if they think you’ve helped them but have indeed harmed them? Even with the best intentions, a simpleton or fool trying to help can do harm. Every son trying to help his father with some difficult task has, at some point or another, been the cause of some disaster, minor or otherwise. But there are other examples. Say you make a man rich who shouldn’t be rich.

“Well if they never know they’ve been harmed–you made them rich and this made them worse but they never realized it and therefore thanked you until their dying day.” Can men remain invincibly ignorant of their own deficiencies? The researches of Plato would suggest, yes, they can, but something as insignificant as a gadfly can rouse them. And everyone with eyes can see that Time herself is capable of revealing many deficiencies to people who did not feel the error at first or for a long time.

But this is, in a sense, beside the point. Certainly there are men who are both simple/unwise and completely powerless to bring harm to others.

Tolstoy longed to be such a man, but unlike his simpleton Platon Karyatev, he took it upon himself to write and give advice–he used the power in his tongue and pen to move others thereby negating his ideal. This might make you think of the philosopher who only pointed at things, forsaking speech, but that is another matter entirely.

So Proverbs 9 leaves room for the powerless simpleton. He too can avoid falling into wickedness if he chooses the goddess instead of the temptress and thereby count himself among the Just, though he won’t be of use to anyone.

“Oh but there is always a benefit in a just man!” That will be said. “Perhaps he smiles and warms the hearts of others. Gives hugs.” Well then, as you are keen on elevating him, you also show the rarity of Justice without wisdom, because even the simplest man will exercise some power over human beings.