Depth in the Shallows

Month: March, 2017

Rise Of The Philodoxers

Fall Of The Philosophers

Autobiographical Reflections by Eric Voegelin

Eric Voegelin (1901-1985) was born in Cologne but raised and educated in Vienna. After his doctoral work he taught at a university. Highly critical of the Nazis, he eventually lost his academic position. Voegelin emigrated to the United States where he taught at Notre Dame and LSU among other institutions. As a political philosopher, he ranged far into sociology, history, and religion. His work largely defies categorization. He is best known, perhaps, for The New Science of Politics and the multi-volume Order and History. He is, despite the titles and subject matter, anything but boring.

One of the key ideas that emerges in Voegelinian thought, and later picked up by thinkers such as Russell Kirk, is the antagonism between opinion and wisdom. Philosophy is, properly speaking, the love of wisdom. Any philosophical pursuit must have this as its guiding light and object. But what has arisen over the centuries, and is dominant–if not oppressive–in our own age, is philodoxy, or the love of opinion. It is easy to see in our politics and our pulpits, in our culture and in our conversations, that spongy opinions and “personal truths” have wrecked our thinking about some of the most difficult things. When opinion prevails over wisdom, power–naked and corrupt–prevails over prudence and patience. We need Voegelin now.

“The general deculturation of the academic and intellectual world in Western civilization furnishes the background for the social dominance of opinions that would have been laughed out of court in the late Middle Ages or the Renaissance.”


The Illiberalism Of Democracy

Some Have The Right To More Freedom Than Others

The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies by Ryszard Legutko

Berkeley. Yale. Capitol Hill. At town halls, universities and in social media, the Great American Shout Down rages. What passes for free speech nowadays is more akin to euphemism, virtue signaling, and North Korean propaganda. Only those with predetermined and self-sanctioned moral virtue and correct opinion are allowed the freedom to express it. All others can bugger off or be shouted down. Anyone who disagrees is not a debate opponent or a political adversary, rather, they are The Enemy. Opposing views yield personal demonization. This is not freedom. This is totalitarian tyranny masquerading as political and moral correctness. And, if unchecked, will lead to our ruin or our enslavement. Or both.

Enter Ryszard Legutko, professor of philosophy at Jagiellonian University, former Polish politician, and current Member of the European Union Parliament. He experienced the reign of communist terror in Poland, its fall, and the rise of liberal democracy in Europe. In this profound book, he eviscerates the prevailing narrative that the dark forces of communism were defeated and liberal democratic forces of light brought freedom to those countries behind the Iron Curtain. He exposes the demon within liberal democracy. The demon that surfaced when former communists in his native Poland made the smooth transition from brutal Soviet style power players to eager advocates of democratic freedom overnight. The demon, as these men demonstrated, is the active spirit of totalitarian domination inherent in all liberal democracies in the West. It is, Legutko says, the coercion to freedom. Or, as Orwell had it, SLAVERY IS FREEDOM. One has only to look at Hollywood’s love affair with Che Guevara, Fidel Castro, or Stalin (or Jane Fonda’s active participation in the war against American soldiers), or the academic elite’s embrace of Marxism, radicalism, and anarchy to see that Legutko diagnoses a real disease.

“It seems that the idolatry of liberal democracy, which nowadays we observe among the same groups that so easily succumbed to a totalitarian temptation—their angry rejection of even the slightest criticism, their inadvertent acceptance of the obvious maladies of the system, their silencing of dissenters, their absolute support for the monopoly of one ideology and one political system—are part of the same disease to which, apparently, intellectuals and artists are particularly susceptible. It thus seems that the mental enslavement described by Milosz was not a single occurrence occasioned by a short-lived infatuation with communism, but an inherent handicap of the modern mind.”



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