Tag Archives: Liberalism

What Would Moloch Do?

MolochIn a recent Orthosphere post entitled Freedoms of Speech & of Religion Open & Allow the Race to the Bottom the author Kristor argues:

The basic problem with freedom of speech and of religion is that … it opens the agora to the discussion of the pros and cons of every alternative cult. … There ensues a proliferation … of heresies and petty foreign cults. The cult of Moloch is then sooner or later bound to enter the lists.

In a previous post, Kristor defines his term, “the Cult of Moloch” as referring to modern, liberal notions of tolerance for multiple belief systems, which he equates to nihilism. He argues that a tolerant belief system cannot itself tolerate non-tolerant belief systems and so ultimately pushes them out of mainstream practice. I assume he uses this particular name because the Canaanite god named Moloch is associated with ritual child sacrifice. This of course is a reference to legalized abortion which exists within the modern liberal system. To the Orthosphereans, liberalism, tolerance, nihilism, abortion and all the other ills of modern society are related and mutually reinforcing.

Kristor goes on to say:

In an unruly competition of cults for the hearts and minds of people too dim to understand the consequences in their distant future of actions taken today, or to think with the necessary care and precision about metaphysics, political economy, and culture – i.e., of most people – the cult with the greatest short term hedonic payoff is going to prevail.

Because freedoms of speech and religion lead to the cult of Moloch, I assume Kristor is advocating the abolition of these freedoms and their replacement with the forced implementation of some other cult (presumably whatever form of Christianity Kristor adheres to) which would then regulate speech and religion in a manner more satisfactory to him.

BASIC PROBLEMS

The first basic problem I see with a belief system enforced by the government is that the belief system might not be true. I assume Kristor desires a government enforced belief system that is also true. Or perhaps in the absence of definitive proof of the truth of any one particular belief system, Kristor believes it is better to pick any belief system so long as it is not a tolerant one so as to avoid the inevitable slide into Molochism.

The second basic problem I see is that when a government enforces a belief system, the belief system typically gets watered down so that it can be acceptable to a large population. The watering down of the belief system then stops connecting with the people who take their religious beliefs seriously. This then gives rise to underground sects of true believers which work to undermine the government enforced belief system.

The third basic problem is that there will always be non-believers. This includes both people who take issue with specific tenants of the belief system and people who reject the system entirely. Similar to the second basic problem, this problem will also lead to the creation of subversive groups.

In addition to these basic problems it seems that many of the people who favor a government enforced belief system exhibit an unchristian disdain for their fellow men. This is articulated in the quote above where Kristor describes “most people” as “too dim to understand the consequences in their distant future of actions taken today, or to think with the necessary care and precision about metaphysics, political economy, and culture.”

I certainly do not want people of this ilk deciding what is best for me to believe and ordering the world in which I live. I do not want this not because I suspect they would not have my best interests at heart. I also do not want this because this disdain runs contrary to the fundamental Christian idea which is love (i.e., willing the good of the other as other). It might be argued that the desire to implement a government enforced belief system is motivated by a willing of good for other people. But the disdain articulate in Kristor’s quote (and quotes of other Orthosphereans) seems to indicate otherwise. Saint Paul’s description of the “Fruit of the Spirit” offers guidance when determining whether a person is advocating a policy that is born out of love. Specifically, “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal 5:22-23). Disdain is noticeably absent from this list. 

CULTURE OF DEATH

Kristor concludes his OP by stating,

As permitting the advocacy and practice of the cult of Moloch, freedom of speech and religion, then, sow the seeds of national death.

So we observe at last that, like Molochism, freedom of speech and religion, too, are in the end autophagous. The nation that keeps those freedoms is doomed.

The Orthospherean position against liberalism is not baseless. There is are inconsistencies to liberal notions of freedom, equality and tolerance. No one can be completely free and the freedom of one person impacts the freedom of another person. People are not equal in their abilities and to legally make them equal to a certain extent negates this truth and creates problems. A tolerant belief system cannot completely accommodate non-tolerant belief systems and can become intolerant by attempting to enforce tolerance.

On the other hand, no political system is perfect. In order for liberalism to work well, there has to always be a balance of forces. Just because speech is labeled as “free” and is actually regulated to an extent does not mean that there are not nations where speech is very not-free and other nations where it is relatively free. And it also does not mean that a reasonable person cannot appreciate the difference between the two. In the same respect a “tolerant” belief system might actually be “intolerant” of certain taboos. But, there are more tolerant nations than others and reasonable people can appreciate the difference here as well. And yes a system might shift in terms of its level of tolerance depending on the situation but that does not mean that it will always, inexorably degenerate into Molochism in every circumstance. The pendulum may very well swing back the other way.

Also, do these “flaws” of liberalism really spell the doom of a nation more than any other form of government? All nations (and things of men) are doomed. Even nations with government enforced belief systems are doomed. How else would tolerant systems have come to replace them? Moreover, an intolerant belief system does not rule out the possibility of Molochism being practiced. It merely forces it underground where it cannot be observed and regulated.

Do freedoms of speech and religion necessarily open and allow a race to the bottom? I think reasonable minds can differ on that question. More importantly, would the alternative of a government enforced belief system create a preferable situation? We are all well aware that there exist countries that do enforce belief systems in the world, some of which Kristor himself objects to.

 

 

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Spiral Dynamics

Over the past two months Leo Gura of Actualized.org has been creating videos explaining the theory of Spiral Dynamics developed by Don Edward Beck and Clare Graves. Spiral Dynamics is a developmental, psychological model designed to map the historical evolution of both people and the societies of which the people are constituent parts.

There are eight stages to the spiral, each with its own set of characteristics. The first and most primitive stage is Beige characterized primarily through individual survival with little to no cooperation with other people. Modern homeless people are an example of the stage Beige mindset. The second stage is Purple characterized by primitive cooperation among people typically at the family or clan level. Cavemen are an example. The third stage is Red where stronger individuals within the relatively egalitarian Purple start to assert their dominance over the weaker members. Viking civilization and tribal societies are examples. The forth stage is Blue where we see authoritarian, communal societal structures begin to assert themselves in order to reign in the excesses of stage Red. The Roman Empire and Medieval Europe are examples of the stage Blue mindset. The fifth stage is Orange characterized by a rejection of the stiff Blue societal structures with a greater emphasis on individual achievement, science and materialism. Modern, liberal, capitalistic societies are examples. The sixth stage is Green characterized by a rejection of the excesses of Orange and a return to spirituality and communal responsibilities. Modern hippies and left-liberals are examples. The seventh stage is Yellow characterized by a rejection of the excesses and Green’s failure to solve societal problems with an emphasis on systems thinking and individual achievement. Albert Einstein is considered to be an example of a stage Yellow thinker. The final stage is Turquoise characterized by a shift from the individual Yellow to a more holistic world view. Very few people and certainly no societies have achieved stage Turquoise at present.

One important observation the spiral articulates is that humans and the societies they create evolve alternating from an emphasis on the individual to an emphasis on the community in a cyclical manner. From individualistic Beige to communal Purple to individualistic Red to communal Blue and so on. In a sense (according to this model), the development of mankind’s psychology is based on the confrontation between these two opposing forces. When one is taken to an extreme the other rises to counterbalance it.

Of interest to this blog is how well the system of Spiral Dynamics describes stage Blue. Specifically, the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic (two blogs that I have been reading over the past couple of years) come to mind as two good articulations of the Stage Blue mindset. As described by the Spiral Dynamics Integral website, the general characteristics of Stage Blue thought are:

  • Values and norms, discipline, duty, regularity, and feelings of honor and guilt
  • WE versus They Thinking
  • Searching for meaning, order, routine and security
  • Self-control, discipline and loyalty to the doctrine and the rules
  • Absolute, literal and definite
  • Morality
  • Hierarchy, obedience and willing to sacrifice to a greater cause
  • Control and structures of authorities
  • Obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt
  • Organize, manage, concretize and structure
  • Values effort and responsibility and shows discipline
  • Rules, rights and duties are significant

This description seems to describe almost perfectly the mode of thought expressed on these blogs both by their contributors and the people who comment there. I suspect these people would reject the notion of Spiral Dynamics entirely. This would fit perfectly within the model. Because (according to the model) they see the world in essentialist terms and by definition reject nominalism they cannot see the world as evolving purposefully or in a healthy way. I suspect they would dismiss Spiral Dynamics without much consideration as a “liberal” idea. If the world is changing it must be for the worse because stage Blue (not that they would embrace the term “Stage Blue”) was the best possible stage. Anything, departing from stage Blue is ugly and it is appropriate to judge those who question stage Blue sensibilities and enforce stage Blue sensibilities through shame and guilt. This emphasis of “obedience based on a sense of duty and a sense of guilt” explains a great deal as to how my interactions with the people who comment and contribute to the Orthosphere and Zippy Catholic have played out.

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An Essentialist Making the Case for Nominalism

In a post entitled “‘Essentialist’ means just what I say it means…,” anti-liberal blogger Zippy Catholic described the terms “Essentialist” and “Nominalist”:

[A]n antiessentialist (or nominalist) will view a word like “liberalism” the way Humpty Dumpty views it. The word refers not to an objective external essence but to whatever internal state of his mind that Humpty chooses it to refer to; nothing more, nothing less, and always subject to Humpty’s will. Nobody else can impute an implication that Humpty does not agree to, because there is no essence to the referent other than just what Humpty wills. If Humpty is a liberal, it is only because Humpty agrees in every particular with what liberal means and implies, and further agrees that he is one. “Liberal”, if it applies legitimately as a label to Humpty, does so only because he chooses for it to apply and chooses all that it entails.

An essentialist understands a word to refer to some real essence that is external to and independent of the person who utters it. A speaker[‘s] … words refer to objective things and have objective implications about which he may be completely ignorant or mistaken. Humpty is a liberal if Humpty is in fact loyal to liberalism, which is an objective thing independent of Humpty.

In another blog post entitled “Definition of liberalism,” Zippy defines liberalism as:

Liberalism is the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary legitimate purpose of government.

More recently, in the comment section of a recent blog post on the Orthosphere entitled “Deplorable Gnon“, contributor Thomas F. Bertonneau stated:

Hillary’s gnashing of teeth belongs to her gnosticism, which … schemes to realize just as soon as it can derealize all those who stand in its way just by being. Like the witch-hanging Puritanism of which it is the heir, contemporary liberalism, which, as you say, is socialism, corresponds to a sacrificial cult.

Here I take Mr. Bertonneau to mean “witch-hanging Puritanism” is a form of liberalism. He repeated this point in another post entitled “What is Puritanism.” This struck me as odd given that I have been told on numerous occasions there existed broad agreement as to the definitions of liberalism among the people who contribute and comment both on the Orthosphere and its sister blogs like Zippy Catholic. To my knowledge, no puritan sect (especially not the witch-hanging sort) thought it was important to secure the freedom and equal rights of the people under its control. In fact, I would say it is obvious on its face that the contrary is true.

There are a few things I could draw from this situation. First, I think this only confirms my suspicion that those who contribute and comment within the anti-liberal community are using different definitions for “liberalism” (and probably other terms) and yet they are discussing these terms as if a common understanding was broadly understood. This makes a coherent conversation on the subject difficult in my estimation. Second, I assume based on the posts I have read written by Mr. Bertonneau, that he holds himself to be an essentialist. As an essentialist he would have to believe that a real definition of liberalism exists independent of his own mind. However, his recent writings seem to suggest that he defines liberalism not as Zippy defines it but rather as anything Mr. Bertonneau dislikes about modern Western culture. For example, in his post “What is Puritanism” he conflates Puritanism with Liberalism and asserts:

Many Catholic congregations in North America qualify as Puritanical in that they have liberalized themselves and so assimilated themselves to the Left, which is indeed a heresy of Christianity.  All humanities professors are Puritans – as are all college administrators.  Trumpskyites in North America and adherents of the Fidesz Party in Hungary are not Puritans.  Everything today describing itself as “comedy” is archly Puritanical and extremely unfunny.  It never smiles; it only smirks and scowls and uses four-letter language. Islam is ultra-Puritanical. That California, governed by an octogenarian ex-Jesuit, is the vanguard Puritan republic of the United States, the Salem Colony of its day, is in no way belied by the other fact that it is the home-state of the pornography industry.

This strikes me as a nominalist manner of thinking. In fact, it specifically reminded me of Zippy’s post on Humpty Dumpty cited above.

If one is being honest with himself, it is very difficult to take an absolutely “essentialist” world view. Because, even if one does believe there to be real definitions out in the world and independent of the mind, the mind must first make this decision to believe this truth. As such, an essentialist is really just a nominalist who believes with certainty that real definitions exist. Or perhaps asserting real definitions exist is to simply assert a state of mind. Moreover, because the essentialist believes these real definitions exist he naturally tends to believe that his beliefs are in accord with these real definitions and accordingly anyone who believes differently or expresses uncertainty must be wrong. This is not to say that I believe real definitions do not exist for some things, but as the so called “broad agreement” or lack thereof as to the definitions employed on the  Orthosphere demonstrates, one cannot be sure that his particular definitions comport with the real definitions existing external to his mind.

 

 

 

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An Anti-Liberal’s History of Liberalism

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Over the course of my last two posts, The Sexual Left’s Ambiguous Definition and Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion, I engaged in a conversation (of sorts) with an anti-liberal named Terry Morris who is a regular commentator on the anti-liberal blog, The Orthosphere. My discussion with Mr. Morris continued in the comment section of a recent Orthosphere post entitled The Rectification of Grammar written by Orthosphere contributor Kristor. The substance of this conversation centered around my observation that although anti-liberals share a dislike for liberalism they do not share a common definition for liberalism. This is a problem in my estimation because I do not believe a meaningful conversation can be had on the subject of liberalism if the parties to the conversation each employ a different definition. Unfortunately, my observation seemed to rub Mr. Morris the wrong way.

However, a more interesting and thoughtful conversation sprouted from this interaction with Orthosphere contributor JMSmith. Mr. Smith took the time to write a series of comments on what he believed to be the genesis of modern liberalism and why he feels it to be a negative development. It is his position that I would like to explore in this post.

AN ANALYSIS OF JMSMITH’S POSITION ON LIBERALISM

JMSmith recounted the history of liberalism. Specifically he stated that liberalism began as a moderate position between the orthodox Christians and atheists in the West.

[T]he nineteenth-century liberal occupied a position between parties that made strong “truth claims,” …

The “truth claims” to which JMSmith refers are (1) the orthodox Christian claims of the existence of God and an objective moral law and (2) the atheistic rejection of both these claims.

[T]he liberal … espouse[d] the epistemic doctrine of skepticism/agnosticism. His basic line was that the truth … cannot be known, so anyone who is not a public menace should be left in peace. As a practical political doctrine, this tolerance makes some sense, although the parties making strong truth claims said is was just cowardice …

Here we see Mr. Smith imply authentic orthodox Christians and authentic atheists both share the belief that they should have the power to control the thoughts and actions of people who do not share their beliefs. This is contrasted with the liberal position which would allow the individual to think and act (lawfully) as he sees fit.

In the twentieth century, liberalism became less and less of a moderate position, and more and more of a stalking horse for soft leftism or Fabian socialism.

In other words, liberalism according to JMSmith while ostensibly maintaining the neutral and agnostic position actually evolved into a false pretext for implementing socialism and presumably atheism in a gradual (i.e., non-revolutionary and more subtle) manner.

[T]oday’s Liberals are either disguised Leftists or Cucks who are soft on Leftism because they have no principles of their own.

That is, modern liberals according to JMSmith are really either atheists who do not want to admit this truth (perhaps even to themselves) or they are agnostics who lack principles and therefore the backbone to stand up to the atheists by whom liberals desire to be accepted. Pathetically, the liberals are willing to compromise whatever limited beliefs they might have in order to achieve this acceptance (hence the term “Cuck”).

In theory it is a doctrine of moderation and tolerance rooted in dogmatic agnosticism. This means that, in theory, it has very little positive content of its own, and should act mainly to control the excesses of whatever dogmatic system is most aggressive at the moment. It’s battle cry is, “don’t be so sure about that! You might be wrong!”

I have two reactions to this statement. First, it is interesting to me that Mr. Smith seems to consider only unprovable truth claims to be positive content. In my mind, a belief that one person should not force a belief concerning an unprovable truth claim on another is itself “positive content” but we can agree to disagree on that. Second, if truth is a goal then why would JMSmith seek to force a person to believe something that he does not truly believe or about which he is honestly uncertain? Put another way, why would it be more truthful to choose to believe an unprovable truth claim than to acknowledge that one cannnot truly know what cannot be proven and therefore accept the most truthful position would have to be agnosticism?

Of course, accepting a truth claim is a more satisfying position to take than the limbo of agnosticism for many people. It seems Mr. Smith and presumably all anti-liberals look with disdain upon those who go the agnostic route as perhaps weak willed, risk adverse and cowardly. In his mind (I speculate) it is better to choose a truth claim even if it is actually untrue than to sit on the fence because living a life according to a truth claim is a life more worth living than otherwise. If this is in fact his position, I can respect it and agree with it to a certain extent.

This is the theory: liberalism is the playground monitor, its job being to keep potential bullies in line.

It is interesting to me that the anti-liberals seem to think that bullying is a virtuous position so long as a person is bullying in the name of an unprovable truth claim. Perhaps (and I am not sure the anti-liberals take this position) bullying (i.e., the intimidation of another person with physical force or the threat of physical force) is not necessarily morally bad and perhaps is even a moral good.

In fact, the agnosticism of most liberals is a sham, and this is evident in the gross partiality with which they police the playground. They obviously think feminists belong on university faculties and segregationists do not, and this means that they “know” more than they say they know. 

This statement seems to be comparing apples to oranges. It is one thing to choose to believe an unprovable truth claim as to the ultimate nature of reality such as “God exists” or “God does not exist.” It is quite another thing to decide what behaviors are or are not acceptable in polite society. For the record, I happen to be one of those who believe that God exists. But I do not agree that bullying other people into sharing my beliefs serves a moral or even practical good. That is, I do not believe God values inauthentic beliefs nor do I think a civilization populated with inauthentic believers could ever be a vibrant or successful one.

JMSMITH’S QUESTION TO ME

I would like to end this post discussing a question Mr. Smith posed to me.

I may have missed it, but have you given us your description or definition of Liberalism? It seems to me that we are playing a game of Guess What is in My Pocket[?]

His question displays an understandable level of distrust as to my motives. His distrust is understandable to me because the Othosphere was created to be a blog where like minded anti-liberals could commiserate, share ideas and perhaps win over converts. From this perspective it makes sense that a person such as myself who does not fully share their beliefs offering a critique might be seen as a troll. In my own defense, I can only say that I am interested in having a discussion of these ideas and for this reason it is important that everyone is using the same definition of a term that is so central to these ideas. For this reason I do not think my definition of liberalism is terribly relevant given that it was my intent to better understand the perspective of the Orthosphere.
However to answer his question, I never considered myself to be a liberal prior to reading the Orthosphere. At that time a liberal to me was a person who became outraged when the dictates of political correctness were violated (for example). But according to the Orthosphere almost every American is a liberal whether they are Republicans, Democrats, Nazis or Communists. If I am to use Zippy’s definition of liberalism (i.e., a political philosophy holding that governments should promote freedom and equal rights) then I definitely am a liberal. But, once again I am not sure if all Orthospherians agree upon this definition which brings me back to my original point.

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Wildly Failing to Make an Assertion

I asserted in my previous post that I found it unclear whether the contributors and commentators on the anti-liberal blog the Othosphere all defined liberalism in the same way. Terry Morris (a regular commentator on the Orthosphere and of late my blog), claims I “wildly failed” (somehow) to make this assertion. He expressed this in a brief exchange of comments following my previous post. I found this exchange interesting because it illustrates an unfortunate, adversarial dynamic I have experienced repeatedly in the comment sections of many blogs. This dynamic is characterized by two commentators ostensibly arguing the merits of a disagreement when they are actually (typically by means of passive aggression) trying to humiliate the other person because they feel the other person has offended them in some way.

Terry Morris began this exchange by taking issue with a passage from my post. In this passage I referenced a post entitled The Sexual Left Devours Itself made by Othosphere contributor Kristor. Specifically, I wrote:

If [Kristor] is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time.

Terry Morris reacted to this passage by exclaiming:

That isn’t Kristor’s assertion; it’s *your* assertion about what he wrote.

I can see why Terry Morris reacted this way although I think he misunderstood the point I attempted to make. It is true that a plain reading of my comment could lead one to believe I asserted that Kristor asserted “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all of the time.” To clarify, (1) the word “If” which begins my statement should have keyed Terry Morris into the fact that I did not know whether Kristor was in fact making this assertion and (2) the whole point of my post was that I found it unclear what exactly Kristor was asserting because I did not know what definition of liberalism he was using. Terry Morris is right, however, that I could have worded this specific sentence with greater clarity.

Proceeding with his misunderstanding Terry went on to say:

Having followed Kristor’s posts for years, dating back to our old VFR days, I can assure you that Kristor would *never* assert that “political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time,” your counter-example and any number of others you might cite (or the lack thereof) notwithstanding.

Two things are interesting here. First, we see Terry Morris speaking for Kristor based on reading his prior posts. I find this interesting because it demonstrates Terry Morris’s readiness to speak with authority as to the mental states of others. Another example of this behavior that readily comes to mind comes from a comment from another post where Terry Morris asserted with (apparent) authority that God could not get bored. Putting aside the question as to why Terry feels the need to speak for other people, I get the sense that he is motivated not so much out of a desire to set the record straight but rather to put me in what he perceives to be my place because what I have written has offended him in some way. Second, notice the passive-aggressive parenthetical phrase “or lack there of” he uses to describe my counter-examples. This reinforces the sense of offense I perceive as to his motivation.

Terry Morris goes on to say:

Concerning what definition of liberalism Kristor is working off of, yes, he would agree with Zippy’s definition. He would also agree with Zippy’s definition of what a liberal is further down Zippy’s post.

Again we see Terry Morris speaking on behalf of Kristor by stating with authority the definition of liberalism that Kristor would use. I admit that I have not been reading Kristor’s posts for as long as Terry Morris claims to have read them. I can only state that based upon my own experience have have not seen convincing evidence that Kristor  agrees with Zippy’s definition as Terry Morris asserts.

I then asked Terry Morris what I thought to be a reasonable question based on his comment.

So you are saying that Kristor’s post is discussing sexual liberalism only and that sexual liberalism is not necessarily related to political liberalism?

I thought this question to be reasonable because if political liberalism did not necessarily lead to sexual liberalism all of the time then it makes sense that they would not necessarily be related. That is, political liberalism could lead to sexual liberalism but not necessarily. Terry Morris apparently did not agree that this was a reasonable question to ask as indicated by his response.

Umm, no, that’s not what I’m saying and you know it. I’m merely pointing out that Kristor isn’t saying (in the post you cite) what you claim he said. Namely that political liberalism *necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time*. And I’m working off of your (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism at that. Hint: that you (or I, or anyone else for that matter) haven’t groped another woman in the 20 odd years you’ve been married does not make you a sexual conservative, or non-sexual-liberal if you like.

The phrase “and you known it” suggests to me that Terry Morris thinks I was being willfully ignorant or perhaps intellectually dishonest. This further reinforces my suspicion that my original post offended him in some way and that he sees our interaction as adversarial. He then goes back to the claim (I did not intentionally make) in my previous post as to what Kristor asserted. This is a great example of how adversarial comment section exchanges can easily go off the rails as both sides do not fully understand each other and are not motivated to do so. Rather, the primary motivation seems to be to punish the other either by demonstrating to them they are wrong or by making them look foolish to the viewing audience.

Terry Morris then asserts that he “is working off of [my] (sketchy) definition of what constitutes sexual liberalism.” This further illustrates that we are not really communicating because to my knowledge I never attempted to define “sexual liberalism” anywhere in my post. My point (once again) always was that I did not know what definition for liberalism Kristor was using in his post and I attempted to articulate this in my response:

I don’t use these terms. There does not seem to be an agreed upon definition which was the point of my post.

To which he replied:

Agreed upon definition of what? Liberalism, Political Liberalism, Sexual Liberalism, Moral Liberalism? What? You’ve made distinctions that certainly exist on a case-by-case, moment-by-moment basis, but what has that to do with anything Kristor said in his post?

I am not sure what he is accusing me of here. In my mind I have been clear that I do not know if the writers on the Orthosphere are using a common definition of liberalism. As such, I cannot be sure which definition Kristor is using. In my analysis of Kristor’s post I attempted to document my thought process as I parsed what he had written.

Interestingly, Terry Morris followed with this comment:

I don’t presume to understand what your overall point in the post was/is, but I’ll take you at your word and also say you’ve wildly failed to make it!

This statement leads me to believe that when Terry Morris’s emotions got the better of him. He was obviously attempting to be insulting. But even more interestingly, he immediately refuted his own assertion that he did not “presume to understand [my] overall point” in his next statement.

That *you* don’t see general agreement amongst traditionalists about what constitutes liberalism, is a failure on your part. 

If Terry Morris really did not understand my point then how could he clearly articulate my point in his next sentence? As to the failure on my part to discern a general agreement amongst traditionalists I can only say that this agreement Terry Morris asserts to exist is not apparent in the posts that I have read. Perhaps he can point me in the right direction.

In the final comment I wrote:

I think my point was clear but I take you at your word that you don’t understand it.

Obviously (to me anyway), this was a bit passive aggressive on my part. I do not take Terry Morris at his word (i.e., that he does not understand my point) based on his own articulation of my point. But whether we understand each other was not really the point of this exchange especially as it reached its conclusion.

I cannot speak with authority as to Terry Morris’s mental state (as he can apparently do of others). I can only say that the tone of his comments suggests to me that my post has offended him in some way. Of course, interpreting motivation and mood behind writing (especially in internet comment sections) is always an inexact science. This is why I always couched my interpretations as to his mental state by saying “I suspect” and the like. In some ways it is a shame that most adversarial exchanges in internet comment sections devolve in this way. On the other hand there is a certain joy that one experiences in doing it even if he refuses to admit it to others or to himself.

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The Sexual Left’s Ambiguous Definition

In a recent Orthosphere post entitled “The Sexual Left Devours Itself” contributor Kristor commented on the recent rash of sexual harassment charges being lobbed at public figures. He begins his piece by writing,

The Great Sex Harassment Witch Hunt of 2017 is mostly hitting liberals. It is leaving conservatives largely unscathed (at least so far). Why should this be?

My first reaction after reading this assertion was to think of two prominent examples of sexual harassment charges hitting conservatives. The first is conservative Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore who has been accused by numerous women of sexually assaulting them when they were minors. The second is the Republican and self described conservative President of the United States, Donald Trump who’s own voice was recorded describing his penchant for grabbing women by their genitals. Despite these two rather glaring counter-examples, I must admit that there is nothing factually incorrect about his statement that most of the the accusations seem to be directed towards liberals when viewed generally.

The real problem is in trying to know what definition of liberalism Mr. Kristor is using. This is actually a common problem on the Orthosphere. It is very clear that the contributors and most commentators on the Orthosphere are anti-liberal in their political philosophy. But it is most decidedly unclear whether they are all using a common definition of liberalism. In some cases it is clear they are not.

For example, contributor Alan Roebuck wrote in his post “A Basic Guide to Liberalism and Conservatism, Part I“:

There is no need here to give a full definition of liberalism. Like the famous quip about pornography, we know it when we see it. We know liberalism because its message is everywhere.

Obviously, leaving liberalism undefined as such makes it a convenient punching bag because it can mean anything a person wants it to mean. But not defining liberalism also makes it very difficult to have a meaningful conversation about liberalism because although there might be a meeting of the minds in terms of one’s dislike for liberalism, it is unclear whether there is a meeting of the minds as to the reason for this dislike.

Another Orthosphere commentator and blog writer in his own right Zippy Catholic provides a more concrete definition of liberalism on his blog. In a post entitled, “Definition of Liberalism,” Zippy defines liberalism as:

…the political doctrine that securing individual freedom and equal rights is a primary legitimate purpose of government.

Zippy’s definition seems to be a reasonable one in that it is not inflammatory on its face, nor is it vague. It also largely accords with the standard definition of liberalism one might find in a typical dictionary. For this reason I will proceed with my analysis of Kristor’s post with this definition of liberalism in mind even though I do not know if this is the definition he is using.

After making his original assertion, Kristor went on to say:

Conservatives typically and generally labor under and prosper by a strong sense of traditional morality, under which it is not just perverse, but wicked, horrifying, repellent, and so rather inconceivable, to behave ignobly or impolitely toward women or other lessers. Most conservatives, I think it fair to say, would never even think of groping a woman or boy, any more than they would think of torturing a cat. They’d rather rip out their own guts.

At this point it is conceivable that Kristor believes a correlation exists between a belief that government should secure the freedom and equal rights of its citizens with a belief in sexual depravity. I suppose an argument could be made that if a person believed in freedom as a general political proposition that this belief in freedom would naturally translate into a free sexuality. I have no doubt it can be true that political freedom and sexual freedom correlate to a certain extent. But this certainly does not hold true for everyone. Take myself as an example. I consider myself to be a liberal according to Zippy’s definition but I have also been married and faithful to my wife for almost 20 years. I certainly have not sexually assaulted a woman during this time period. All this is to demonstrate that it is possible for a political liberal to not also be a sexual liberal. I am not sure that Kristor makes this distinction.

But Mr. K might not really be referring to political liberalism at all as it relates to sexuality. When he uses the term “liberalism” in his piece he might just be referring to sexual liberalism and nothing else. The point is that I am not sure as to this point and I question whether his is sure as to this point as well.

He continues:

Almost all the pathetic gropers who have been brought to shame in the last few weeks, on the other hand, are liberals, who have long loudly proclaimed their allegiance to liberal moral nostrums. As liberals, they think there is nothing inherently, absolutely wrong. They think that what we construe as wrong is – like everything else in human life whatsoever – no more than a social construct; which is to say, a pure fiction.

Here we see the author painting all liberals with a rather broad brush, asserting they all must hold (perhaps by definition) a belief in moral relativism. Again, for myself I have to point out that I am a political liberal but also believe in absolute right and wrong. Although I have no doubt that some liberals believe in moral relativism this is certainly not the case for all. So to say that moral liberalism (or relativism) and sexual liberalism are the same is questionable in my mind. However, I am not at all sure this is what Mr. K is saying, because I do not know what definition of liberalism he is using. You might say he is being liberal in his use of language.

Insofar then as the scandal truly attaches to some putative conservative, he must be conservative in name only. He must, i.e., be at heart a liberal. He must not at bottom really believe in the traditional morality he publicly espouses, or therefore form his acts according thereto.

Acts betray convictions.

Here, I think we see that in the eyes of Mr. K a conservative is by definition a person who acts sexually according to a conservative morality and a liberal is a person who acts sexually according to a liberal morality. This seems to be true to him regardless of whatever political philosophy the conservative or liberal might also hold.

But again, the problem here is that I have no idea whether Kristor makes any distinction between the terms political liberalism, sexual liberalism or moral liberalism. If he is talking about political liberalism then the counter example of myself refutes his assertion that political liberalism necessarily leads to sexual liberalism all the time. If he is speaking only of sexual liberalism then it seems like he is attempting to make a point that is obvious on its face. That is, sexual liberals are sexual liberals. If he is talking about moral liberalism it is unclear whether Kristor can see the possibility of a person acting morally in one situation (like speaking the truth) and acting immorally in another such as groping a woman against her will. Non moral relativists can differ in terms of what they believe morality to be. Would a person be considered to be moral if he acted morally but believed in divorce? Reasonable, moral people can differ as to this point. And just because a person is a moral relativist does not mean that they would go about committing murder and rape. Again, I doubt Kristor is making this distinction.

Liberal “morality” leads logically, and so inevitably, to boundless wickedness. It removes the ontological (and therefore ineluctable) limit of right action, that cannot be swayed by any means whatever; so then any act that can be rationalized… The result is not limited to a parade of petty personal pecadilli [leading to] things like the Katyn Forest Massacre, or the Holodomor. Or, indeed, Lidice, the Holocaust, the Terror, the Purge.

There is a certain logic to the notion that if political liberalism leads to moral liberalism then atrocities are a possible or perhaps probable outcome. However, the examples of the massacres in the Katyn Forest, Holodomor, Lidice and the Holocaust all occurred in un-free police states and as such, arguably illiberal regimes. If free societies lead to massacres the same argument could be made against hierarchical police states as well and if both arguments can be made then it is hard to make the case that liberalism has anything to do with it.

I have made this argument before and it does not seem to make any impact on a person who has committed himself to believing that the political philosophy which holds that the freedom and equal rights of citizens can actually be the exact opposite. Anti-liberals by definition are against liberalism. This sentiment is only reinforced by having no clear definition of liberalism because it creates a boogeyman that can then be blamed for anything one finds disagreeable.

Kristor concluded his opinion piece by stating:

If sexual predation is wrong, it is *wrong,* period full stop. And in that case, the moral relativism of liberalism, and with it the sexual libertinism of liberalism, is … absolutely wrong. In which case, feminism is dead.

To this I would clarify that the objectionable portion of the term “sexual assault” is that an “assault” (or predation if you prefer) occurs against the will of the other. I believe this is what the feminists primarily take issue with and not so much the sexual aspect of it except to the extent that a sexual assault is generally considered to be a higher degree of assault. Accordingly I think Kristor has exaggerated his report as to the death of feminism. I also think his anti-liberal tirade would be made stronger by clearly defining the term.

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Is it Freedom or Ego that is the Problem?

There has been much discussion on various anti-liberal blogs that freedom (i.e., the idea behind liberalism) is the cause of all society’s ills. There is the notion that if only liberalism could be abolished then something better would take its place and all the social problems of modernity would be solved. I suppose the thinking is that anything is better than liberalism therefore there is no need to come up with a replacement for it. Or perhaps the reluctance to come up with a replacement reflects the subconscious knowledge that liberalism really is not the problem and that the same issues will come to exist under any type of regime.

One theory I see over and over again is that liberalism leads to evil and specifically mass murder because it is “incoherent.” The theory that liberalism is “incoherent” is based upon the premise that a government action is by its nature restrictive. Even if a government acts to promote the rights of one person or group of people it will necessarily restrict the rights of another person or group of people. Therefore, it is “incoherent” to say that a priority of government should be to protect the freedom of its citizens (as Western governments typically do) because in actuality a government cannot protect the freedom of one group of people without assaulting the freedom of another group of people. For example (the argument goes) if the government protects the right of one group to speak freely it will necessarily assault the right of another group to not have to listen to what the first group has to say.

Let us assume this analysis actually proves the incoherence of liberalism (and not the balancing of competing priorities). Does this incoherence really lead to mass murder as is claimed by the anti-liberals? The anti-liberal’s “go to” example of modern day mass murder is abortion. They argue that because liberalism is incoherent it can be used to justify abortion just as it was used (they argue) to justify the killing of Jews by the Nazis in World War II, the nuking of Hiroshima and the execution of opponents to Communist reform in the Soviet Union under Stalin. This justification arises under the “principle of explosion” apparently because under a contradictory logical construct such as is (supposedly) liberalism anything can be logically inferred to be true.

There are a few problems with this line of thinking. First of all, understanding the “principle of explosion” requires more than a bit of formal logic theory under one’s belt. It is not a theory that is readily grasped by the general public without this education. Therefore, to say that this principle is somehow used by liberals to justify their actions seems to be a bit of a stretch on its face. However, the argument might be that although expressing the principle of explosion in formal logic requires an education in logic that most people do not have, the principle itself is sound because most people on some intuitive level appreciate it to be true and use it to justify their beliefs psychologically. This too I think is a stretch because the intuitive level is governed more by emotion and ego than obscure rules of formal logic. But let us also assume this to be correct.

So then, we are now assuming it is correct that the belief in incoherent doctrines can lead to mass murder. It seems to me that from the perspective of the orthodox Christians who believe this this theory there is an obvious flaw they are ignoring. That is, the belief that incoherent doctrines lead to mass murder not only condemns liberalism (assuming liberalism is actually incoherent) but it would also condemn Christianity itself. There are many tenets in Christianity that are incoherent on their face (arguably). For example, the doctrine of the Trinity is logically incoherent. The belief that Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man is logically incoherent. The belief that the Eucharist is actually transformed into the body and blood of Christ during the Roman Catholic mass is logically incoherent. The theodicy question suggests an incoherence to Christianity as well. These are but a few examples of arguments that could be made to demonstrate the incoherence of Christianity that are far more convincing (in my mind) than the argument that supposedly demonstrates the incoherence of liberalism.

All that being said, I do not consider either liberalism or Christianity to be incoherent. Nor do I believe that an incoherence of a doctrine logically leads to mass murder. So then the question arises what does give rise to these incidences of mass murder than take place in modern times? I think a far more logical explanation for the existence of mass murder in modern times is the modern technology that makes it possible.

The anti-liberals will argue that these acts of mass murder have only occurred under liberal regimes. But the fact that these events have (arguably) occurred only under liberal regimes does not prove that only liberal regimes are capable of committing acts of mass murder. Indeed the same people who argue only liberal regimes can commit mass murder are the same people who argue there are only liberal regimes in modern times. I think it is clear that this line of thinking easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy because if there are only liberal regimes in the world then any crime committed in the world can be blamed on liberalism. Moreover, examples of illiberal regimes committing acts of mass murder (albeit on a smaller scale) can be pointed to in the Inquisition and the Crusades. It is easy to conceive that these acts of cruelty could have been much more extensive had the perpetrators had access to modern technology.

I use these examples not to attack Christianity. I am a Christian. I use them to demonstrate that any political philosophy or belief system is capable of mass murder given the right circumstances and therefore to believe that the supposed incoherence of liberalism is responsible for these acts is a fallacy.

But modern technology is not the whole explanation. So what then is the discriminating authority that causes one person or group of people to commit an act of violence on another person or group of people? Might I suggest that it is ego. It is the voice within the self that says I am right and he is wrong. It is the voice within the self that says I am different than him (or her). It is the voice in the self that says I am better than him or her. It is the voice within the self that says if you disagree with me you must lack the capacity to understand me. It is the voice in the self that says you are my enemy. In my mind (and I would think most reasonable people would agree) this is the real problem.

 

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