On not going back again

22 11 2010

The ultimate anti-Hegelian argument is the very fact of the post-Hegelian break: what even the most fanatical partisan of Hegel cannot deny is that something changed after Hegel, that a new era of thought began which can no longer be accounted for in Hegelian terms of absolute conceptual mediation; this rupture occurs in different guises, from Schelling’s assertion of the abyss of pre-logical Will (vulgarized later by Schopenhauer) and Kierkegaard’s insistence on the uniqueness of faith and subjectivity, through Marx’s assertion of actual socio-economic life-process, and the full autonomization of mathematicized natural sciences, up to Freud’s motif of “death-drive” as a repetition that insists beyond all dialectical mediation. Something happened here, there is a clear break between before and after, and while one can argue that Hegel already announces this break, that he is the last of idealist metaphysicians and the first of post-metaphysical historicists, one cannot really be a Hegelian after this break, Hegelianism has lost its innocence forever. To act like a full Hegelian today is the same as to write tonal music after the Schoenberg revolution.

-Slavoj Zizek, from this site

This is supposedly the opening to the preface of Zizek’s new book on Hegel, set to come out next year. I think one could apply such principles to Catholicism, but in this case, I think the formative event for the Church was the enthronement of the goddess of Reason at Notre Dame Cathedral during the French Revolution. After that, in many places, the Other entered into the consciousness of Catholicism. Catholicism began to be defined by the Other, by what it opposed and what it sought to defend. (One can say that this happened with Protestantism, though in most places, the fact that cuius regio eius religio was the rule of thumb probably meant that average Catholics knew little of the “Other” in most places.) Anyone who has had to suffer through reading a 19th century Papal encyclical would see this quite easily. Vatican II was in a sense a moment of clarity; the idea that there could be no going back to the pre-revolutionary world. If anything, the much touted “restoration” of Benedict XVI is a bit farcical. Revolution is the name of the game no matter how conservative one pretends to be.

The other aspect of this is philosophical. As I have highlighted previously, Catholic philosophy prior to 1960 sought to pretend that one could philosophize as a scholastic after Descartes and Kant. Or at best, one could pretend that Descartes and Kant didn’t really mean what they really meant. Reading Maritain or Gilson, however, often seems to be an exercise of consistently militant denial. In the realm of politics, some try to assert that Locke or other Enlightenment figures were somehow in continuity with the past. Such conclusions could perhaps only be reached by those who have gotten used to impressionistic sloppy thinking. Modern people are not very good at first principles, or at analyzing where such principles often lead.

This is also why I am becoming less and less sympathetic to the plight of so-called traditionalists. Those traditions simply do not mean the same thing as they used to; they are the result of choice when they were originally born out of a regime of obligation. Thus, various rites and doctrines are given post facto absurd meanings, or are sometimes disposed of altogether in favor of more “traditional” practices. In terms of any sort of “tradition”, a sort of threshold has already been crossed. It is no longer possible to be traditional precisely because the conversation is being framed in an entirely different context.

In my own life, I have passed another threshold, and that is no longer taking seriously what I have come to call the “faith force field”. The faith force field is trying to develop a “wholistic” approach to all of reality from a set of defined doctrines. In other words, it is not enough to believe XYZ, but one must have the mind behind XYZ. Your faith has to be “consistent”. The “force field” part comes in that the “eyes of faith” see reality in an entirely different light; they are constantly reading against what surrounds them. For me, this is a dishonest exercise in post facto justification.

Perhaps “tradition” has never existed; perhaps it is a ghostly core, a sort of black hole around which circulates various doctrinal, rhetorical, and historical contingencies.


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32 responses

24 11 2010
24 11 2010
Sam Urfer

“My political opinions lean more and more to Anarchy (philosophically understood, meaning the abolition of control not whiskered men with bombs)—or to ‘unconstitutional’ Monarchy…. Grant me a king whose chief interest in life is stamps, railways, or race-horses; and who has the power to sack his Vizier (or whatever you dare call him) if he does not like the cut of his trousers…”

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2010/11/anarcho-monarchism

24 11 2010
dominic1962

Dave,

Nope, totally Catholic. I’m just saying that I really don’t think folks like Descartes or Kant really changed the game, at least in the objective realm.

24 11 2010
Turmarion

synLeszkax, in what alternate dimension is the current US tax rate 92%?!

23 11 2010
synLeszkax

Actually I am not a proponent of libertarianism, I view it as wrong but in Europe, the maximum income tax rate is about 30-50% while in the US it is about 92%. The thing which is wrong with libertarianism is that it is one lung of the same sick organism whose other lung is socialism. It is part of the same sickness of modernity which psychoanalysis tries to heal. But this does not mean that I am an adherent of the ancien regime or absolutist monarchy. Conservatism is relative in matters of the organisation of the state, be it monarchy or a republic.
I do not know how much of Gilson you have read, but it seems to elude many people that he was a historian of philosophy, and you should understand that he wrote histories of philosophy not philosophy itself.

23 11 2010
Dauvit Balfour

Haha!

Maybe what you say is true, maybe there’s implicit modernism in that libertarian axiom (though the notion goes back well before the Enlightenment). Maybe I have indeed imbibed the modernist cup. But, well, chalk it up to still being on my way to figuring things out. The Debutant shows his slip, indeed.

Though, in my defense, doing something for the good of the clan is very different from asserting that I may not initiate aggression, and that all government carries the implicit threat of aggression. To be sure, in smaller, tribal societies, I would hope that it would be less of a problem, but if fallen human nature has anything to say, power will corrupt. Family just mitigates it.

23 11 2010
The Singular Observer

Anon – yes and no. They still yield considerable cultural influence (witness Charles and his work re architecture, organic agriculture, localism etc). Also, they can wield significant ingluence, like the governor-general’s decision in Canada 2 years ago to prorogue parliament to stop the government from falling at the wrong time – yes, she is appointed by the PM, but her powers derive from the Crown. This same corporate cabal you mention does not always like these powers, hence the considerable push in the media against Charles, for instance. He is no more immoral than any politician out there. It might seem that these issues are marginal, and maybe they are, but why yield completely?

But to be completely honest, I do not buy the whole picture you are selling. Yes, the corporate bogeyman does exist, but he is not all-powefull, everywhere. You are writing from an American perspective, and face it, it is the worst-case scenario when it comes to corporate power. For good or ill, for instance, SK has just stuck its finger in the eye of a big corporate, in lobbying the Federal government to stop the takeover of Potash Corp by BHP. The jury is still out on the longterm economic wisdom of that descision, but it does illustrate that corproate power is not invincible everywhere. Also, the majority of the problem lies in the banking and retail side of the equation, as well as the agribusiness side, insofar as it relates to retail. In the mining industry, which I’m most familiar with, things are not always as clear-cut.

The world has always had it’s powerful mercantile entities – the VOC (Dutch East India Company) for instance, or the Hansa league etc. the reason Rome fell is as much to do with economics, outsourcing etc. than anyhting else.

The modern day difference is the fact that modern man has become beholden by brands, and experts telling him what to do and what not to do. He has surrendered his reason to the borg-cabal. Truth be told, though, the average human being has never, through history, been prone to think for himself, ESPECIALLY if someone else is there to do it for him (another reason that the libertarian experiment is doomed to fail). Therefore I’m not being a misty-eyed romantic.

The odds are insurmountable, sure. But one has to fight the battle put before you nonetheless.

23 11 2010
Dauvit Balfour

Off the cuff, my guess would be that they romanticize it because it was before VII, but that might be more than a little snide. If it’s true, it’s stupid, considering the amount of anti-Catholic sentiment in the protestant deep south (excluding, of course, the Spanish and French regions along the gulf coast and Florida).

But that’s only off the cuff. I really haven’t run into this tendency in my limited Trad circle, and so haven’t given it much thought.

23 11 2010
Dauvit Balfour

I should add, though, that you are probably right in one sense. I would guess that those Latin Mass groupies who have libertarian leanings are more of the CATO variety. It probably stems from their need to be proper and respectable.

I’m gonna have shirts made – “T-Shirt Traditionalist”.

23 11 2010
Dauvit Balfour

The CATO Institute is more mainstream, I suppose, but is largely rejected by the Mises/Rothbard school of libertarianism as a sellout to power. I doubt whether one could accuse Mises, Nock, Rothbard, Hayek, Spooner, and Hoppe of belonging to that same school of sellouts. So while you’re probably right about CATO and the Reason Foundation, that doesn’t encompass all of libertarianism, anymore than Bill Buckley or Ayn Rand encompass all of conservatism. In fact, CATO is the libertarian answer to Buckley – an opportunist jumping on a bandwagon and then taking the reigns in order to redefine something that already existed. Political definitions are shifty bastards, after all.

I realize that gratuitous name-dropping is just a dick measuring contest in text, but hey, we’re in the comment forum on a blog, so it sort of comes natural, don’t it?

And really, who pays attention to the JBS anymore?

23 11 2010
Anonymous

Everything solid melts into air.

23 11 2010
Anonymous

But even if you live in a “monarchy” like the UK, it’s not a “real” monarchy anymore. The aristocracy is just a financial/cultural part of the global neoliberal oligarchy and are fully invested in late capitalism in their bank accounts, corporations, investments, etc. They are not the monarchy you think they are… they are just an empty signifier of something that long ago ceased to be. Yes, they might have titles, sit on thrones occasionally, live in fancy palaces, but there’s little difference in actual life and ideology in them than in Bill Gates or George Soros.

The real rulers are the networks of global corporations and banks, but they are “reacting” to the ebbs and flows of world capital, so capital is the real world ruler politically.

Royalists and republicans… it’s past that point now! It’s now a struggle among post-political biopolitical technocrats, conservative oligarchs/military elite who want controlled authoritarian capitalist states, globalist “sustainable” society advocates, and what have you, but nowadays all of these sort of blend together. And then there’s us, the consumer subjects of the developed world, and the physically expoited producer subjects of the developing world. But again this is changing in the higher cultural strata of the developed world with “prosumers,” “creative capitalism,” etc. “Cultural” work for the global capitalist networks, for free, of our own “free will”, like we’re doing here, by blogging.

23 11 2010
Turmarion

MZ: Actually, Rod has said more than once that he entered Orthodoxy with a different, much less idealistic view than that with which he entered Catholicism. He has said that while he is aware of the problems you mention and distressed by them, he’s just more or less letting them be and moving on with his life as an Orthodox Christian. Mutatis mutandis, sometimes that’s all any of us can do.

Chris Jones: I think Guroian was making a subtler point than that. In the old days (or in some places, even now), you were born into a faith, it was everywhere around you, you would never conceive of anything else, you accepted it all unquestioningly, good and bad. It was so tightly interwoven into the cycles of your life that it could hardly be distinguished from life itself. To be other than Orthodox (or Catholic or Muslim) would be almost as unthinkable as for a fish to leave the water.

Yes, even then some converted–but it was rare; and if you consider the way in which it would have been viewed not as a personal choice but a repudiation of one’s culture, family, and people, one can grasp (a little) why banishment or even execution was often meted out to the convert.

It’s true, as you say, that “even those cultures that touted themselves as ‘Christian’… were, in Scriptural terms, ‘this world,’ not the Kingdom,” but good luck telling them (or people from such cultures today) that. Such cultures may have been “the world” theologically, but very, very few would have seen that (they were the ones who usually got executed or banished!) and the fact remains that exteriorly, anyway, there were far more supports for the faith than there are now.

In the modern world, by contrast, the choice to be Orthodox, or anything else, is always a choice; and no matter how devoted one is or how much one throws oneself into it, there is always the understanding, at the back of one’s mind, that one could always leave one’s new faith (or one’s old faith, for the cradle Orthodox, Catholic, etc.) at will with no real repercussions. The fact that it’s even possible to think that one might leave one’s faith makes the modern situation profoundly different from the traditional one.

One could draw an analogy with marriage. At one time, divorce simply was no more an option than flapping one’s wings and flying to the moon–even if there was abuse, desertion, whatever. It just didnt’ happen. Now, it’s just a trip to the lawyers, a few forms, some waiting, and bing–divorce. The most faithful, devoted couple of today have still grown up, as individuals, in a culture in which divorce has been normalized and de-stigmatized. This will have an effect on things, even for those who stay together.

Maybe you could put it like this–in the old days, regarding one’s faith (or marriage, for that matter), you almost didn’t have to do anything. Societal expectations, taboos, and boundaries meant that you couldn’t not be Orthodox/Catholic/Muslim, that you couldn’t not stay married–at least, not without severe repercussions that very few were willing to risk. You could coast, as it were, and let society do it for you. You might be labeled a bad Orthodox or Catholic or Muslim (or spouse), but you’d be one regardless.

By contrast in modern times, you are always to some extent self-conscious. Society won’t do it for you (and might even undermine you). If you want to be fill-in-the-blank; if you want to stay married; if, in short, you want to live out a life-long commitment in a world that no longer honors commitments, then you are on your own and will be doing all the work to maintain it. Worthwhile work, I hasten to add–but work nonetheless. This is what I think Guroian was talking about.

I guess you could come back and say that that’s how it should be–that it should be an ongoing, conscious personal choice rather than cultural intertia–but I don’t think it ever was that way for 99% of the people throughout history, and it’s no accident that in a society where one’s religion (and marriage) are one’s own business, that you have church-shopping and serial monogamy becoming the norm. I’d tend to agree with Arturo, who discusses something long this line back here, as well as other places farther back, that perhaps this is asking too much of the average person. Jesus came for weak sinners, not religious superheroes!

23 11 2010
The Singular Observer

True. Except – I live in one! And there is a constant tug between the royalists and the republican-wannabee’s. Now, we are not going to go back to feudalism now. but it helps to understand the bigger (ideal) picture so that you can argue the practical matters in front of you.

23 11 2010
Anonymous

Also, what’s the point in being a monarchist (whether constitutional, absolutist, or whatever) nowadays? There is no conceivable way it will be (or should be) implemented in the contemporary developed world… It seems like a waste of time and thought. There’s no way you can translate into actual political action that shapes the world for the better.

Why not deal with the present material reality instead of retreating to the romantic fantasy lands of revisionist history and “could have beens”?

23 11 2010
Chris Jones

A little bit of browsing around Wikipedia reveals that the Koch brothers’ father, Fred Koch, was a founding member of the John Birch Society. So Anonymous’s original statement that the Society was “founded by the Koch family” is at least partly true: the head of the Koch family was A founder, but not THE founder, of the John Birch Society.

It would hardly be surprising if a good deal of the money to get the Society going, and to keep it going, came from Fred Koch.

23 11 2010
The Singular Observer

Ok, I am a monarchist, but NOT an Absolute Monarchist. I like feudalism, at least theoretically, and the Magna Carta and all that.

Then again, I’m neither Orthodox, nor Catholic.

But my reasons for being a Constitutional Monarchist is to do with a number of things:

The obvious are a balance of powers, with at least one that is less likely to be inflenced by short term gain. Plus the inherent co-dependency of fealty.

The bigger reason. Having read lots of history, and of late, some very early (ie Neolithic history), and having observed my fellow man all my life, I think that structure is the natural structure for Man, ie, the “best for the species”. The Borg-like tendencies of late will, simplistically speaking, be an evolutionary regression.

The other reason: I like it. I like the idea of being (largely) ruled by elites with good breeding. Thus, I can never be a Tea-partier.

Also, I think Dauvit above shows his slip when he states “but my sympathy for libertarians is based on the principle of non-aggression and the understanding that all state power is in its nature aggressive”.

This is a clear indication of having been taught to much Modernism (as a statement, it derives from “Enlightenment” categories). There is something like doing something for the good of the clan/tribe, even though I don’t like it. In truth, we’ve been doing that since the paleolithic.

Then again, these are observations. As a Lutheran, I’m a “Two-Kingdom” man, and have no problem kneeling at the rail with libertarians and communists, even if I think they (or at least, their politics) are stupid.

23 11 2010
Leah

Actually the John Birch Society was founded by Robert W. Welch, Jr. of the Welch’s grape juice fortune in 1958. Unless there was some kind of youth auxilury program, the Koch brothers would have been too young to be founding members.

23 11 2010
Anonymous

I meant to say …”and basically any other libertarian think tank or political action group is funded by… the Koch brothers.”

23 11 2010
Anonymous

The CATO Institute, the Reason Foundation, and basically any other libertarian think tank are funded by a small clique of conservative oligarchs like the Koch brothers. The John Birch Society was also founded by the Koch family.

23 11 2010
Andrea Elizabeth

It seems that tradition is being understood as obedience to the hierarchy, and that confessional freedom of choice makes the traditional context of obedience impossible. I do know that in some places obedience was considered mandatory and that people did not feel that they had a choice such as befell conquered Native North and South Americans, slaves, and Russian and other feudal western peasants and pagans, but it seems that this is not universal and has more to do with political structure than religious structure, though the former often corrupted the latter. Wealthy people, secular powers, and I believe earlier eastern Christians did not come to the Church through coercion. I get this mainly from Bible and Saint stories of conversion during secular reigns. They entered into the body of Christ voluntarily and against their masters, so that is part of the tradition too.

Once someone is in the Church who is used to freedom of choice, then it becomes a matter of not only obeying God, but also the hierarchy. This is a lot more complicated because we are called to be rational sheep. But obedience does involve giving up your will, or at least choosing God’s will, so one cannot be a traditional Christian without doing that. Abbot Meletios Webber talks about the different requirements of monasticism and laity, so obedience is not so simply understood as blanket surrender of your daily operations to the hierarchy.

23 11 2010
Leah

Everything you say makes a lot of sense. Do you have any idea behind the similar fascination among some traditionalists concerning the pre-Civil Rights South. Assuming we’re going by the definition of libertarianism as “maximum freedom, minimal government,” the Jim Crow South seems to be an abject failure, at least at the providing freedom part. I mean, what could possibly be more coercive than legislating which door a person can enter? Plus, during this period the South didn’t see itself as a capitalist region, but as a continuation of the traditional rural cultures of Europe. It all seems very contradictory, but maybe there’s not supposed to be any consistency.

23 11 2010
Dauvit Balfour

I can’t speak for other Trads (in fact, I dislike enough about enough of them that I don’t want to), but at least from my perspective the fascination with monarchism is more a sympathy for the confessional monarchy of the middle ages, as opposed to the absolutist monarchies that began to rise the 16th and 17th centuries.

I say sympathy because, while I see some order and sense in having a practically limited monarchical order that is subject to the Church, I also have enough sense to realize that much of what is claimed by those fascinated with the middle ages is romanticized crap. Also, even if it did work then, it wouldn’t work any longer, the reformation saw to that (the rise of absolutism in government was only made possible by the reformation).

And again, I can’t speak for other libertarians, and I don’t know specifically what writers Anonymous is talking about (his accusations, without support, strike me as off-the-cuff bullshit, unless he is reading different writers than I am, or has some secret knowledge that I missed about the most influential libertarian authors), but my sympathy for libertarians is based on the principle of non-aggression and the understanding that all state power is in its nature aggressive. I don’t think they have an answer to the problem, I just think that, again from a practical standpoint, they do a damn good job of explaining the recurring rise of the absolute state throughout world history, and the problems inherent in any system of government (does that make me an anarchist? Maybe, but I like to think not).

I think, if there is a problem with those Trads who are part libertarian, part monarchical (and there very likely is) then it shows itself in a distorted way of thinking about both positions, and ends in a fanatical devotion to something without an internal consistency (this is why I try to avoid going beyond sympathy for any political line of thought).

It is also possible that there is a cultural explanation. After all, the Latin Mass crowd is often studied enough to have run across, say, Mises and to find his ideas appealing to the outsider in them. Perhaps it is a latent Gnostic tendency? Then, with monarchism, they find a form of government that was in place during those golden days of Holy Mother Church, when all the West was Catholic and Church and State coexisted in harmony. A sort of nostalgic utopianism. This seems to me to be the most likely explanation of the apparent contradiction – it is a product of their particular religious/liturgical fascination and the world in which they put themselves to indulge that fascination.

Does all of this apply to me, as well? Or is there a meta-problem with my thinking? Probably.

23 11 2010
Chris Jones

I think what Guroian said was bullshit. Maybe you can’t embrace the tradition of “being Russian” or “being Armenian” or whatever (but who would want to do that anyway?). But you sure as hell can “embrace” the Apostolic Tradition: it is called conversion. And the receiving and embracing of that Tradition is called catechesis. True conversion is a nasty break with the world and its cultures (all of them) but that doesn’t mean that you can’t receive, live by, and hand on an authentic Tradition.

And the answer to Dreher’s question (“what are you supposed to do?”) is also pretty simple: take what you are given in baptism and catechesis (what St Irenaeus called “the canon of Truth received in baptism”) and live by it in the context and culture that you find yourself in. If that context and culture seems alien to your Christian faith, well, that’s just too bad. Live your faith in it anyway. It ain’t any more alien than the culture of the Empire before Constantine was. And even those cultures that touted themselves as “Christian” (“the Age of Faith” or “Holy Russia” or whatever) were, in Scriptural terms, “this world,” not the Kingdom.

If by “embracing a tradition” you mean trying to follow a culture that is not your own, that is really a part of “this world” no matter how Christian its trappings, and that doesn’t really exist anymore anyway, then you are just deluding yourself. Luckily that is not what receiving the Tradition of the Church means.

23 11 2010
Dave

dominic,

are you from a Reformed background? That sounds a lot like Van Til.

22 11 2010
ochlophobist

Anon,

You have just parsed a huge amount of Orthoblogdom. Whether overtly stated or implied, this “mental architecture of a flat and ordered hierarchical sort of logic” reigns nearly everywhere in those haunts. I must confess it has infected my own mind too often in recent years, and I am now committed to purging myself from this intellectual disease.

I was reading a Orthodox priest whom I know to be a political “conservative” recently, he was writing on how to respond to controversy as a Christian, I suppose especially in light of recent Church scandals. But to take his “flat and ordered hierarchical sort of logic” at face value, I could not help but think that this is all a sick game to keep the proletariat well behaved and in check. This from a man who I know to live a comfortable middle class life with, let’s face it, a pretty easy job (no matter how much clerics moan about their vocational difficulties) compared to most jobs these days, talking about how Christ would have us be the submissive little divinely ordained prison bitches of those in power. After reading this priest’s thoughts I immediately went and picked up my old copy of Walter Wink’s Engaging the Powers in order to detox.

22 11 2010
Le Panda du Mal

“To act like a full Hegelian today is the same as to write tonal music after the Schoenberg revolution.”

God forbid that anyone make tonal music after Schoenberg. The horror!

Post-modernism: modernism with its head up its ass?

22 11 2010
Anonymous

Libertarianism is the ideological screen for the new fascism. You can read a lot of libertarian writers who condemn democracy and egalitarianism… they are the paid stooges of international capitalists who leverage other groups (evangelical Christians and the pro-life movement) to reverse worker protection laws, lower wages, lower taxes for the rich, and deregulate economies for the benefit of the elite.

The pro-monarchist/authoritarian desire of some “traditional” Orthodox or Catholics is in keeping with libertarianism because it is an “eternal” hierarchical structure, and the form of thought of libertarianism is based on the mental architecture of a flat and ordered hierarchical sort of logic.

22 11 2010
M.Z.

I would imagine Dreher has one foot out the door of Orthodoxy with their current scandals, which is pretty much the point now that I think about it. One cannot exercise a prerogative and be traditional in the end. Tradition is about following and not merely following that which you desire to follow. So many people think they can choose the world they live in. The US is full of a bunch of people that think they are snowflakes; it isn’t just tied to one generation. I don’t share Arturo’s sharp division between rights and obligations – I tend to think they are peas in a pod rather than contrasting. I think the elite just doesn’t care about religion or morality or at least their concern is only so much as those things keep the populace quelled.

22 11 2010
Leah

Okay, this is a question that I’ve had for a while. Looking at publications like “Latin Mass” and the like, there is a fascination among some traditionalists with absolutist monarchies, particularly ancien regime France. Yet many of these same people are adherents of the Austrian school of economics and political libertarians, ideas which certainly would have been considered subversive to a traditional monarchical order. Does anyone else see a contradiction between these ideas?

22 11 2010
dominic1962

Oh, please, as if Descarte and Kant actually changed anything. Asserting hubris as a virtue (as if you can really ‘start over’) and piling on made up Germanic/Grecian verbage doesn’t change reality. Just because they (and their philosophical sycophants) praised the emperor’s “Enlightenment” clothing to the heights of noumena doesn’t change a thing.

If one want’s to call Hegel’s work (and the antecedent/subsequent German profluvium) a “break” they are welcome to but is it in reality? Does it really correspond with truth?

22 11 2010
Turmarion

Those traditions simply do not mean the same thing as they used to; they are the result of choice when they were originally born out of a regime of obligation.

It’s interesting that you say that. Rod Dreher, back on his old blog at Beliefnet mentioned on more than one occasion a conversation he had with Armenian Orthodox theologian Vigen Guroian. Note that Dreher converted to Catholicism, then later to Orthodoxy. In any case, they were discussing tradition, and Guroian told Dreher that trying to embrace tradition was not only impossible, but a contradiction in terms, since tradition properly under stood is by definition something you don’t choose–something you’re born into.

Dreher’s response was along the lines of, “Then what are you supposed to do?” In short, if one objects to modernity, but if we can’t go back, either, what are we to do? As an adult convert to Catholicism myself, and one attracted to more conservative or traditional theology (though in other areas I tend to be rather left-wing), I sympathize. However, I don’t think there’s any easy answer to Dreher’s question, if there even is an answer at all.

I guess as I’ve gotten older I’ve become more comfortable with Emerson’s dictum that a “foolish inconsistency is the hobgoblin of small minds”. I’m inclined to think that the more consistent a philosophical, ethical, or religious system is, the more problematic, inhumane, and (in some cases) even evil it is. I’d still take Catholicism over anything else in the market (though my theology is much, much closer to that of the Orthodox-that is, when I’m not being Buddhist 😉 ), but I don’t claim it is or can be perfectly (or even very) consistent. In short, I, too, have ditched the “force field”, and I’m OK with that.

On a different note, I notice that you refer to Žižek frequently. I’ve read some of his stuff, and he’s certainly interesting, though I can’t quite figure out what I think of him, and I often have difficulty understanding him. I’m considering reading him in greater depth (as I’ve said, your blog gives excellent reading lists!) when I have time. In this regard, I’m curious as to your opinion of this New Republic essay on him.

Anyway, the fascinating, thought-provoking posts are very much appreciated–keep up the good work!

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