Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Answer to Integralist

Over on One Cosmos, a commenter called "Integralist" expressed dismay over Bob's apparent black-and-white thinking. Not wanting to clutter Bob's blog with what ended up being a long answer, I decided to post it here. Bob's answer to Integralist is in this post on lies and counterfeits. I'm answering one of Integralist's comments to that post.


It seems that you (erroneously in my view) equate conservatism with Fact and liberalism with Falsehood, rather than (correctly) seeing them both as having a spectrum of readings and layers, facts and falsehoods.

One thing you might want to know about One Cosmos is that they use the terms "the left" and "classical liberals" instead of "liberal" and "conservative." Leftism comprises anything that has its roots in Marxism and/or postmodernism. Classical liberalism has its roots in Christianity and the Enlightenment.

These two categories don't necessarily correspond to democrat and republican or conservative and liberal, as understood in the Sept. 10th world.

The reason that Leftism is so roundly rejected on One Cosmos is that it is based on wholly incorrect assumptions about human nature and the universe. If your initial assumptions are incorrect, you will not arrive at the correct conclusions. Not on purpose, anyway.

Those assumptions include the following:

  • Human behavior is almost entirely determined by environment such as socio-economic status or cultural norms.

  • Corrolary: human nature can be corrected by the imposition of the proper institutions, namely a socialistic government. The configuration of this government will be determined by the extremely smart people who currently languish in academia because the masses aren't smart enough to put them in charge.

  • There is no such thing as absolute or objective Truth. Perception and the manipulation thereof is all there is.

  • Corrolary: there is no right and wrong, only power, and those too weak to seek it. Oops. That's Voldemort, the fascist!

  • Power structures are the only things that matter in human relationships. You can divide all people and nations into oppressors and oppressed.

  • Strong people and strong nations are by definition oppressors; weak people and nations are by definition oppressed.

  • Oppressors are evil, so whatever the oppressed do to oppose them, or whatever you do on the behalf of the oppressed, is right.

  • The United States, as a uniquely powerful nation, is by definition uniquely evil.

  • There is no God. Religion is ossified superstition.

  • All cognition is mediated by language; ergo, only those trained in language use (literary theorists and linguists) can tell you what reality really is.

  • Did I forget to mention that there is no such thing as objective Truth? Except for what the Left asserts, that is.

It goes on.

On the other hand classical liberalism is rooted in the following assumptions:
  • Human nature is imperfect and flawed and we are powerless to change that fact.

  • Individuals may persue a path of improvement, but it has to be chosen from within (often through inspiration from without) but cannot be imposed from the outside.

  • There is definitely such a thing as objective or absolute Truth. It might be hard to determine (we see through a glass darkly), but it exists independently of our perception of it.

  • Determining/learning/perceiving the Truth is man's highest calling.

  • Power structures exist, but power can be used for good or ill. So can weakness, for that matter.

  • Strong people and strong nations may or may not be oppressors, and weak people and weak nations are not, by virtue of their weakness, virtuous. Sometimes the underdog is a total jerk.

  • Compared to the history of nations and human societies, the United States is uniquely good and has spawned goodness in other nations. (Comparing the US to a standard of perfection, as the Left does, is totally unreasonable.)

  • There is a God, or at least transcendant truth. Some religion is good, and some of what passes for religion is trash.

  • There are many ways of knowing, and it's a good idea to cultivate all of those ways so that you can better arrive at the Truth.

As you can see, these assumptions about reality are mutually exclusive. Either one is true and the other false or they're both false, but not both true. (Only a leftist can look out the window and say that it's day and night at the same time and not see why that's a problem.)

Deciding to take the best from two sides of an argument is a good thing only when both sides represent merely differing interpretations of the same data. But being inclusive and integrationist isn't virtuous in and of itself. You have to be integrating two good things, such as yin and yang or sweet and salt or progress and tradition.

But if you integrate truth with falsehood, all you get are more lies and no truth. Truth cannot be adulterated and still be truth.

Let's look at the two things you proposed that we ought to adopt from "liberalism":

Environmentalism
If by this you mean that we shouldn't foul our own nest, then it's a no-brainer. Of course we shouldn't despoil and destroy the whole planet. Duh.

However, the Left often champions environmentalism as (a) a substitute for religion, wherein Gaia unblemished is the ultimate goal and we filthy humans are vermin who violate her (b) a bludgeon to take down Big Business, which is an unmitigated evil, no matter how it behaves (c) a way to get Big Government Grants by predicting the end of the world and claiming that their research will save us all.

That turns off the rest of us, so we hesistate to champion causes that could be used in ways that we don't approve of.

Socialized Healthcare
It is true that our current healthcare system is a mess, but maybe you're too young to remember the days when it wasn't. Socialized healthcare is a tempting solution, because it simplifies things (at least conceptually). But we have living examples of socialized healthcare in Canada and Europe, and it's not pretty. The systems ration care and are going bankrupt.

Besides, Bob hasn't been trashing the idea that we ought to care for the earth, nor has he suggested that our current healthcare system is the cat's pajamas. One Cosmos discusses philosophy, not policy, which might intersect at times but are not the same animal.

Look, I'm always up for discovering anything that the Left does right or does better than classical liberals, but so far I haven't found anything. (I do know some individuals on the Left who possess various virtues, but I can't say that those virtues derive from their Leftism or vice-versa.)

For me, it boils down to this: You cannot learn the Truth from people who deny that the Truth exists.

And one other thing, don't get your back up because the Cosmonauts came out swinging. I've been subjected to the same treatment when I chastised them for something I thought they got wrong, but I didn't take it personally. They're sensitized to lefty trolls, who, believe it or not, can often come across at first as very reasonable people.

Don't attack the tone, address the arguments; otherwise, you're exhibiting stereotypical lefty behavior -- emoting rather than reasoning. Besides, one man's vitriol is another man's impassioned defense of an idea. Roll with it, baby.

16 comments:

hoarhey said...

Hi Dicentra,

I sneaked over here through your link.
Nice enumeration of ideals which are diametrically opposed and thus mutually exclusive.

You wrote:

"And one other thing, don't get your back up because the Cosmonauts came out swinging. I've been subjected to the same treatment when I chastised them for something I thought they got wrong, but I didn't take it personally. They're sensitized to lefty trolls, who, believe it or not, can often come across at first as very reasonable people"


If someone comes over and takes a crap in a mans living roon, what does he expect? Integralist seems blind to his own invective and doesn't seem to be able to integrate his "Do as I say" with his "Not as I do".


P.S. Nice roses.

uss ben said...

Well said Dicentra!

I was about to ask Integrated what truths (s)he see's in leftism to be integrated, which Bob has already done.

Of course, you have pointed out that the left argues that truth doesn't exist, so I see no reason to go fishing in a mud puddle (so to speak).

It appears as if Integrated is confusing personal virtues of friends or other respected leftists with truth,
which you have also pointed out.

dicentra63 said...

P.S. Nice roses.

Heh. They're Dicentra spectabilis, the Common Bleeding-Heart, ironically enough. No relation to Rosa.

Bubba blumen said...

Nice place, Di. First visit.

Let's see if Integralist comes over to take a peek.

Van said...

"For me, it boils down to this: You cannot learn the Truth from people who deny that the Truth exists."

Bingo!
Good post Dicentra,

Purple Avenger said...

Corrolary: human nature can be corrected by the imposition of the proper institutions, namely a socialistic government.

Heh, I worked with a guy at Borland years ago who escaped from Czechoslovakia while the communist regime was still up and running. He said everyone stole from everyone else just to survive.

I don't think that's how the socialists planned it, but that's the way it worked out ;->

integralist said...

Nice post, thanks for that Dicentra--most of all for engaging me in a civil way.

First off, I am confused: I never proposed anything, so I'm not sure where you came up with environmentalism and socialist healthcare (perhaps you are confusing me with someone else, as Godwin did?).

Now I disagree with one of your basic assumptions: that the two platforms you present are mutually exclusive if we give some flexibility and dynamism to both. I personally see partial truths in both platforms and that much of what you outline are not incompatible.

For example, let's start with the first couple:

Leftist: Human behavior is almost entirely determined by environment such as socio-economic status or cultural norms.

Corrolary: human nature can be corrected by the imposition of the proper institutions, namely a socialistic government. The configuration of this government will be determined by the extremely smart people who currently languish in academia because the masses aren't smart enough to put them in charge.

Classical Liberal: Human nature is imperfect and flawed and we are powerless to change that fact.

Individuals may persue a path of improvement, but it has to be chosen from within (often through inspiration from without) but cannot be imposed from the outside.


I will offer what I see as a possible integral synthesis, or at least the beginnings of one:

Human nature is to some degree determined by external circumstances, but also by innate/karmic/genetic inheritance (iow, Nature AND Nurture, not one or the other).

We can develop ourselves, evolve ourselves, and ultimately are responsible for ourselves (at least to how we relate with our circumstances), but we cannot necessarily change the external circumstances without external means (e.g. social reformation).

In other words, the point is that internal and external means are necessary, not one or the other. Leftism favors external means ("It is the world's fault my life sucks"); classical liberalism--as a more sophisticated cousin of conservatism--favors internal means ("It is my own damn fault my life sucks"). It should be obvious what integralism favors.

The point being, if see two polar views as static then they are mutually exclusive. But if recognize that they, that any view, is partial, then they become dynamic, and we begin to see underlying patterns, and a unity emerges (or is created, depending upon how you look at it). In other words, to synthesize thesis and antithesis you often (always?) need to sacrifice the limitations of both thesis and antithesis.

I am not saying that any and all views are equal, far from it--even leftist and classical liberal. Who knows, classical liberalism could be "more truthful" than leftism, and is probably more truthful than decadent charicature that One Cosmos presents--but that isn't the point. The point is that leftism holds partial truths that classical liberalism does not--again, at least as you've presented it, and as I've perceived on One Cosmos.

For example, the "good news" of postmodernism: contextuality, constructivism, etc. Postmodernism, like any ideology, is limited and hopelessly inadequate, even corrupt. But again, the point is that ANY AND ALL ideologies are limited; the key, and the purpose of integralism--not as an ideology but as an approach--is to forever, and I mean forever, discover and embrace new truths, while transcending old limitations. Thus integralism is "trans-ideological": dynamic, not static.

What do you think?

MD said...

Hi. I'm new to all this. I have been reading the onecosmos blog over the last couple days (mt god, it feels like home), and then read the posts by "integralist". Mind if I comment?

I think clarity comes from examining integralist's first assumption.

Human nature is to some degree determined by external circumstances, but also by innate/karmic/genetic inheritance (iow, Nature AND Nurture, not one or the other).

Is not this a conflation? Between life and nature? Because obviously human life is to some degree determined by external circumstances (that is, like, the biggest elementary Duh!) as well as internal drives (another duh).

But is human nature influenced by externalities? I'm not so sure. And I'm pretty sure that it is not in the way the Discentra (and many others) use the term "human nature". I certainly don't use "human nature" in any sense that it can be altered by external force of any kind.

Thus my guess is that integralist and Dicentra hold different definitions of "human nature", which in fact get to the very root of the classical liberal vs left-liberal distinction at hand here.

all best,
md

dicentra63 said...

First off, I am confused: I never proposed anything, so I'm not sure where you came up with environmentalism and socialist healthcare (perhaps you are confusing me with someone else, as Godwin did?).

In fact, I did confuse you with someone else: "blogger of the house," whose post at 01:32:14 PM in the thread where you first appeared said "There are nuggets of truth embedded in leftism that, if not identified, rescued and redeemed, will chronically weaken the conservative cause. They are our kryptonite." And then talked about the environment and socialized healthcare.

My apologies.

Human nature is to some degree determined by external circumstances, but also by innate/karmic/genetic inheritance (iow, Nature AND Nurture, not one or the other).

As md speculates, we might be using the same term to talk about different things. Human nature is not at all determined by the environment, though human behavior is certainly influenced by it.

When I talk about human nature, I mean all of the abilities and limitations to which our species is subject. All humans are vulnerable to envy, lust, laziness, bigotry, greed, and the whole host of human frailty. We can be taught not to act on those weaknesses, but, and this is very important, the weaknesses will still be there, waiting to manifest themselves as soon as we let our guard down.

And we will pass them on to our children, who have to learn not to act on their weaknesses from square one, just as we did.

We are also capable of generosity, forgiveness, intelligence, kindness, and another host of virtues. But, and this is also important, these virtues are not as strong as our weaknesses and must be actively cultivated or they will be overwhelmed by our lesser qualities.

On the Left, they believe that human weakness derives from the environment, e.g., that you have to be taught to hate or be violent or petty or bigoted. Anyone who has raised kids knows that they emerge from the womb as base little monsters who have to be trained not to be selfish and violent and hateful. Because left to themselves, kids are horrible little thugs. My brother-in-law says "it's a good thing they're so cute, or we'd have to kill them."

The religious viewpoint says that we're fallen, having inherited our fallenness from Adam and Eve, and that we are powerless to elevate ourselves without divine intervention. Alcoholics Anonymous recognizes this principle in their first three steps: (1) we are powerless to help ourselves (2) we need God to help us (3) we turn ourselves over to God.

Think alcoholics are unique in that their weaknesses are out of their control? Think again. We're all in that same boat, just without the drama that substance abuse brings.

Here's a summation:
"The world would take the man out of the gutter, but God takes the gutter out of the man, who then takes himself out of the gutter."

And the other problem with Leftism? The belief in the perfectability of human nature. I can't speak for all classical liberals, but I'm sure that as long as humans have free will (the third factor alongside nature and nurture), some of us will choose to act on our base instincts, others will not have the strength to resist them, and the rest of us will occasionally succumb but mostly not.

What proportion of the population falls into these categories varies with time, depending on, yes, external influences, but those influences are caused by other people. When one wicked, wicked man chooses to indulge his megalomania, he sets off a chain of events that makes it extremely difficult for others to behave nobly, and as we have seen, even the most innocuous among us can become monsters given the right circumstances.

We cannot save ourselves from ourselves. We can have better or worse societies, but all human societies will always be corrupt to one degree or another.

Leftists think that if only the smart people could be in charge, they could root out that corruption and be done with it by properly "educating" people to believe the right things or hold the right views. But humans have never, never been able to persuade entire populations to believe an entire ideology, so we tend to resort to purges and pogroms, coersion, control, or cleansing.

Leftism favors external means ("It is the world's fault my life sucks"); classical liberalism--as a more sophisticated cousin of conservatism--favors internal means ("It is my own damn fault my life sucks"). It should be obvious what integralism favors.

I wouldn't cop to this. Your life can suck pretty hard without it being your fault at all. Life sucks because that's just how it is on this rock, regardless of fault. Classical liberals see the solution as coming primarily from within.

Who knows, classical liberalism could be "more truthful" than leftism,..."

This may be a rhetorical flourish on your part, but it's not the epitome of wisdom to be agnostic as to the truth value of something. If you don't have sufficient data, that's one thing, but if you're acquainted with (a) the premises, methods, and conclusions, and (b) reality, you should exercise your discernment and take a stand. You can always change it when new data comes in, but declining to commit yourself is really not very becoming.

"The point is that leftism holds partial truths that classical liberalism does not"

What are these truths, then? Do postmodernism and Marxism know something that classical liberals do not? Do they see something that we don't? I'd be eager to hear it, but I am almost sure that whatever you propose, it isn't excluded by classical liberalism.

MD said...

Dicentra,

Just so I'm clear on terms, in your usage, is "leftist" essentially the same as "progressive"? Or different substantially?

thanks,
md

MD said...

Another general question.

Would it be correct to say -- as an addendum to your statement, "Classical liberals see the solution as coming primarily from within" -- that, also, classical liberalism advocates for institutional reform, in so far as the State is involved, so as to remove institutional obstruction of solutions being able to come from within?

To reform wayward institutions so as to foster the conditions for an environment whereby an individual, or individuals, are not kept from developing solutions themselves -- through ingenuity, civic associations of whatever stripe, or individual motivation?

In other words, so institutions support liberty, rather then impede it. Obvious example among many: Milton Friedman.

Let me know if I'm going astray here.

all best,
md

integralist said...

As md speculates, we might be using the same term to talk about different things. Human nature is not at all determined by the environment, though human behavior is certainly influenced by it.

Okay, I can go with that differentiation.

When I talk about human nature, I mean all of the abilities and limitations to which our species is subject. All humans are vulnerable to envy, lust, laziness, bigotry, greed, and the whole host of human frailty. We can be taught not to act on those weaknesses, but, and this is very important, the weaknesses will still be there, waiting to manifest themselves as soon as we let our guard down.

And we will pass them on to our children, who have to learn not to act on their weaknesses from square one, just as we did.


Again, I agree, at least in a general sense.

We are also capable of generosity, forgiveness, intelligence, kindness, and another host of virtues. But, and this is also important, these virtues are not as strong as our weaknesses and must be actively cultivated or they will be overwhelmed by our lesser qualities.

This is arguable. I am not taking a stand either way as I simply don’t know, but it could be said that it all depends upon the culture that we live in. The more “virtuous” a culture, the stronger our virtues will be–and the easier to cultivate.

(There is also the matter of spiritual evolution, and the possibility that human nature depends upon the degree of “soul evolution” of the indvidual–but this is another topic, and largely speculative, at least in this context.)

On the Left, they believe that human weakness derives from the environment, e.g., that you have to be taught to hate or be violent or petty or bigoted. Anyone who has raised kids knows that they emerge from the womb as base little monsters who have to be trained not to be selfish and violent and hateful. Because left to themselves, kids are horrible little thugs. My brother-in-law says "it's a good thing they're so cute, or we'd have to kill them."

I don’t totally agree with you–and this says a lot, considering that I have a toddler just entering her Terrible Twos! Certainly, the “selfish”/biological nature is pre-eminent, and a child has to be civilized. But children–even from a very young age–are more than merely “base little monsters.” They are not moral, they are not kind, but they are not evil; they are pre-moral. But I would argue that there is a light that shines through that is trans-moral.

I also disagree that children have to be trained not to be hateful; hate is not part of human, biological nature. It is taught. Selfishness and violence yes, but not hate. We also have to look at a child’s selfishness differently than yours or mine; the crime is worse, the greater the consciousness. Or to put it another way, you and I should know better–a child is selfish because they should be selfish; it is unconsciously part of who they are, part of bio-survivalism. In other words, a child’s selfishness is not “sinful,” while an adult’s is.

The religious viewpoint says that we're fallen, having inherited our fallenness from Adam and Eve, and that we are powerless to elevate ourselves without divine intervention.

Do you completely agree with this? I don’t, or at least it is a partial truth. We have some power to “elevate ourselves,” do we not?

Think alcoholics are unique in that their weaknesses are out of their control? Think again. We're all in that same boat, just without the drama that substance abuse brings.

Yes, we are all addicts--if not to physical substances than to mental ones: such as ideologies, habitual thought patterns, etc.

And the other problem with Leftism? The belief in the perfectability of human nature. I can't speak for all classical liberals, but I'm sure that as long as humans have free will (the third factor alongside nature and nurture), some of us will choose to act on our base instincts, others will not have the strength to resist them, and the rest of us will occasionally succumb but mostly not.

This is where the evolution of consciousness comes in. The higher/deeper/more expansive and subtle our awareness, the more potentially we can act with freedom with regards to our lower aspects of being, including our “base instincts.” If the general evolution of consciousness view holds any water–which I believe it does–what we see as our self now, say our mental-egoic self, will be “lower” at some point in the future, and thus able to be acted more freely upon. The point being, our ideologies will be more expansive, fluid and transparent. We won’t be so rigidly attached to them, but will be able to apply them contextually. Such static ideologies as Leftism and Classical Liberalism will be out-worn and out-dated; fractured visions of a greater whole forever beyond total encapsulation.

What proportion of the population falls into these categories varies with time, depending on, yes, external influences, but those influences are caused by other people. When one wicked, wicked man chooses to indulge his megalomania, he sets off a chain of events that makes it extremely difficult for others to behave nobly, and as we have seen, even the most innocuous among us can become monsters given the right circumstances.

Yes! A very important point: we all have the potential for angelic and demonic activity.

We cannot save ourselves from ourselves. We can have better or worse societies, but all human societies will always be corrupt to one degree or another.

I agree, although I think there is an evolution, or at least can be–so that a future, more evolved/enlightened society might have corruption that seems minor compared to what we have today. Or at least subtler. Just as we look back at the corruption of Aztec and other premodern civilizations--human sacrifice–and are appalled, thinking we would never do that today (except on a subtler level, of course! e.g. we no longer have “slaves” per se, but we do have wage slaves).

Leftists think that if only the smart people could be in charge, they could root out that corruption and be done with it by properly "educating" people to believe the right things or hold the right views. But humans have never, never been able to persuade entire populations to believe an entire ideology, so we tend to resort to purges and pogroms, coersion, control, or cleansing.

Yes, in its extreme, pathological form, “Leftism” becomes totalitarian–as does “Rightism.” In a similar sense that extreme socialism leads to Stalin, and extreme capitalism leads to Enron.

I wouldn't cop to this. Your life can suck pretty hard without it being your fault at all. Life sucks because that's just how it is on this rock, regardless of fault. Classical liberals see the solution as coming primarily from within.

Which I agree with.

Who knows, classical liberalism could be "more truthful" than leftism,..."

This may be a rhetorical flourish on your part, but it's not the epitome of wisdom to be agnostic as to the truth value of something. If you don't have sufficient data, that's one thing, but if you're acquainted with (a) the premises, methods, and conclusions, and (b) reality, you should exercise your discernment and take a stand. You can always change it when new data comes in, but declining to commit yourself is really not very becoming.


Ultimately I am agnostic about everything; well, most things. That which I am not agnostic about–such as my love for my wife and daughter–is still subject to interpretation. For example, by questioning “what is love, really, beyond the word?”

I don’t see this sort of agnosticism as “the epitome of wisdom,” but as a requisite for true understanding. We have to be able to completely let go of our pre-conceived notions and ideologies in order to discern Truth.

But to “commit myself” a bit, I agree that classical liberalism–as you have described it at least–is more truthful than extreme leftism, but not necessarily all leftist ideologies. That has been one of my main criticisms of Robert Godwin and a good amount of the posters on his blog: they create a straw man spitting image of leftism by seeing only the most extreme, postmodern, and negative aspects, and do not recognize anything positive (like Godwin’s almost absurd revilement of Jimmy Carter).

"The point is that leftism holds partial truths that classical liberalism does not"

What are these truths, then? Do postmodernism and Marxism know something that classical liberals do not? Do they see something that we don't? I'd be eager to hear it, but I am almost sure that whatever you propose, it isn't excluded by classical liberalism.


Really? Do you really believe that it is a complete, perfect ideology? Do you even think that is possible? Specifics are less important than this conflation of a “relative truth ideology” (such as classical liberalism) with some kind of Absolute Truth, which is trans-ideological–beyond any and all ideologies, and thus inclusive of them.

But to accurately answer your question I would need to study up more on classical liberalism. I am largely going on Robert Godwin’s blog and the views presented there (and here). My general sense is classical liberalism doesn’t adequately include contextualism, perhaps the most important “healthy aspect” of postmodernism. Classical liberalism, like libertarianism, seems to over-emphasize individualism over communalism. It is almost as if by starting with the noble premise that “all men are created equal,” it sets everyone on an equal footing when everything simply is not. Or to put it another way, some folks need help. Tough love is not always the best approach, nor is laissez-faire economics, especially when one person makes billions at the expense, or in spite, of others.

But again, I probably don’t understand classical liberalism enough–or political ideologies in general–to make a strong critique. That has never been my point or purpose.

Finally, a question for you: How would you relate classical liberalism to conservatism? Where on the spectrum of “Left to Right” would you put classical liberalism? My sense is that it is “just right of center,” so to speak, and a close cousin to libertarianism.

dicentra63 said...

I'm not going to address all of your assertions point-by-point, because in some important ways we agree, especially when it comes to the inability of little children to sin. They are in a state of innocence, doing neither good nor evil because they haven't achieved the "age of reason," which kicks in around the age of 7 or 8. As for hate, it is an innate ability. Whom you hate is taught, but it can also be learned from circumstances, e.g., your people killed my people, ergo I hate your people.

We have some power to “elevate ourselves,” do we not?

No. That is the Grand Illusion of mortality. The most we can do is desire to be elevated, and God enables it. This is where theology kicks in: had there been no Atonement, we would be born into the world in a state of inextricable depravity—there would be no possibility of enlightenment of any kind, and we would be incapable of doing good deeds. Even if we managed to go through the motions of doing good, it would not edify us. To the extent that we are able to do good at all, it is because the Atonement allows for repentance, even for those who deny or are ignorant of this divine assistance.

This is where the evolution of consciousness comes in.

And this is where you lose me. Unlike Bob and many of the Cosmonauts, I'm not a Neoplatonist, so many of those types of arguments evade me.

I also don't know what kind of consciousness you mean. The collective consciousness of a society? Of an individual? I do know that individuals can progress in their spiritual maturity, and that if enough individuals do it, then the community is also elevated. It is also true that when many individuals are spiritually mature, it inspires and enables others to do likewise.

I agree, although I think there is an evolution, or at least can be—so that a future, more evolved/enlightened society might have corruption that seems minor compared to what we have today.

And here is where the difference between secular humanism and religion part company. SH thinks that we can "evolve" into a better society the same way we have "evolved" better technology or the way critters "evolved" into higher animals. SH thinks that our own genius will provide the means, that we will build from one virtue to the next.

To an extent, that can be done, as in the abolition of tyrrany in favor of liberty, the abolition of slavery, the abolition of castes and classes, the recognition of race as merely cosmetic, etc. These are all steps forward, no argument there. However, as we make gains in one area, we endure losses in other areas, and Leftists tend not to recognize the losses. We might be more tolerant of superficial differences, but we have decimated family structures, terminated millions of our offspring, devalued motherhood and fatherhood, banished religion from the public sphere, and removed the mere concept of spiritual maturity from the marketplace of ideas.

As a matter of fact, many Leftists see these losses as evidence of progress. They also tend to think that conservatives of all stripes want an unconditional return to the past—Jim Crow laws and all. Uh, no. I've never heard any conservative—even the worst of my bigoted redneck relatives—wish we could segregate the lunch counters again.

Some conservatives wish to avoid change of all kinds, but most of us only want to conserve that which is good, not toss everything traditional just because it's traditional. At Cornell, I noticed that people fell overthemselves to see who could up-end the next pillar of society, because they believe that iconoclasm is a virtue in all circumstances. How ironic that the Right is chaining itself to the redwoods of tradition to stem the tide of Leftists with chainsaws.

extreme capitalism leads to Enron.

The Enron debacle wasn't the result of capitalism, it was the result of good old-fashioned dishonesty. Corporations can choose to behave honestly or dishonestly. Granted, the former might cut into the bottom line sometimes, but that's how it is.

We have to be able to completely let go of our pre-conceived notions and ideologies in order to discern Truth.

Duh. What you don't know, however, is where anyone has been in their philosophical journey. Gagdad Bob is a former liberal who converted, so it's not as if he developed his opinions in a hermetically sealed box. And sometimes, as in my case, you can take a great heaping gulp of the other guy's Kool-Aid and decide that you like your old flavor better.

Do you really believe that it is a complete, perfect ideology? Do you even think that is possible?

No, I don't. Classical Liberalism really isn't supposed to be a complete, perfect ideology. It's a belief about the proper role of government vis à vis its citizenry. As md puts it, "To reform wayward institutions so as to foster the conditions for an environment whereby an individual, or individuals, are not kept from developing solutions themselves -- through ingenuity, civic associations of whatever stripe, or individual motivation."

Classical liberalism opens up a space for the citizenry to solve its own problems. That's why most conservatives resent the "liberal" idea that the government should solve social problems: government is by its very nature clumsy and ham-handed and ends up ossifying the very problems its supposed to solve.

That has been one of my main criticisms of Robert Godwin and a good amount of the posters on his blog: they create a straw man spitting image of leftism by seeing only the most extreme, postmodern, and negative aspects, and do not recognize anything positive (like Godwin’s almost absurd revilement of Jimmy Carter).

I'm afraid that these days, revilement of Jimmy Carter cannot match his actions in their measure of absurdity. That you find Godwin's opinion of Jimmeh absurd tells me that you've got an enormous blind spot, and that explains quite a bit.

Furthermore, Bob and the gang know that we are selectively picking out the extreme aspects of Leftism—that's the whole point: to criticize the bad stuff in the world.

My general sense is classical liberalism doesn’t adequately include contextualism, perhaps the most important “healthy aspect” of postmodernism.

Classical Liberalism isn't supposed to include contexualism, because contextualism has nothing to do with the relationship between the government and the governed.

This is classical liberalism:

• No government is legitimate unless it governs by the consent of the governed.
• Power corrupts, so you must divide it among competing bodies to keep them in check.
• Rule of law must apply equally to everyone; no one is above the law.
• Laws must be approved by the populace, either directly or through elected representatives.
• The government must grant its citizens absolute freedom of conscience and belief. (Actions are another story.)

There are other corrollaries that are enumerated in the Bill of Rights, but the basic concepts behind Classical Liberalism are pretty simple and pretty limited. As for religion, you can be a classical liberal without being particularly religious, as a cursory glance around the dextrosphere proves (Charles Johnson, Jeff Goldstein, Glenn Reynolds, if I'm not mistaken).

It is almost as if by starting with the noble premise that “all men are created equal,” it sets everyone on an equal footing when everything simply is not. Or to put it another way, some folks need help. Tough love is not always the best approach, nor is laissez-faire economics, especially when one person makes billions at the expense, or in spite, of others.

You lefty, you! :D

"All men are created equal" refutes the despicable idea that those of the upper classes are genetically superior to the lower classes and therefore entitled to better treatment under the law and better economic status. That such an idea does not infect America today does not mean that we can reinterpret it to mean that "everyone has the same abilities" and then condemn the Founders as stupid or blind.

Look, we conservatives and classical liberals get that some people need help. We know that you can be down on your luck or have a disability or disadvantage that you didn't cause. Nobody is against helping those who actually need help. What we're against is "helping" people in such a way as to inhibit their ability to help themselves or to entrench them in their problems. You said you had a toddler: did you continue to carry her around all the time after she learned to walk? Will you insist on dressing her after she learns to dress herself? When the government acts like an overprotective parent, the citizenry suffers, and we become like the French!

Dud, you need to read Atlas Shrugged. You can skip the 38-page radio rant near the end, but the rest of it explains something important about those horrible capitalists: they're the engines of prosperity. Tear them down and you've got nothing to spread around but poverty. Ask Robert Mugabe how things worked out for Zimbabwe when he seized the farms of those evil white interlopers and gave them to the "people."

How would you relate classical liberalism to conservatism? Where on the spectrum of “Left to Right” would you put classical liberalism? My sense is that it is “just right of center,” so to speak, and a close cousin to libertarianism.

I would say that it is close to libertarianism because it calls for limited government. But it doesn't address social or economic issues at all. Conservatives come in at least two flavors: fiscal conservatives (small government, low taxes, few economic regulations) and social conservatives (pro-life, pro-religion, pro-family), and often people comprise both flavors. However, on the dextrosphere, there are quite a few people who are classical liberals but not social conservatives.

What unites us right now is the war, frankly. The dextrosphere consists of hawks and the sinistrosphere of doves. (Were there no war, many of us on the right would fight like cats and dogs [you should have seen the threads at Little Green Footballs during Terri Schiavo]. But we're putting aside our differences for now because if we don't beat back the fascists, there won't be anything to fight about later.)

What's killing us on the dextrosphere is that the Left doesn't seem to think that this country is worth fighting for, that the US is the Great Satan (though for different reasons than the Islamofascists would say) and that we've brought these problems upon ourselves. That we deserve to be brought down a few pegs, if not entirely. So for some strange reason, the classical liberals, who understand that the foundational doctrines of the US are the best thing that has ever happened to humankind (as far as governments are concerned), strongly object to such a distorted, inverted, bizzaro, damn-fool dangerous perspective, which we saw play out in the 1930s, when everyone thought Hitler was just kidding and the world lost 50 million people in horrible, horrible ways.

That's what's fuelling the "rage" and "vitriol" over at One Cosmos and throughout the dextrosphere, not some insignificant differences over contextuality or welfare reform. Not over whether the red states or blue states rock. Not over whether society can be improved from without or from within. That's really small, withered-up potatoes compared to the issue of whether we ought to defend ourselves against our enemies.

Because those damned fools over on the Left, Jimmy Carter as their prime mascot, are gonna throw away the best country in the history of the world because they can't correctly identify the good guys and the bad guys. Embrace the virtues of the left? Right now, that's like insisting that we praise the Nazis for refusing to perform scientific experiments on animals and making the trains run on time.

integralist said...

OK, I agree with the basic principles of classical liberalism. Yet I still find myself disagreeing with a lot of what you say, what Bob says, and especially what some of his more, ah, vociferous fans say.

Let's not forget that classical liberalism as formulated by the founding fathers arose in a world 2-300 hundred years ago that did not have many of the same problems we have today. It is all good to let everyone do what they want when there is still an enormous American frontier and no major industrial pollution produced, another thing in the 21st century when George Bush wants to put an oil line through Alaska, no matter what wildlife it destroys.

In other words, classical liberalism isn't enough, not in the 21st century world. Again, a balance.

I'll look more into what Jimmy Carter has been up to, but I'd like to hear how this is telling of a blindspot on my part. I am not advocating Jimmy Carter, I just don't seem him as the monster that Godwin makes him out to be.

dicentra63 said...

Let's not forget that classical liberalism as formulated by the founding fathers arose in a world 2-300 hundred years ago that did not have many of the same problems we have today.

I'm going to repeat this one more time: classical liberalism has nothing to do with specific policies or economic practices. It is limited to what is enumerated in the Constitution, i.e., the proper role of government with respect to the governed.

It is all good to let everyone do what they want when there is still an enormous American frontier and no major industrial pollution produced, another thing in the 21st century when George Bush wants to put an oil line through Alaska, no matter what wildlife it destroys.

Classical liberalism is agnostic to environmentalism and economics and social programs. Agnostic. What Bob is saying on One Cosmos has NOTHING to do with ANWR.

But since you brought it up, let's talk about ANWR:

(1) It is roughly the size of South Carolina. The oil extraction facility would occupy an area the size of an airport. What roads were "constructed" on the snow would melt in the summer without a trace. Destruction indeed.

(2) There is already a pipline running through the entire length of Alaska. Back when it was proposed, the environmentalists had a fit, insisting that the caribou herds would be disrupted or destroyed.

The pipeline was built anyway. It is high enough that the caribou can walk under it unhindered. They even gather underneath it for warmth, since the oil is warmer than the winter air. The caribou herds are fine, and none of the doomsday scenarios the environmentalists predicted came to pass. Remember that: it's a recurring theme.

dicentra63 said...

I'll look more into what Jimmy Carter has been up to, but I'd like to hear how this is telling of a blindspot on my part. I am not advocating Jimmy Carter, I just don't see him as the monster that Godwin makes him out to be.

That's because it's obvious to me that you've been getting most if not all of your news from the mainstream media. They think Carter's a saint. They don't point out that it is unprescedented for a former American president to badmouth current administrations.

You've gotta be too young to remember the disaster that was the Carter administration. His failure to act decisively during the Iranian hostage crisis is what got us into this mess in the first place. And his track record of going around to tyrants and dictators, post-presidency, and telling them how awful the US is? Does that sound like a good man to you?

And the Habitat for Humanity thing? He and Roslynn dedicate a whole week a year to it. One week out of 52. Would that he stuck to that.

Furthermore, his new book about Israel is so full of errors, exaggerations, bias, and outright lies that a member of his own Carter Center resigned in protest. Carter is a rabid anti-semite and he doesn't care who knows it.

Carter projects an image of calm and reasonableness, but that's just what the media lets you see. His actions are abominable enough to rate treason, IMAO.

I think that one of the reasons you are having such a hard time with One Cosmos and its denizens is that you haven't been exposed to the same data as we have. Have you been to graduate school in the humanities? Do you read LGF to catch up on what our enemies are up to?

Let me recommend something really interesting and useful. This glossary contains some terminology and ideas about the War on Terror and the ideologies and mindsets involved. Read up on it and let me know what makes sense to you.