It seems rare that I make my Friday post on an actual Friday.
Platform shoes/Platform thinking
The events of the last week have gotten me thinking about the state of "thought" in the US. I really think that from the University level on down, we are losing perspective on many things. The particular symptom I see is how politicized EVERYTHING is. This is obviously bad for a multitude of reasons, but it has the negative effect of diluting arguement, thought, and sophisticated intellectual life.
I am a Chestertonian, a Conservative, a Catholic, and (for now, still) a Republican. All of these "spheres" I inhabit have some common principles, lumenaries, and some same vocabulary, but they are ultimately not a Totalitarian monolithic jihadist platform.
Platforms, you see, are the extent to which any issues are discussed now. Abp. Sheen once said something along the lines that there are probably only a hundred people who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who despise what they think the Church is. There is a specific means by which the Church discovers and proclaims her doctrine. Although St. Augustine might be a Platonist, St. Thomas an Aristotelian, and John Paul II a Phenomenologist, they are all articulating the same ends through different means. This type of exigesis is far more sophisticated than the ridiculous mode of thought represented by "Update the Church's teaching to be relevant for our times." Im all for that if it means growing out of the failed 1960s ideas which have plagued us.
Platforms exist in the political world to create coalitions and demographics capable of winning elections. Period. The Democratic Party must hold union members, educators, environmentalists, social reformers, and radical secularists together in order to build a voting bloc. This necessity is one of association, not of coherent message or vision. The thoughts and values of working union families are far different than those of the George Soros circle of social reformers. They come together to create numbers. Likewise, the Republicans hold together some different bedfellows as well. What is lost in all of this is that politics, positions on issues, and governing are the END products of a process, not the process itself.
It is now sufficient to say, "I have a right to X." No other arguement is necessary. Even the ancient Greeks knew enough to ask, "What are rights? Are they absolute? Are some absolute? Do they apply to the individual or to the family or polis? What are rights derived from? Do some rights exist apart from the state or from the human condition itself?"
As a Republican, I could see making more gestures towards Mexico on the immigration issue, since some Hispanics could be wooed for the party's family values vote. As a Conservative, I could think that current foreign policy is seen as imperialistic, expensive, and very un conservative. As a Chestertonian, I would like to see taxes and business laws opened up in order to make it easier to live as a freehold distributist. As a Catholic, I have a base of Scripture, Patristics, and 2000 of theology and lived history to derive truths from.
In the public arena, none of these layers matter, because they cannot be reduced to a soundbite.
Two things came together and got me thinking about this. 1. The current news items about homosexuality, whether it is immoral - one story, and if it is genetic or biologically based it cannot be wrong by "natural law." - second story. Anybody with a computer and google could find out the correct definitions of these terms in milliseconds, but because most people in the press and education are even aware that these terms might actually mean something and have a robust defense, they are left undefined in the morass.
I used to think it cliche how Dale Ahlquist would always describe Chesterton as "A complete thinker." I am beginning to see this as perhaps his greatest trait. In most circles, "complete thinker" would connotate closed mindedness, and dull, rote blandness. I think it is because GKC is a complete thinker that he was able to be an artist, a novelist, an apologist, a cigar lover, and a boon companion to some of the greatest minds of his age.
Oxford From Without
3 days ago