"Studia Gilsoniana is an open access international philosophical quarterly focused on the philosophical thought of Étienne Gilson and classical philosophy. The journal is published by the International Étienne Gilson Society. Submissions are welcomed in English, French, Polish and Spanish.
Tuesday, August 23, 2016
Medieval realism thus became the heir to Greek realism for quite another motive than that which inspired the philosophy of Aristotle; and it is this that gives it its own peculiar character. Aristotle turned away from Platonic idealism because man's kingdom is a kingdom of this world, and because above all else we need to know something of the world in which our lot is cast. Christians turned away more and more resolutely from Platonic idealism because the kingdom of God is not of this world, but because the world on the other hand, is necessary as a starting point from which to rise to the kingdom of God. To dissolve it into a flux of inconsistent appearances is to snatch from us our best means of rising to the knowledge of God. If the work of creation were not intelligible what could we ever know of its Author? Were we presented with nought but an Heraclitean flux, would a work of creation be even imaginable? It is ust because all is number, weight and measure that nature proclaims the wisdom of God. It is precisely in its fecundity that it attests to His creative power. Because things are of being, and no mere quasi-nought, we know that He is Being. Thus what we learn concerning God from revelation the face of the universe confirms: "The creatures of this visible world signify the invisible attributes of God, because God is the source, model and end of every creeature, and because every effect points to its cause, every image to its model, every road to its goal." Suppress all knowledge of the effect, the image, and the road, and we shall know nothing of the cause, the model, and the goal. The philosophical realism of the Middle Ages was nourished on Christian motives, and a realism there will always be as long as the influence of Christianity continues to make itself felt.Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy p. 244.
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Notes From the Democratic Convention
- Day One: Don’t Cry for Me, DNC!
- Day Two: The Humiliation Games
- Day Three: Night of the Hollow Men
- Day Four: She Stoops to Conquer
Tuesday, July 19, 2016
Of course it's a big deal at the present moment, but then how quickly we forget …
Obama's 2008 plagiarization of Deval Patrick's 2006 speech, without rightful attribution:
Addendum: DailyWire.com points out:
Obama later acknowledged it would have been better to provide attribution to Patrick in his speech when the Clinton campaign called him out on it in 2008, but deflected the blame onto her, saying: "I noticed Senator Clinton, on occasion, has used words of mine as well."
Patrick attempted to exonerate Obama by saying "he shared language from his campaign with Mr. Obama's speechwriters" in the previous summer, but ABC News pointed out at the time that Obama used the "Just Words" passage before the summer of 2007.
Biden's much-more-serious plagiarism scandal from the late 80's, for which he had to drop out of the race (I even remember that, being a little tike at the time):
And hell, we are in all likelihood about to elect, as "the lesser evil" (I use that term loosely), a candidate that has repeatedly demonstrated her capacity to fabricate, with a straight face, "recollections from memory" that bear little or no relation to reality whatsoever -- but for which the media, as well as her supporters, demonstrate a remarkable and to my mind, outstanding, capacity to forgive and forget:
And the potential "First Man"? -- well, one has only to resort to Google to plumb the depths of his falsehoods.
Meanwhile, Hillary's leading GOP contender demonstrates a no less tenuous relationship with the truth:
So by all means, let's get all up in arms about Melania Trump for the moment, but methinks if we're still getting hysterical about this 2-3 days from now, it's a case of overkill.
Face it. They're all quite capable of plagiarism -- and committing worse crimes against the truth, and we're all falling for it.
Thursday, June 23, 2016
According to Wood, there was a time in American history where qualities of the ideal man were vigorously pursued -- "politeness, taste, sociability, learning, compassion, benevolence" were marks of civilization, just as "virtue, disinterestedness, an aversion to corruption and courtierlike behavior" were marks of good political leadership. The pursuit of being a "gentleman" (displayed by classical conceptions of virtue and self-sacrifice) was given a moral meaning. One's public reputation actually mattered, and they took great lengths to preserve that honor by what they said and did.
"Disinterestednesss" at that time was understood to be "superior to regard of private advantage; not to be interested by private profit", especially in the conduct of public service. (Of course, wealth was a factor in cultivating such in that its advantages diminished the motivation for personal advancement; men of leisure were naturally expected to participate in governance because they could afford to -- public office was considered an obligation). Unfortunately, this meaning of the ancient ideal of "disinterestedness" has changed over millennia and has come to acquire negative connotations, now being characterized as "ambivalence".
However, being a gentlemen was not necessary rooted to bloodline or heredity -- Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Franklin, Hamilton, Madison, Paine -- the first generations were all considered "self-made men". Of those who signed the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution, only eight are known to have fathers who attended college. And yet despite being "sons of reputable mechanics or farmers" (Benjamin Rush, 1790), it was thought possible that men of low birth could attend college, acquire a liberal arts education and through self-cultivation could become true gentleman as well.
The aristocracy of virtuous public character, such as it was being pursued by the founding fathers, is what distinguished themselves from later generations -- and as the years progressed, Woods contends that what we now value most in American society, democracy and egalitarianism, has proven to be the recipe for our undoing. "The founding fathers had succeeded only too well in promoting democracy and equality among ordinary people, indeed they succeeded in preventing any duplication of themselves." America continues to celebrate the ideal of being a "self-made man" -- but the original understanding of such as the classical cultivation of moral character has faded into obscurity. Now we have Kanye West and the Kardashians,
(Drawing from Woods' line of thought) Trump, you might say, is the thoroughly contemporary American -- the cultivation of moral virtue, honor and "reputation" in the highest sense of the term, has no concern and seems utterly lost on him. He displays no sense of moral character, exemplified in part by his behavior and conduct towards women and vulgarity of speech. He is of course concerned about his own "reputation" -- but this extends only as far as the material advancement of his ego, especially as it consists in turning himself into a commodity to be foisted on the masses for personal gain. In other words, he is the furthest thing from the 1700's ideal of a "gentleman", but Woods might argue that he is the President we deserve.
Saturday, June 4, 2016
It is unacceptable that a Yale student considering studying English literature might read only white male authors. A year spent around a seminar table where the literary contributions of women, people of color, and queer folk are absent actively harms all students, regardless of their identity. The Major English Poets sequences creates a culture that is especially hostile to students of color. ... We ask that Major English Poets be abolished, and that the pre-1800/1900 requirements be refocused to deliberately include literatures relating to gender, race, sexuality, ableism, and ethnicity. [Click here for the full petition]
"I don't agree with these people; they offend me; therefore, I should not have to read them." In retrospect, I think it must be an act of mercy that most of my former English literature professors are now deceased. I can only imagine their utter disappointment if they were to bear witness to this latest display of narcissistic whining.
Now, I'm not necessarily opposed to the inclusion of other voices and perspectives and those that came later in history. My Shakespeare prof at my alma mater WELCOMED diverse viewpoints -- I recall one classroom experiment where we had to each adopt a critical hermeneutic and "read the play" through the lens of various critical perspectives (feminist, Marxist, etc.). It was challenging and intellectually-stimulating -- and perhaps while an indulgence in the literary criticisms of the day, did not see any need to expunge the Bard wholesale by virtue of his being a DWM ["Dead White Male"].
Used to be the case that acquiring a "liberal education" involved exposure to a vast array of "dead white people" -- you weren't necessarily expected to agree with them, but perhaps those who set up such a curriculum hoped that you would, at minimum, engage critically with them, reason with them, and digest their works; or even further: cultivate an appreciation, however minimal, for WHY they came to be regarded as "Classics" in whatever field they occupied (philosophy, literature, art, music etc.
Personally, I could no more imagine pursuing a major in English WITHOUT the exposure to Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Wordsworth, T.S. Eliot, et al. than to pursue a major in philosophy with the assumption that I needn't bother myself with the old, dead philosophers that came prior to the 20th century. Or study American history and dismiss the obligation of learning about the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution because hey, they were also written by dead white males. … I'd consider such a deprival rather stunting and malnourished, impeding one's ability to engage and appreciate the cultural riches of the past.
Demanding the wholesale expungement of "The Classics" from the curriculum, or the obligation to engage it, is tantamount to sticking your head in the sand, putting on rose-colored glasses, and immersing yourself in a safe little cocoon of sameness. This kind of cowardly, small-minded, self-segregation and censorship seems to be the mirror image of Christian fundamentalist book-burning.
I am reminded of Camille Paglia's observation, as relayed to Rod Dreher:
I remain concerned about the compulsive denigration of the West and the reductiveness so many leading academics in the humanities have toward their own tradition,” she tells me. “They reduce it all to the lowest common denominator of racism, imperialism, sexism and homophobia. That’s an extremely small-minded way of looking at culture and a betrayal of the career mission of these educators, whose job is to educate students in our culture."
(Camille Paglia, Defender of the West Dallas Morning News 04/25/07)
Or further, from this Catholic blogger's favorite feminist, atheist and critic of post-structuralism, two more revealing anecdotes illustrative of this impetus to bury our heads in the sand and forsake our heritage:
... When it came time to cover the Renaissance, Paglia decided to introduce her students to Michelangelo’s two-part panel from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, “Temptation and Expulsion from the Garden,” a memorable work that she nearly included in Glittering Images. After Paglia’s lecture on this surreal scene from the book of Genesis, a woman student approached the professor. In Paglia’s telling, this student “cheerfully said that she was so happy to learn about that because she had always heard about Adam and Eve but never knew what they referred to!”
More recently, in the early 2000s, Paglia was teaching a course that she founded in the eighties, Art of Song Lyrics, which was directed at musicians. The course covered arias, blues, lieder, and “negro spirituals.” For the spirituals, she taught a song called "Go Down, Moses." It describes the scene from Exodus 7:16: “And the Lord spoke unto Moses, go unto Pharaoh, and say unto him, thus saith the Lord, Let my people go, that they may serve me.” The song, once an anthem for fugitive slaves who fought for the Union in the Civil War, has gone on to have a life of its own in the popular culture. Louis Armstrong and Paul Robeson both covered the song, William Faulkner named his 1942 novel after it, and it was featured twice in Will Smith’s comedy from the nineties, the "Fresh Prince of Bel Air".
Paglia played the song and distributed the lyric sheet for her students to review…"When Israel was in Egypt’s land: Let my people go,But as the students read these words, and as Paglia talked them through the spiritual, there was something wrong. The students were not connecting with the song. “It was hard going,” she explains. “There was a disconnect as I kept talking and talking. I felt I was struggling, and I didn’t know why. And then it struck me with horror that of a class of twenty-five students, only two seemed to recognize the name ‘Moses’ and understand what I was saying—and they were African-American students." A few others had heard the name "Moses" before, but it was clear that they did not know his story of bondage in Egypt or anything about his role as the liberator of the Jews.
Oppress’d so hard they could not stand, Let my People go.
Go down, Moses,
Way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh,
Let my people go."
"They did not know who he was," she tells me in disbelief. "If you are an artist and you don’t recognize the name of ‘Moses,’ then the West is dead. It’s over. It has committed suicide." (My Camille Paglia Interview: The Outtakes, by Emily Esfahani Smith).
I remember the first time I heard Johnny Cash's song "The Man Comes Around", one of the last songs he wrote before his death (and incidentally, the opening theme to a really great remake of the classic horror film 'Dawn of the Dead). It also happens to be replete with apocalyptic biblical imagery, and I found myself thinking just how sad it is that most people these days, upon hearing it, would most likely lack the biblical knowledge to recognize, understand or appreciate its lyrical depth and scriptural references?.
Hell, even Andrew Eldritch of the goth-rock group Sisters of Mercy gets it to some degree -- musing in an interview as far back as 1997 -- on the loss of the bible as a locus of cultural references:
Leonard Cohen tells me he would no longer bother to write a song about Isaac, because people wouldn't know what he was on about. That doesn't only diminish the vocabulary of songs, it has wider implications. If the reference points for our whole belief system are forgotten, we find it that much harder to understand a shared belief system, or even to disagree coherently with a shared belief system. We end up in a vicious circle of incoherent, half-baked individual utlitarianism where nobody has any belief system at all and we lose the ability to communicate with each other. I think that's one reason why football is so popular again - it's a game which the citizen can focus on, where the rules are defined. Unlike his life. The citizen is becoming a pawn in a game where nobody knows the rules, where everybody consequently doubts that there are rules at all, and where the vocabulary has been diminished to such an extent that nobody is even sure what the game is all about. Hence the concomitant rise of fads like astrology, spiritualism, and generic "I want to believe"-ism. I'm a humanist. I believe people should be able to sort themselves out, as does the Judeo-Christian tradition, obviously, but for rather different reasons. Even for Western-European humanists, it's helpful to know about Isaac and Abraham for any discussion of belief/hope/obligation, especially if we wish to join a discussion which has been developed over two thousand years. It's a bit tedious to have to start the discussion from scratch every time by mulling over yesterday's soap-opera with the few people who actually watched it. ...
It's nevertheless hard to talk to Thatcher's Children. Apart from anything else, they have no concept of right and wrong beyond an apathetic and half-baked utilitarianism. I was recently asked if we are "relevant to them". Probably not. Proust is probably not "relevant to them". He's clever and funny and useful, but they haven't got the faintest idea what he's on about. I've been described (by myself, of course) as "Kierkegaard meets Elvis". They may have heard of Elvis, but he didn't wear adidas, and they probably think that Kierkegaard is about as much use as a dead Danish philosopher. Which he is. Is he relevant to them? I think so. Would they agree? I doubt it.
- The Canon Is Sexist, Racist, Colonialist, and Totally Gross. Yes, You Have to Read It Anyway., by Katy Waldman. Slate 05/24/16.
Wednesday, May 25, 2016
Yes, that Assad—Bashar al-Assad—the one whose army is accused of killing upwards of a quarter-million Syrians. In some important ways, Moussa said, Trump and Assad sound similar. And he likes it.I'm sorry, but as a Christian and a Catholic, I happen to be repulsed by what I consider "tribalism" among Christians -- the "it's ok if it happens to you, just as long as it's not me or my kin" mentality.
Besides appreciating Trump’s plainspokenness and apparent invulnerability to pressure from lobbyists, Moussa and other Syrian-American Christians living in Pennsylvania like Trump for a unique reason: They think he will do the least to undermine Assad—and, by extension, the most to protect their fellow Christians back in Syria.
“Mr. Trump, he is the only candidate that ever said, ‘I am an evangelical and I am proud of it, and I am gonna protect the Christians,’” he said.
In the case of Assad, what does it mean that Syrian Christians praise him despite the fact that he "is accused of killing upwards of a quarter-million Syrians"? -- That to me indicates that Syrian Christians put a rather high value on self-preservation, and a rather low-bar on morality and Christian conduct towards their fellow man.
Likewise, Saddam Hussein was praised because he was "a friend to the Christians", but he was "good to the Christians" at the cost of murdering a quarter to half a million of his own citizens.
Does anybody besides me seem repulsed by the suggestion that we should flock to a serial-murderer simply because they deign to spare us?
Friday, May 20, 2016
- Christians, Capitalism, and Culture: A Response to David Bentley Hart, by Samuel Gregg. The Public Discourse 12/10/15.
- Mammon Ascendant, by David B. Hardt. First Things June 2016.
- Global Capitalism versus Christianity? A Response to David Bentley Hart, by Samuel Gregg. Public Square 05/17/16. "Christianity has never seen the pursuit of virtue as incompatible with private possession of wealth."
- The Pelagian Criticism of Wealth, by Fr. Gregory Jensen. Palamas Institute for Orthodox Christian Pastoral Studies. 05/18/16.
- Capitalism Beyond Caricatures, by R.R. Reno. First Things 05/18/16.
Saturday, May 14, 2016
It has become something of a cliche, rather thoughtlessly repeated by well-meaning people of a certain generation, that to learn Thomism one ought to read Thomas himself and ignore the Thomist commentators and manualists who built on his work. I couldn't disagree more. No great philosopher, no matter how brilliant and systematic, ever uncovers all the implications of his position, foresees every possible objection, or imagines what rival systems might come into being centuries in the future. His work is never finished, and if it is worth finishing, others will come along and do the job. Since their work is, naturally, never finished either, a tradition of thought develops, committed to working out the implications of the founder's system, applying it to new circumstances and challenges, and so forth. Thus Plato had Plotinus, Aristotle had Aquinas, and Aquinas had Cajetan -- to name just three famous representatives of Platonism, Aristotelianism, and Thomism, respectively. And thus you cannot fully understand Plato unless you understand Platonism, you cannot fully understand Aristotle unless you understand Aristotelianism, and you cannot fully understand Thomas unless you understand Thomism. True, writers in the traditions in question often disagree with one another and sometimes simply get things wrong. But that is all the more reason to study them if one wants to understand the founders of these traditions; for the tensions and unanswered questions in a tradition reflect the richness of the system of thought originated by its founder.
-- Edward Feser, Scholastic Metaphysics: An Introduction.
Friday, May 6, 2016
- Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94, by Daniel Lewis. New York Times 04/30/16.
- Daniel J. Berrigan, pacifist priest who led antiwar protests, dies at 94 Washington Post 04/30/16.
Remembrances and Discussion
- Postscript: Daniel Berrigan, 1921-2016, by Paul Elie. New Yorker 05/02/16:
It’s often forgotten that Berrigan, who was born in 1921 and entered a Jesuit seminary in 1939, was a member of the Second World War generation, not the Vietnam generation with which he is associated. He was six years younger than Merton, who died in 1968, and four years older than O’Connor, who died in 1964. It’s also often forgotten that the actions of the Catonsville Nine divided and challenged the Catholic left, including Berrigan’s counterparts.* “These actions are not ours,” Dorothy Day, the co-founder of the Catholic Worker newspaper, said of the Nine’s napalming of draft files. And yet Day maintained her friendship with Berrigan, corresponding with him, hosting him at the Catholic Worker movement’s houses on the Lower East Side, and agreeing wholeheartedly with his wider stance against the Vietnam War.
Merton, meanwhile, was made nervous by the borderline violence of Berrigan’s actions and by the personal righteousness that Berrigan brought to them: “He’s a bit theatrical these days, now he’s a malefactor—with a quasi-episcopal disarmament emblem strung around his neck like a pectoral cross,” Merton wrote in his journal, in August, 1968. And yet he struck notes of solidarity with the Catonsville Nine, and wrote an essay meant, in part, to help middle-class Catholics understand the action as “in essence non-violent,” even if it “frightened more than it has edified.” The previous October, Merton had advised Berrigan to keep clear of the peace movement’s lust for relevance—“now non-violent, now flower-power, now burn-baby, all sweetness on Tuesday and all hell-fire on Wednesday,” as he described it—and had posited an ideal of the Catholic radical as a person who strove “to give an example of sanity, independence, human integrity, against all establishments and all mass movements.”
- Betty Medsger The Intercept 05/06/16:
Asked in 2008 to reflect on his lifetime of lectures on peace, hundreds of poems for peace, and a long rap sheet of arrests for participating in peace protests, Berrigan assessed its meaning with these words: "The good is to be done because it is good, not because it goes somewhere. I believe if it is done in that spirit it will go somewhere, but I don’t know where … I have never been seriously interested in the outcome. I was interested in trying to do it humanely and carefully and nonviolently and let it go."
- Remembering Daniel Berrigan: A Penniless, Powerful Voice for Peace, by Jim Dwyer. New York Times 05/06/16.
- How Daniel Berrigan Helped Save My Faith, by Jim Wallis. Huffington Post 05/06/16.
- Father Daniel Berrigan, Anti-war Hero With a Huge Blindspot, by Howard Lisnoff. Counterpunch 05/06/16. (Ironically, what this liberal author perceives as a deficiency Berrigan would likely characterize as simply an extension of his commitment to the sanctity of life -- namely, his opposition to abortion):
“Despite his image as a radical leftist, Berrigan was also an outspoken opponent of abortion” (“Daniel Berrigan, leading Catholic pacifist, dead at 94,” Crux: Taking the Catholic Pulse, May 1, 2016). At a Catholic parish in Milwaukee in 1984, he described his “theory of allowable murder” in society. He explained that Christians need to have no part in “abortion, war, paying taxes for war [or] disposing of people on death row or warehousing the aged.” He continued that “One cannot be pro-life and against a nuclear freeze… or be a peace activist and defend abortion.”
- Poet and Prophet, by Luke Hansen, S.J. 05/6/17:
In Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, [Thomas] Merton described Berrigan as “an altogether winning and warm intelligence and a man who, I think, has more than anyone I have ever met the true wide-ranging and simple heart of the Jesuit: zeal, compassion, understanding, and uninhibited religious freedom. Just seeing him restores one’s hope in the Church.”
- Berrigan and the Peace Movement Slideshow. America 05/6/17.
Tuesday, May 3, 2016
Call him a sucker for punishment, but Scruton recently updated his infamous book for republication in late 2015, "Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left" (the snarky title somewhat betraying what is actually a substantial intellectual survey) -- in Scruton's own words, "I add a consideration of Hobsbawm and Adorno, touch on Rorty and Said, and explore the Parisian nonsense machine, with Deleuze, Guattari, Lacan and Badiou. I end with Žižek". Of course, Scruton himself appears well-primed to bear the brunt of another round of hyperbolic abuse by all parties offended.
Personally, I enjoyed this immensely, both for Scruton's dry, British wit as well as for the sheer breadth of intellectuals covered in his survey, a smattering of whom I've acquainted myself with in college but have little desire to pursue further. Suffice to say both as a husband, father and breadwinner, I've significantly less time to read as I did in college and am rather more judicious of what books to occupy my time. If anything, Scruton should be duly credited for his incredible display of patience and constitution in wading through book after book and thousands of pages of left-wing theorizing, or what he dubs the deliberately-calculated "the nonsense machine" -- providing a welcome reminder of what I really haven't missed, and don't regret missing, in my failure to further engage this particular genre of "scholarship").
Beyond the critical survey, what is appreciated is the closing chapter, "What is Right?", where Scruton lays out in part his own principles and conservative philosophy.
For Scruton, it is precisely in the leftist intellectual's inclination to elevate theory above reality, to immerse himself so completely in a class-war against the phantasm of the "bourgeoise" -- that they inevitably blind themselves to the concrete, tangible reality of the common man in front of them, and in such a way that, historically, countless acts of violence and murder have been sanctioned in pursuit of a theoretical, abstract ideal. (Time and again, Scruton returns to this point of how such intellectuals have quite willingly and consciously white-washed and carried water for the most brutal and bloody of regimes, all in the name of the "revolution").
Moreover, it is the dearth of recognition left-wing theory gives to the "little platoons" that Scruton abhors -- "all that makes society possible -- law, property, custom, hierarchy, family, negotiation, government, institutions". It is these mediating institutions of civil society, however imperfect and flawed, that exist and stand between the individual and the "totalizing vision" of the coercive state, and it is through the free assembly that we come together in such civil institutions that "politics is softened, and people are protected from the worst kinds of dictatorship."
To quote Scruton at length:
"… colleges and schools, of clubs, regiments, orchestras, choirs and sporting leagues – all of which offer, along with the benefit of membership, a distinctive ethos of their own. By joining these things you not only put yourself under the conventions, traditions and obligations of the group; you acquire a sense of your own worth as a member, and a bond of association that gives meaning to your acts. Such institutions stand between the citizen and the state, offering discipline and order without the punitive sanctions through which the state exerts its sovereignty. They are what civilization consists in, and their absence from the socialist states of modern times is entirely explicable, since free association makes it impossible to achieve the ‘equality of being’ towards which socialists aspire. To put the matter simply: association means discrimination, and discrimination means hierarchy.
My alternative political philosophy, therefore, would advocate not only a distinction between civil society and the state, but also traditions of institution building outside the control of the state. Social life should be founded in free association and protected by autonomous bodies, under whose auspices people can flourish according to their social nature, acquiring the manners and aspirations that endow their lives with meaning. That ‘right-wing’ vision of politics will not be devoted to the structures of government only, or to the social stratifications and class divisions that are obsessively referred to on the left. It will be largely devoted to the building and governance of institutions, and to the thousand ways in which people enrich their lives through corporations, traditions and spheres of accountability."
- Catching Up with Roger Scruton: The Philosopher as Composer and Novelist, by Christopher S. Morrissey. Catholic World Report 10/29/15.
- On the New Left – an interview with Roger Scruton, by Samuel Fawcett. Exepose 11/9/15:
… If Scruton is so critical of the New Left, then, does he have any sympathy for the ‘Old’ Left? A surprising amount, in fact. He singles out Labour MP Frank Field as representing this philosophy and speaks fondly of the “rooted, English industrial working-class”, to which his own father belonged, as well as “people like George Orwell who spoke for it”. He goes even further, saying that the passing of the “patriotic Old Left” is something he “very much regrets”. He also speaks of his dislike for the “radical New Right libertarian movement which ignores the nation, the family and local communities” in favour of the individual, which he finds “very disheartening”.
- "These Left-Thinkers have destroyed the intellectual life" - Interview with Mick Hume. Spiked Review December 2015:
Defending academic freedom against the forces of conformity matters to Scruton because ‘My life began, insofar as it had a beginning, in the university. That’s where I grew up, and I love my subject, philosophy, love the whole idea of the academic and scholarly life, that one has a place apart where people are pursuing the truth and communicating that to people who are eager to learn it. And this thing has completely destroyed the intellectual life.’ He considers these leftists prime culprits in what might be called the closing of the university mind, though ‘whether they caused the closing of the mind or are the effect of it is another matter’.
- Thinking for England, by Nicholas Wrote. The Guardian 10/28/00:
For Roger Scruton, as for so many of his generation, the Paris riots of May 1968 were the defining political moment of his life. He was in the Latin Quarter when students tore up the cobblestones to hurl at the riot police. His friends overturned cars and uprooted lamp-posts to erect the barricades. Representatives of his own discipline, old philosophers like Marx and new ones like Foucault, were providing the intellectual fuel for the fire raging on the ground.
As he watched the events unfold from his apartment window, and listened to his friends, drunk on revolutionary hope and excitement, Scruton found his own emotions and opinions crystallising. "I suddenly realised that I was on the other side," he says. "What I saw was an unruly mob of self-indulgent middle-class hooligans. When I asked my friends what they wanted, what were they trying to achieve, all I got back was this ludicrous Marxist gobbledegook. I was disgusted by it, and thought there must be a way back to the defence of western civilisation against these things. That's when I became a conservative. I knew I wanted to conserve things rather than pull them down."
- A Very British Hatchet Job, by Clement Knox. Los Angeles Review of Books 01/18/16:
… Far from being a Vernichtungskrieg waged without mercy upon the hallowed figures of the left-wing intellectual canon, this is a remarkably evenhanded hatchet job, with Scruton staying true to the promise made in the foreword “to explain what is good in the authors I review as well as what is bad.” This commendable sense of fairness might leave some readers who came expecting blood somewhat peeved.
- From Jargon to Incantation, by Laetitia Strauch-Bonart. Standpoint November 2015:
This is an outstanding and very necessary book. I may be biased, as I am the author’s translator into French, but I like his work because it is true, not the other way around. The only fault of the book is that it gives so much space to the sticky prose of the New Left. But that is a necessary evil. And Scruton’s fluid and lively sentences are such a relief. No wonder: you are at least reading something human. …
Some people will be shocked by Scruton’s book. They will see it as an ideological work targeting his enemies. But I beg them to open their Habermas, Lacan or Badiou, and to ask two things. Does this text mean something that I could explain to my educated friend? And does it make an honest attempt to understand history or society, and not a resentment-inspired and reality-denying fantasy?
If the answer is no, readers will have grasped Scruton’s point. Unless they really wish “to chew on the glutinous prose of Deleuze, to treat seriously the mad incantations of Žižek, or to believe that there is more to Habermas’s theory of communicative action than his inability to communicate it,” I challenge them to do so.
- New Left Ideas and Their Consequences
, by Sean Haylock. Crisis 01/25/16:
It has become a commonplace in some circles that postmodern writing is nothing but nonsensical logorrhoea, deliberately opaque and utterly pretentious. Scruton certainly presents some astonishing examples of just this phenomenon, especially from Jürgen Habermas and Gilles Deleuze, both titans of postmodern academia (Deleuze is responsible for the sentence: “The eternal return eliminates that which renders it impossible by rendering impossible the transport of difference”). But Scruton also pays due compliment to works by his targets which display genuine literary accomplishment. Sartre’s account of his childhood, Les mots, is “a masterpiece of autobiography.” Michel Foucault is praised for “the synthesizing poetry of his style” and his last work, the three volume History of Sexuality, hailed for its discovery, as far as Foucault’s scholarly practice is concerned, of careful analysis and diligent citation. The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, currently much in vogue, “writes perceptively of art, literature, cinema, and music, and … always has something interesting and challenging to say.” Such compliments aren’t concessions to the ideologies that drive these philosophers. I wonder how many ardent Marxists would be prepared to acknowledge the poetry in Scruton’s prose.
- Roger Scruton vs. the New Left
, by Alan Jacobs. The American Conservative 04/07/16:
If we understand the nature of this transformation—this move from the necessity of a fundamental restructuring of the Western political order to a mere consolidation of its bureaucratic order with a few minor directional tweaks, or even (in the case of Hobsbawm) just a few rhetorical gestures, as though reciting an ancient liturgy in a long-forgotten language—then the value of Scruton’s book becomes clear. Without an account of this transformation, one might reasonably ask why it would be worth our time to read about these figures whose real political influence, if it ever existed at all, ended a quarter-century ago. The answer is that Scruton shows how even the most seemingly radical language can easily, painlessly be absorbed into the very social and political institutions it is supposed to be opposing. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands is, among other things, a skillful ethnographic account of an intellectual subculture whose words and deeds run always on parallel tracks.
- Why You Can't Argue with the New Left, by Arnold Kling. Library of Economics and Liberty 03/07/16.
- A Demolition of Socialist Intellectuals", by Stephen Poole The Guardian 12/10/15:
… the problem in general with denouncing people as frauds and charlatans is that you might be paying them too much intellectual credit, and so too little moral credit. Perhaps they really believed this stuff, in which case they were idiots but not dishonest. This book is at its best, by contrast, when Scruton is engaging with writers whom he evidently respects, however much he disagrees with them.
- The Enemies of Roger Scruton, by Samuel Freeman. The New York Review of Books 04/21/16. [Obscured by Paywall].
Saturday, March 26, 2016
Of the two men crucified with Jesus, only one joins in the mockery: the other grasps the mystery of Jesus. He knows and he sees that the nature of Jesus’ “offense” was quite different—that Jesus was nonviolent. And now he sees that this man crucified beside him truly makes the face of God visible, he is truly God’s Son. So he asks him: “Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power” (Lk 23:42). What exactly the good thief understood by Jesus’ coming in his kingly power, and what he therefore meant by asking Jesus to remember him, we do not know. But clearly, while on the Cross, he realized that this powerless man was the true king—the one for whom Israel was waiting. Now he wanted to be at this man’s side not only on the Cross, but also in glory.
Jesus’ response goes beyond what is asked of him. Instead of an unspecified future, he speaks of that very day: “Today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). This too is a mysterious saying, but it shows us one thing for certain: Jesus knew he would enter directly into fellowship with the Father—that the promise of “Paradise” was something he could offer “today”. He knew he was leading mankind back to the Paradise from which it had fallen: into fellowship with God as man’s true salvation.
So in the history of Christian devotion, the good thief has become an image of hope—an image of the consoling certainty that God’s mercy can reach us even in our final moments, that even after a misspent life, the plea for his gracious favor is not made in vain. So, for example, the Dies Irae prays: "Qui . . . latronem exaudisti, mihi quoque spem dedisti" (just as you answered the prayer of the thief, so you have given me hope).
Friday, March 25, 2016
Synthesizer [Prophet 5, Fairlight], Sampler [Akai S900], Voice – Peter Gabriel
Trumpet – Jon Hassell
Violin [Double] – Shankar
Vocals [Choirboy] – Julian Wilkins
Voice – Youssou N'Dour
Voice [Qawwali] – Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
Monday, February 22, 2016
You don’t have to defend every word the Pope says.
Even if you consider yourself an enthusiastic and faithful Catholic of any stripe you are not obligated to defend every utterance in every papal interview or even every papal homily or declaration.
Popes – all popes – can say things that are wrong, incorrect, ill-informed, narrow, short-sighted and more reflective of their personal biases, interests and limitations than the broader, deeper tradition of Catholicism.
Which is why, traditionally, popes didn’t do a lot of public talking.
Quite a few issues have popped up recently – well, more or less continuously over the past three years, but I want to begin by addressing what I see as the fundamental, underlying problem apart from any particular priorities Pope Francis may have. That problem is the importance given to papal statements. Papal paragraphs. Papal sentences, participles and even papal pauses.
All of which require continual, exhaustive and exhausting rounds of what I’ve come call Popesplaining.
Read the whole thing.
"It's true I don't give interviews. I don't know why. I just can't. It's tiresome," he said. "But I enjoy your company."-- Pope Francis, en route TO Brazil. July 22, 2013.
I understand why Popes expound themselves in encyclicals -- such seems to be their natural habitat, as it provides ample room for drafting and re-drafting and minimizing the potential for misinterpretation. The same could be said for books … I recall reading John Paul II's "Crossing the Threshhold of Hope" on the road to becoming a Catholic, and who can deny the theological richness of Pope Benedict (writing as Joseph Ratzinger)'s trilogy "Jesus of Nazareth"?
Of course there is television, and as an actor in an earlier life, John Paul II knew full well the power of public performance: the well-placed quip or televised soundbyte to the masses … but not all Popes are gifted public speakers. Benedict XVI was certainly not given to such.
As I see it, the perpetual confusion that characterizes the present situation comes in large part as a result of the full-throttle advent of "social media", together with Vatican's headlong desire to be 'with it' and to integrate itself into the latest technical trend. Chiefly of concern is the sense of IMMEDIACY that it engenders -- together with it's "dumbing down" effect, the minimization of attention spans on the part of the audience.
For example, reading Benedict XVI in print has been a personal joy, witnessing the architecture of his arguments play out over the pages with grace and precision. Conversely, I was rather dismayed by the Vatican's announcement (I think it was at World Youth Day) that the Holy Father would from that time forth be Twittering, and in such a manner rendering himself vulnerable to the responses (and sniping) of the world in the confined space of 140 characters.
So, too, with the free-for-all, off-the-cuff airline interviews, which have become a trademark of the present pontificate.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
- Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia dies at 79, by Robert Barnes. 02/13/16.
- Antonin Scalia, Justice on the Supreme Court, Dies at 79 New York Times 02/14/16.
- Statements by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the rest of the Supreme Court of the United States. Slate.com 02/14/16.
- Antonin Scalia, Conservative Legal Giant, by Ross Douthat. New York Times 02/13/16:
There were and are many legal theories and schools of constitutional interpretation within the world of American conservatism. But Scalia’s combination of brilliance, eloquence and good timing — he was appointed to the court in 1986, a handful of years after the Federalist Society was founded, and with it the conservative legal movement as we know it — ensured that his ideas, originalism in constitutional law and textualism in statutory interpretation, would set the agenda for a serious judicial conservatism and define the worldview that any “living Constitution” liberal needed to wrestle with in order to justify his own position.
- Why Antonin Scalia was a jurist of colossal consequence, by George F. Will. Washington Post 02/14/16.
- Justice Antonin Scalia, R.I.P.
, by Ilya Somin. Volokh Conspiracy 02/13/16:
But whether you agree with his views or not, it is hard to think of any other recent Supreme Court justice who has made a comparably great contribution to debates over both statutory interpretation and constitutional theory. It may be a long time, if ever, before we reach any consensus about Scalia’s legacy. But its importance cannot be denied.
- Our Mighty Rearguard, by Elliot Milco. First Things 02/14/16:
... He was morally engaged. His prose sparkled. He was the great champion of the Right, and he could not be silenced or voted out, no matter how much the press despised him. While his enemies pushed relentlessly to have their views enshrined as fundamental principles of free society, Scalia fought to keep the moral question open for debate, to maintain the possibility of reasonable dissent, because he believed that in a fair fight we could still prevail. He was the mighty rearguard in our long and slow defeat.
- Justice Scalia's Great Heart, by Jeffrey A. Tucker. "Now that he is gone from this earth, I can tell a story I’ve held inside for many years, a scene that touched me deeply and profoundly. I cannot think of him without remembering this moment. ..."
- A surprising request from Justice Scalia, by David Axelrod. CNN. 02/14/16.
- Scalia's relationships with opponents should serve as a model in US politics, by Emily Zanotti. The Guardian 02/14/16.
- (From the Archives): BFFs Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia agree to disagree Los Angeles Times by David G. Savage. Los Angeles Times 6/22/15. "Despite their standing as the intellectual lions of the left and right, Ginsburg and Scalia have forged an uncommon bond on a court where close friendships outside of chambers are rare."
- Why liberals should love Justice Scalia, by Michael McGough. Los Angeles Times 02/27/13:
It isn’t just in search-and-seizure cases that Scalia takes a liberal -- some would say libertarian -- position. He’s an ardent defender of free speech (joining with liberal justices to overturn laws criminalizing the burning of the American flag as a protest) and has led a movement on the court to reinvigorate the confrontation clause of the 6th Amendment, which says that the accused has the right to be confronted with the witnesses against him. Scalia’s position on the confrontation clause is a good example of how his “conservative” jurisrpudence can be more protective of individual rights than the “living Constitution” approach of more liberal justices. ...
Scalia in his own words
- "Constitutional Interpretation" In a rare on-camera appearance, Justice Antonin Scalia spoke about issues involved in interpreting the Constitution, judicial philosophies, and the decision-making process at the Supreme Court. C-SPAN 03/14/05.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
The popular idea of a Christian universe corrupted in its very nature by sin owes much of its favour to the influence of Luther, Calvin and Jensenius; but to look at Christianity through their eyes would be to regard it in a very different light than that of Thomism, or even of authentic Augustinianism. No one, in fact could be further thatn St. Augustine from considering the world in the state of fallen nature as worthless. His own metaphysical principles would firbit it, to start with. Since evil is but the corruption of a good and cannot possibly subsist at all save in this good, it follows that inasmuch as there is evil, there is a good. [p. 122]
* * *... the good of nature is a real part of nature, and is not therefore to be suppressed, but simply diminished by sin. Every act initiates a habit, that is to tsay the first bad act results in a disposition to commit others and thus enfeebles the natural human inclination towards good. But this inclination, nevertheless, remains, and so the way to the acquisition of all the virtues remains open. As for the first and proper sense of the word "nature", that is to say the very sense of man, it can neither be suppressed nor diminished by sin; primum igitur bonum naturae, nec tollitur, nec diminuitur per peccatum. To deny this would be to suppose that at one ad the same time man could both remain man and cease to be man. Thus sin neither adds to nor takes away from human nature: ea enim quae sunt naturalia homini, neque subtrahuntur neque dantur homini per peccatum. Man's metaphysical status is essentially unchangeable and independent of all the accidents that may befall him. [p. 124-125].
Etienne Gilson, Spirit of Medieval Philosophy
Wednesday, December 30, 2015
The film also doesn't shy away from Bobby Fischer: the rather abrasive and unlikeable adult, who suffered from mental illness and in his later years became immersed in the cultic Worldwide Church of God and a quagmire of anti-semitism (despite his Jewish roots) and conspiracy-theorizing -- his life was predominantly an unhappy one, despite his fame. All that being acknowledged, there is no denying the genius of his game, as well as that incredible moment in history when, in the midst of Vietnam, Watergate, and the Cold War, an American citizen challenged the greatest chessmasters of Russia and won.
The postcrisis perception, at least in the media, appears to be one of Americans being held down by Wall Street, by big companies in the private sector, and by the wealthy. Capitalism is on trial. I see it a little differently. If a lender offers me free money, I do not have to take it. And if I take it, I better understand all the terms, because there is no such thing as free money. That is just basic personal responsibility and common sense. The enablers for this crisis were varied, and it starts not with the bank but with decisions by individuals to borrow to finance a better life, and that is one very loaded decision. This crisis was such a bona fide 100-year flood that the entire world is still trying to dig out of the mud seven years later. Yet so few took responsibility for having any part in it, and the reason is simple: All these people found others to blame, and to that extent, an unhelpful narrative was created. Whether it’s the one percent or hedge funds or Wall Street, I do not think society is well served by failing to encourage every last American to look within. This crisis truly took a village, and most of the villagers themselves are not without some personal responsibility for the circumstances in which they found themselves. We should be teaching our kids to be better citizens through personal responsibility, not by the example of blame.
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Thursday, November 12, 2015
For although theology is a science, it does not propose as its end the transformation of the belief by which it adheres to its principles into understanding; to do that would be to destroy its proper object. Nor will the Christian philosopher on the other hand, any more than the theologian, attempt to transform faith into science, as if by some queer chemistry you could combine contradictory essences. What he asks himself is simply this: whether, among those propositions which by faith he believes to be true, there are not a certain number which reason may know to be true. Insofar as the believer bases his affirmations on the intimate conviction gained from faith he remains purely and simply a believer, he has not yet entered the gates of philosophy; but when amongst his beliefs he finds some that are capable of becoming objects of science then he becomes a philosopher, and if it is to the Christian faith that he ows this new philosophical insight, he becomes a Christian philosopher.
Etienne Gilson, The Spirit of Medieval Philosophy p.36
Sunday, October 25, 2015
There was a massive demand for blue-collar intellectuals throughout much of the twentieth century because there was a massive demand for intellectual betterment. There isn't a massive supply of blue-collar intellectuals today because the enlightened do not feel a vocational pull to reach out to the everyman and the everyman expresses little demand for intellectual betterment. There is not even a consensus that reading means intellectual betterment, let alone what we should be reading. A society in which it is maladaptive to discuss The Nicomachean Ethics, Othello, and The Federalist Papers is a maladaptive society. The cultural common denominators of the past aren't so common anymore. Once can reference The Simpsons or Anchorman or an Eminem lyric with the understanding that an educated audience will know what one is talking about. Try doing that with The Odyssey or Moby Dick even. What it means to be an educated person has changed for the worse.
The intellectual and the everyman suffer when the life of the mind is deemed the exclusive domain of intellectuals. Segregated from society by academic jargon, minute specialization, and outright snobbery, intellectuals descend into a ghetto of unintelligible babble remote from mass society. Similarly, today's middlebrow becomes yesterday's lowbrow when Tool Academy, Grand Theft Auto IV cage fighting and Internet pornography crowd out the pursuit of higher things within mass culture. Comfortable in the sensate cesspool demanding of neither the intellect nor the soul, the everyman makes no effort to ascend from the muck. Grateful for the status separation, the intellectual does nothing to raise the mass and everything to extenuate his privileged apartness.
"We are increasingly ignorant, but we do not know enough to be properly ashamed," lamented W.A. Pannapacker, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education. "If we are determined to get on in life, we believe it will not have anything to do with our ability to reference Machiavelli or Adam Smith at the office Christmas party. The rejection of The Great Books signifies a declining belief in the value of anything without a direct practical application, combined with the triumph of a passive entertainment."
Saturday, September 26, 2015
Sunday, September 20, 2015
The reactions of both the police and the school officials are currently being vilified by the press and everybody I know (many of my friends on Facebook included).
That being said, speaking as a parent, with two kids in a school, and conscious of entrusting our children's safety with our teachers and school every day of the week ... I can't say I fault the school in this case.
Based on the picture provided, I'd pose a question:
if any kid (ANY KID, regardless of race or ethnicity or religious affiliation) brought in a device to YOUR SCHOOL that looked like this, would you really fault the teacher for erring on the side of caution and reporting it, as per conventional school policy?
Some have also questioned the motivations of the teachers, noting that they detained Ahmed -- but didn't go so far as to evacuate the school, like they would have if they thought it were a real bomb. That being said, it's possible to get into a good bit of trouble for simply bringing in a device that even LOOKS like a bomb, even if it isn't one. The offense would be the equivalent of calling in a bomb threat or introducing the device to create an incident. (Speaking from experience, I had a teenage friend who managed to do precisely the latter).
Again, bracketing for a moment any question of my race or religion -- if I took out a device that looked like the one pictured in public, in any context outside of a science class, I think I'd evoke some suspicion, and I'd find concern warranted, again, *based on the appearance of the device itself*.
Based on what I've seen so far from analysis on tech blogs (as in the article posted here), it seems possible that the clock was a 1986 Radio Shack model that was disassembled and re-built inside a pencil box.
Beyond that, I think there is all manner of speculation and knee-jerk assumptions being made (one one hand, that the police and school officials are obviously racist or bigoted in motivation; on the other hand, that Ahmed and/or his parents might be less than innocent and might well have designed the device "to look like a bomb", to deliberately provoke the authorities and stage what has become at this point a social-national-cultural media circus).
It's all speculation at this point -- from the left as well as the right. ...
But then, that's precisely what we're motivated to do here on social media before all the facts of any story come out. Rush to judgement.
Thursday, September 17, 2015
- Artur Rosman () has a two-part interview with Thomas Pfau, Alice Mary Baldwin Professor of English and professor of German at Duke University and author of Minding the Modern: Human Agency, Intellectual Traditions, and Responsible Knowledge: Part I: Threatening Naturalism’s Universal Authority (08/13/15) | No Theology, No Phenomenology of the Person? (08/14/15).
- Letter to a Friend on Ressourcement and the New Theology The Paraphasic 12/01/14:
A friend of mine, a student in a very prominent graduate program in theology at a major Catholic university in the US, wrote to me recently. In his letter he expressed confusion and dismay at the hostility to Western theology and liturgy since the Middle Ages which he has encountered among his professors, and asked me for some thoughts on the matter. ...
- Bishop-elect Fr. Robert Barron (via Alisdair MacIntyre): "We've lost the capacity even to have a coherent moral conversation..."
- Would Alasdair MacIntyre Live in a “Benedict Option” Community?, by Dr. Adam J. De Ville. "For all the intriguing ideas that seem to huddle under the capacious canopy of the “Benedict option,” and for all my sympathy towards it, there are three lingering doubts about it."
- A Quick Guide for Doctrinally Classifying Contemporary Catholics Paraphasic Catholic. 05/04/15.
- The Conversion of Paul Ryan, by Timothy Kirchoff. Ethika Politika 05/21/15. On Ryan's involvement with community activist Bob Woodson in Comeback, a documentary series sharing "the inspiring, true stories of real-life Americans overcoming adversity in our nation’s cities and communities."
Over the course of the 2012 presidential campaign, Ryan eagerly employed the language of Catholic social thought, invoking subsidiarity alongside solidarity and arguing that the preferential option for the poor does not imply a preferential option for big government. It may once have been possible to read his use of such terms as a cynical attempt to twist the Church’s teaching to support Republican economic policies, but Ryan seems to have taken these principles to heart and sought out the opportunity to see them lived out.
- The new Pope Benedict Roundup and Pope Francis Roundup of news and commentary are live on their respective blogs.
Tuesday, August 25, 2015
Here's the deal. I'm a former philosophy professor who, at age 60, works full-time as a state-certified driving instructor. For the past two years, I haven't managed to get any job paying more than $400 a week. Beyond my PhD, which I earned 27 years ago, I have two entry-level IT certifications (A+ and Network+). Three months ago, I passed the state auto-insurance adjuster's exam because I have a friend in the industry who can help me get a job therein if I have the license. But I have been unable to secure the license because I can't afford both the fees and the bond premium. After taxes and child support, my current job nets me less than $200 a week. That's why I live at a Catholic mission and don't have my own place. I have to do something.
One thing I've done is resume freelance writing (you can find earlier publications of mine with a Google search). I published a piece three weeks ago and have another coming out next week. But because I can't afford a decent place to live, it's very difficult to find a quiet place to write more than a few pieces a month on top of working full-time. That will not be enough. There are other alternatives, but none look particularly feasible at my age.
So I've set up this page in the hope that friends, some of whom have already expressed interest in helping, can do so. It won't take much. Thanks in advance for your help!
Michael (used to?) blog at Sacramentum Vitae, and I would credit him as one of my inspirations and models of quality Catholic blogging in general. Feel free to peruse the archives, and if you can afford it do lend him a hand.
Sunday, August 23, 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
... and history:
Hollywood's Trumbo appears to be something of a whitewash of Stalinist screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Portrayed as a victim of the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC), a closer investigation of history reveals that he did his fair share of censoring and "blacklisting" himself -- against anti-Communists in the movie industry.
- Hollywood's Missing Movies: Why American films have ignored life under communism, by Kenneth Lloyd Billingsly. Reason June 2000:
if Comintern fantasies of a Soviet Hollywood were never realized, party functionaries nevertheless played a significant role: They were sometimes able to prevent the production of movies they opposed. The party had not only helped organize the Screen Writers Guild, it had organized the Story Analysts Guild as well. Story analysts judge scripts and film treatments early in the decision making process. A dismissive report often means that a studio will pass on a proposed production. The party was thus well positioned to quash scripts and treatments with anti-Soviet content, along with stories that portrayed business and religion in a favorable light. In The Worker, Dalton Trumbo openly bragged that the following works had not reached the screen: Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon and The Yogi and the Commissar; Victor Kravchenko's I Chose Freedom; and Bernard Clare by James T. Farrell, also author of Studs Lonigan and vilified by party enforcer Mike Gold as "a vicious, voluble Trotskyite."
- The Stalinist Ten--A True Story About Communists in the Movie Industry, by Allan H. Ryskind. [excerpt from the newly released book, Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler, by Allan H. Ryskind]:
Trumbo is less well known for a script that never made it to the screen: An American Story, whose plot outline, in the words of film historian Bernard F. Dick, goes like this: North Korea finally decides “to put an end to the border warfare instigated by South Korea by embarking upon a war of independence in June 1950.” (In his papers at the Wisconsin Historical Society, Trumbo says he “dramatized” Kim Il-sung’s supposedly righteous war for a group of fellow Communist screenwriters, including at least two Hollywood Ten members.)
Trumbo also seemed to think that Stalin needed a bit of a reputation upgrade. So one finds in his papers a proposed novel, apparently written in the 1950s, in which a wise old Russian defends Stalin’s murderous reign as necessary for the supposedly grand achievements of Soviet socialism.
Those celebrating Trumbo today as a sort of saintly curmudgeon do not feel obligated to mention this aspect of his Red ideology, nor do they point to his writings during the Soviet-Nazi Pact, when he was excusing Hitler’s con- quests. "To the vanquished,” he airily dismissed the critics of Nazi brutality, “all conquerors are inhuman." For good measure he demonized Hitler’s major enemy, Great Britain, insisting that England was not a democracy, because it had a king, and accused FDR of “treason” and “black treason” for attempting to assist the British in their life-and-death struggle against the despot in Berlin.
- Hollywood Celebrates Another Stalinist, by Allan H. Ryskind. CNSNews.com 01/05/15:
... The evidence of Trumbo’s Red activities is hardly secret. He came clean, sort of, to his biographer, Bruce Cook, a writer of the upcoming Trumbo screenplay. He told Cook in the 1970s that he joined the party in 1943 (some FBI informants think he joined in the 1930s), that some of his “very best friends” were Communists and that “I might as well have been a Communist 10 years earlier….” He also says, about joining the party: “But I’ve never regretted it. As a matter of fact, it’s possible to say I would have regretted not having done it….”
He said he let his party membership lapse after his HUAC appearance, possibly finding it difficult to pay his party dues after he was blacklisted, but he never publicly turned his back on communism or Stalin. Indeed, in his private papers he admits that he “reaffiliated with the party in 1954,” apparently his passion for a Communist America burning brightly as ever. So, by the historical record and his own account, he was in tune with the Soviet Union for nearly a quarter of a century, when Stalin was in his prime killing years.
- Will the new Trumbo movie rehash old myths?, by Ronald Radosh. National Review 11/02/13:
[Trumbo] bragged how he had used his position to stop anti-Communist films from being made. Stalin, he said, was “one of the democratic leaders of the world,” so he used his position to stop Trotsky’s biography of the dictator from being filmed, and did the same with anti-Communist books by James T. Farrell, Victor Kravchenko, and Arthur Koestler, all of which he called “untrue” and “reactionary.” As he explained in 1954 to a fellow blacklisted writer, the Communist party had a “fine tradition . . . that whenever a book or play or film is produced which is harmful to the best interests of the working class, that work and its author should and must be attacked in the sharpest possible terms.”
Two years later, when many Communists learned some of the truth about Stalin from the Khrushchev speech, Trumbo wrote a comrade that he was not surprised. He explained that he had read the books by Koestler, George Orwell, James Burnham, Eugene Lyons, and Isaac Don Levine, who all had exposed the truth about the Soviet Union. These, of course, were the very books he had made sure would never be turned into movies. Trumbo supported Stalin, all the while knowing that he was a monster.
- Flipping Hollywood’s Blacklist Narrative, by Ron Capshaw. Library of Law and Liberty 01/25/15:
... All in all, Ryskind’s work is a welcome addition to the anticommunist corrections to the blacklist legend. He has written a convincing and well-sourced follow up to the pioneering effort of the Radoshes. Moreover, he has refused to play the warped victim son of a writer who was much maligned in his time and may have been black-listed (Morrie never got another script accepted after 1945). Instead he has focused on disputing how Hollywood then and now has rehabiliated what in essence were Stalinists.
- Exclusive Author Interview with Allan Ryskind, Author of “Hollywood Traitors”, by Christopher N. Malagisi.
- Who was Dalton Trumbo, Screenwriter and Stalinist?, by Ron Capshaw. The American Spectator 01/06/15.
- Dalton Got His Gun, by Stefan Kanfer. City Journal 02/27/15. "The lodestar of the Hollywood blacklist was all that his fans said he was—and less." [Review of Trumbo: Blacklisted Hollywood Radical by Larry Ceplair and Christopher Trumbo, and Hollywood Traitors: Blacklisted Screenwriters, Agents of Stalin, Allies of Hitler by Allan H. Ryskind].
Friday, July 31, 2015
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Naked in New York: The Unceremonious Stripping of Our Saviour, by Steve Skojec. One Peter Five July 23, 2015. In 2001, Fr. Rutler is assigned to a parish struggling under the burden of millions of dollars of mortage and other repairs and over the course of twelve years, reverses its path -- bringing it back to financial health through careful stewardship, establishing the celebration of the Latin Mass and a stunning renovation of the interior with hand-made iconography from Chinese artist Ken Woo who spent six years of his life to the project, including 28-foot-high image of Christ Pantocrator. It becomes a center for liturgical, aesthetic and spiritual renewal.
In 2013, Fr. Rutler is reassigned. New pastor moves in, promptly does away with the Latin Mass, scolds his congregation for their backwardness and embarks upon a demolition of all the work that preceded him -- stripping Our Savior of its iconography (while vacationing in the Hamptons, no less), the parish now (once-again) mired in debt.
What's wrong with this picture?
I remember stumbling rather by surprise across this church while walking in Manhattan, entering the sanctuary and being completely stunned by what I encountered on the inside. The beauty of the altar and the iconography had to be seen to be believed. This was a rare treasure of NYC. …
As a Catholic it's just infuriating - reading this and the painful realization that this place will never be the same again.
But one needn't be a Catholic, Christian or even religious to be offended at the willful dismantling of a work of spiritual beauty AGAINST the collective wishes of his parishioners. ...
Saturday, July 18, 2015
There is a liberty of a corrupt nature which is effected both by men and beasts to do what they list, and this liberty is inconsistent with authority, impatient of all restraint; by this liberty ‘sumus omnes deteriores’: ‘tis the grand enemy of truth and peace, and all the ordinances of God are bent against it. But there is a civil, a moral, a federal liberty which is the proper end and object of authority; it is a liberty for that only which is just and good. For this liberty you are to stand with the hazard of your very lives and whoever crosses it is not authority, but a distemper thereof.-- Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 1 (1835). [Via: Michael Novak].
While our country remains untainted with the principles and manners which are now producing desolation in so many parts of the world; while she continues sincere, and incapable of insidious and impious policy, we shall have the strongest reason to rejoice in the local destination assigned us by Providence. But should the people of America once become capable of that deep simulation towards one another, and towards foreign nations, which assumes the language of justice and moderation while it is practising iniquity and extravagance, and displays in the most captivating manner the charming pictures of candor, frankness, and sincerity, while it is rioting in rapine and insolence, this country will be the most miserable habitation in the world; because we have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Avarice, ambition, revenge, or gallantry, would break the strongest cords of our Constitution as a whale goes through a net. Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
John Adams, "To the Officers of the First Brigade of the Third Division of the Militia of Massachusetts". 11 October 1978.