Today's Politicos vs The Words and Deeds of The Founders
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Meaning

If we believe the prevailing orthodoxy – expressed by agencies of government, certain individuals who claim to be scientists and academics who claim to be philosophers, among others – there aren’t any ultimate questions anymore. Humans have evolved beyond such examinations as, for examples, the meaning of life, or what constitutes virtue. All that needs to be resolved now are the most efficient means toward predetermined ends. Although not phrased in the rejected “archaic” language of an earthly heaven it is nonetheless their justification. Humans are nothing more than lumps of clay that, given the right tools, can be fashioned into being better than they are, thus making the world “better.” It is irrelevant in this schema to question what “better” means or the criteria by which it has been determined. Only the doing matters.

This is not to say that striving for heaven, aspiring to emulate God is not desirable. But there is a difference between recognizing that there is a higher Good in the sense of the True, and the Beautiful, and denying its existence while simultaneously trying to create it without a pattern upon which to base the design.

Heaven on earth is not attainable, nor is any misshapen vision of heaven, especially when those trying to achieve it steadfastly deny the moral agency which makes heaven desirable in the first place.

E. F. Schumacher explains the difference between these two approaches in terms of philosophical maps in a lament about the course of Progressive education:

The maps I was given advised me that virtually all my ancestors, until quite recently, had been rather pathetic illusionists who conducted their lives on the basis of irrational beliefs and absurd superstitions.

Furthermore, these maps purported to be those of “real knowledge.”

The maps of real knowledge, designed for real life, showed nothing except for the things which allegedly could be proved to exist. The first principle of the philosophical mapmakers seemed to be “If in doubt, leave it out,” or put it into a museum.

The philosophical maps with which I was supplied at school and university …. failed to show large “unorthodox” sections of both theory and practice in medicine, agriculture, psychology, and the social and political sciences, not to mention art and so-called occult or paranormal phenomena, the mere mention of which was considered to be a sign of mental deficiency. In particular, all the most prominent doctrines shown on the “map” accepted art only as self-expression or as escape from reality. Even in nature there was nothing artistic except by chance, that is to say, even the most beautiful appearances could be fully accounted for – so we were told – by their utility in reproduction, as affecting natural selection. In fact, apart from “museums,” the entire map from right to left and from top to bottom was drawn in utilitarian colors: hardly anything was shown as existing unless it could be interpreted as profitable for man’s comfort or useful in the universal battle for survival.

The maps produced by modern materialistic Scientism leave all the questions that really matter unanswered; more than that, they deny the validity of the questions. … the ever more rigorous application of the scientific method to all subjects and disciplines has destroyed even the last remnants of ancient wisdom – at least in the Western world. It is being loudly proclaimed in the name of scientific objectivity that “values and meanings are nothing but defense mechanisms and reaction formations*”; that main is “nothing but a complex biochemical mechanism powered by a combustion system which energises computers with prodigious storage facilities for retaining encoded information.

It would be one thing if there were a replacement for all of the excised knowledge of our ancestors. Instead there is a gaping hole and obstinate insistence that what is missing was never there in the first place.

But, what do we need all of this historical “wisdom” for anyway? As it turns out, it allows us to ask the important questions and guides us toward answering them.

Questions like “What should I do?” or “What must I do to be saved?” are strange questions because they relate to ends, not simply to means.

An end is a goal or purpose. Goals are presumably desirable by dint of their being adjudicated as good. In the absence of transcendental truth, what determines the relative goodness of a thing? C.S. Lewis uses the example of a particular book – which he referred to as “the green book.” This book subtly promoted relativism over the transcendental and the notion that the authors were “debunking” traditional or sentimental values. Lewis points out that the end writers of this book had in mind when they wrote the book was something that the authors believed was “good.” The question is “why.” The answer cannot simply be because they said so. There must be justification – an argument for their case that programming children with this belief is desirable.

Their skepticism about values is on the surface: it is for use on other people’s values; about the values current in their own set they are not nearly skeptical enough. … They claim to be cutting away the parasitic growth of emotion, religious sanction and inherited taboos, in order that ‘real’ or ‘basic’ values may emerge.

Hypocrisy aside, Lewis then shows the results of what happens when this innovation is attempted, using another example, that of justification for sacrificing one’s life for something. Transcendental Truth will tell us that “greater love hath no man, than he lay down his life for his friends.” This is a reason that cannot be explained on the basis of cold calculation. Cold calculation is all that man is left with, if there is no such thing as virtue.

Let us suppose that an Innovator in values regards duke et decorum and greater love hath no man as mere irrational sentiments which are to be stripped off in order that we may get down to the ‘realistic’ or ‘basic’ ground of this value. Where will he find such a ground?

First of all, he might say that the real value lay in the utility of such sacrifice to the community. ‘Good’, he might say, ‘means what is useful to the community.’ But of course the death of the community is not useful to the community — only the death of some of its members. What is really meant is that the death of some men is useful to other men. That is very true. But on what ground are some men being asked to die for the benefit of others? Every appeal to pride, honour, shame, or love is excluded by hypothesis. To use these would be to return to sentiment and the Innovator’s task is, having cut all that away, to explain to men, in terms of pure reasoning, why they will be well advised to die that others may live. He may say ‘Unless some of us risk death all of us are certain to die.’ But that will be true only in a limited number of cases; and even when it is true it provokes the very reasonable counter question ‘Why should I be one of those who take the risk?’

If we insist that there is nothing beyond this life, nothing transcends the here and now, then this is a good question indeed.

What is the purpose of life? And what justifies risking it? These are some of those questions for which the landmarks on the maps of our ancestors provided clues and possible explanations.

Schumacher wrote his book decades ago, this reader believes that such questions as he posed are no longer “being loudly proclaimed.” Rather the assumption that they are irrelevant has been successfully inculcated into large swaths of society as indisputable fact. They are as lost as the society that no longer asks them.

 

 

 

 

*Quoted from Victor Frankl’s Beyond Reductionism.  

1 comment

1 Howard Nelson { 09.22.14 at 7:27 am }

“What is the purpose of life? And what justifies risking it?” “How should I live and why?” All essential questions whose answers define for us what a worthwhile, meaningful life can be. Founders of what became religions gave us answers: methods, practices, examples, helpful beliefs for journey within life.
If we believe that a creative intelligence produced all that is, and that that Creator is all pervasive, then we must agree that each one of us is some mysterious [to us] form of that Creator, not separate from the Creator’s viewpoint [otherwise the Creator would not be all pervasive], but simply misunderstanding our true nature from our viewpoint.
Thus, a reason for being as we think we are, utilizing the teachings and examples of the Founders, is to explore and find out what we are really not and what we really are.
On that path of discernment, step by step, we learn how to live and why to continue. The examples of others [saints, sages, Founders, ‘simple’ decent selfless folk] give us courage, hope, faith, and persistence.
As the saying goes, “When you have your why, you will find your how.”

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