In this universe, which is kept running by the often invisible operation of inviolable natural laws, we can observe various kinds of order. Natural order – the reliability of various cause-and-effect relations – is what makes life possible. Men use their knowledge of those relations to organize their activities in pursuit of sustenance and security. If all were chaos, life could not endure.
In June of 2002, back at the old, deeply lamented Palace Of Reason, I posted an essay that was first to use the title of this one. It appears in full below.
Ever since Bishop Berkeley, there have been “thinkers” claiming that “reality” is an empty concept, and that the Universe is whatever we choose to believe it is. When asked his opinion of Berkeley’s thesis, Samuel Johnson said, “I refute it thus,” and kicked a cobblestone. No better refutation has ever been offered, nor is one needed.
Today we have new forms of the subjectivist madness, including that darling of the academic world, deconstructionism, by whose tenets it is impossible for me to convey an idea to you with any reliability, because of the fuzziness of the meanings of words and their variable interpretability by you, the reader. One would think that, if the deconstructionists believed this sincerely, they would refrain from preaching it at us.
How has subjectivism held on in men’s minds for so long? No attempt to act on its premises has ever succeeded. Even attempting to argue for them involves the unwitting use of the objectivist premise that reality is independent of our opinions about it. When you can’t help using your opponent’s postulates in your argument, you’re in real trouble.
Since any attempt to reject the laws of Nature is inherently self-defeating and ultimately humiliating, we must ask why so much of it occurs. Men are not programmed to seek their own denigration or destruction, so, when we encounter one that appears to be doing so, we tend to classify him as dysfunctional, an aberration. Well, why are there so many dysfunctional aberrations about?
Berkeley himself claimed to be developing the ideas of Plato to their ultimate conclusions; indeed, he called his thesis idealism, which was Plato’s counterpoise to Aristotelian essentialism, the doctrine of an objective reality. (Obviously, Berkelian idealism has nothing to do with colloquial idealism, the devotion to a high principle and willingness to sacrifice for its advancement or defense.) Platonic idealism was rooted in Plato’s assertion that abstract concepts are prior and superior to material objects; that “horseness” comes before “horse.” He elevated the conceptual faculties of Man above the metaphysically given objective world. He’s been dead a long time, so it would be hard to determine why.
A great part of the reason for subjectivism’s survival, indeed for its grip on the minds of many in academe, is that its proponents are under no obligation to live by their creed. A good thing for them! Academe has long had this property. It’s a protected space, in which we tolerate a great deal of nonsensical word-slinging, in the hope that a nugget of real wisdom will emerge now and then. And if you feel that the interval between “now” and “then” is getting to be substantial, well, you’re not alone.
Another part of the reason is that advancing ideas in line with the major assumptions of ordinary men is no way to notoriety. To become widely known, one must contradict the prevailing wisdom, and the more dramatically, the better. Obviously, there are limits; no one who opined that the Earth is flat would get much of a hearing today. But remember that Columbus’s and Magellan’s assertions that the Earth is a globe raised them to prominence precisely because they flew in the face of conventional wisdom. It also helped that they were able to demonstrate their claims.
Finally, there’s this: A lot of academics espouse insane ideas because they hate normal people. Consider: Except for the hard sciences, an academic’s sphere of influence is likely to extend no further than the few hundred students and professors he interacts with over the course of his career. He’ll be paid reasonably well — very well indeed, for a man who does such unproductive work — but riches will forever elude him. The average white-collar worker, if he applies himself and takes care to keep his skills up to date, will zoom past him in both material accomplishments and impact on the world before they both turn forty — and the academic knows it.
Envy, that most destructive of all emotions, is always founded on self-hatred. To hate another, one must first hate oneself.
For those of us who believe that ideas are tools for living, hopefully for living well, there is no hazard in believing that the world around us is what it appears to be. (An exception will be made in the presence of David Copperfield.) There is a hazard in allowing the subjectivists and deconstructionists to rampage unchallenged through the realm of thought: impressionable young people might take them seriously and do themselves harm before they realize they’ve been taken in by credentialed con men.
This essay is my contribution toward your efforts to protect those you love. At the first sign of subjectivist infection, administer it at full strength. Repeat as necessary. If the symptoms persist, drop me a note.
The above is a somewhat wordy statement that can be boiled down into three little words: What is, is. No one can alter a fact simply by believing otherwise. Alternately, we have this homely saying: “If wishes were fishes, we’d all cast nets.” My rants about “should” are merely variations on that theme.
Today there exists a huge phenomenon dedicated to a counterpoised proposition: We can have what we want, even if it’s impossible, if we can just silence everyone who contradicts it. The common name for this phenomenon is political correctness. Its promoters seldom call it that, of course; to do so is to undermine the campaign to enforce it everywhere.
Even those who promote political correctness (henceforward, PC) are aware, though perhaps only dimly, that silencing their opponents changes nothing. The silencings themselves are of value to them. The reasons have been brilliantly expressed by Theodore Dalrymple:
Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One’s standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.
Intimidating and humiliating those who dare to note the Emperor’s nakedness is the point. Why else persecute persons who note obvious facts? The facts themselves cannot be made “unfacts.” They’re observable by anyone who dares to look. Subjugating those who fail to go along with PC’s assertions is the whole point. That’s the route to absolute and unbounded power.
Yes, it would be an Empire of Lies. “In an Empire of Lies, only a crazy man speaks the truth,” wrote Andrew Klavan, and he is quite correct. The Empire will focus its wrath upon such a man. It will break him as surely as the Sun rises in the east. It must, for its dominance depends wholly upon not being contradicted.
Dominance, not the actual alteration of any particular fact, is the goal.
There are quite a lot of facts against which the Left is on campaign. Allow me to enumerate a few:
- No one can change his sex.
- Unborn children are as human as you and I.
- Preteen children are grievously harmed by sexualization.
- Male homosexuality is destructive of its practitioners’ health.
- Except before the law, where we must be equal, we are all unequal.
- Therapy to reorient homosexuals to heterosexuality sometimes works.
- Socialism leads to the impoverishment of the many for the power of a few.
- Few differences among the races, the sexes, or the ethnicities are due to oppression.
- Changing the name of a thing does not change the thing itself, nor any of its characteristics.
- While geniuses have sometimes tended bar, that does not mean that all bartenders are geniuses.
To say any of these things openly is to risk the PC hammer wielded in all its fury. Yet not to say them is to accede passively to the rise of totalitarianism and all that follows in its train. It follows that good men have a moral duty to proclaim what they know to be true, especially when the demonstrations are available to anyone who cares to look and is willing to see. It also follows that when a good man comes under the hammer, it’s the moral duty of other good men to rally to his aid.
The reluctance of decent persons to rally to the beleaguered speaker of truth is among the most shameful aspects of our current milieu. It indicates that we lack the courage that makes every other virtue real.
The above may seem disconnected from any of the “hot topics” in today’s news. I make no apology for that; rather than address any one of them, I preferred to address all of them. For they are united in this: the evils they produce arise directly from attempts to deny reality and to silence those who defend it.
For a change, there is a “last graf:”
Speak truth regardless of the cost.
Give the proper coloration to those who would silence you.
Have a nice day.