Triumph of the Will

In my book Postmodern Times, I write about how the will has replaced reason in contemporary thought.  In my book Modern Fascism, I discuss  the great filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s celebration of Hitler, The Triumph of the Will, and argue that the phrase encapsulates the philosophy of Fascism. I also contrasted this worldview with that of Luther, who wrote The Bondage of the Will.

I am pleased to see R. R. Reno discussing the same topic, how today the will–what I want, what I desire–trumps everything. [Read more...]

Breakthrough in implanting false memories

Scientists have successfully implanted false memories into mice.  The researches are excited at prospect of applying the same processes to human beings, which they say holds promise for treating emotional problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder.  Read about the experiment after the jump, and then I want to pose some questions. [Read more...]

Why relativism leads to totalitarianism

I’d like to spin off from our reflection a comment Lars Walker made, as we blogged about yesterday in the post The Bible and Liberty:

As Paul Johnson notes in Modern Times, moral relativism always leads to Totalitarianism. Because in a morally relative age, power alone can settle any question.

[Read more...]

Pro-whatever-the-situation-is

Planned Parenthood is finding that the label “pro-choice” is too limiting and is searching for new language:

“I’m neither pro-choice nor pro-life,” said one woman in a focus group commissioned by Planned Parenthood. “I’m pro-whatever-the-situation is.” Said another, “there should be three: pro-life, pro-choice and something in the middle that helps people understand circumstances [...] It’s not just back or white, there’s grey.” A recent research push by the organization found that large numbers of Americans feel this way — uncomfortable with both the pro-life and pro-choice labels. And so Planned Parenthood’s newest messaging will be moving away from the language of choice. [Read more...]

Constructivist politics

Postmodernists, who believe that truth is relative, reject such retro concepts as logic, evidence, and reason, all of which assume that truth is objective.  Instead, postmodernists practice what they call “constructivism.”  Truth is not something we discover; rather, truth is something we “construct.”  Thus, argumentation involves “de-constructing” other people’s truth claims (showing them to be nothing more than impositions of power) and constructing “plausibility paradigms” to advance your own power-agenda.  And, since truth is inherently personal, another way to argue is to attack the person who holds to that truth.

We all need to understand this, especially in today’s political climate.  Both sides do it.  The very notion of “spin”–which is openly recognized to the point that TV networks set up “spin rooms” and both sides openly acknowledge having “spin doctors”–is an open acknowledgement of postmodernist techniques.  What matters is not overall truth but cherry-picking facts and then giving them an interpretation favorable to the power agenda of one side or another.  For postmodernists, interpretation is more important than information.  A successful argument is a construction of reality that wins over–indeed, that imposes itself on–other people

Here is a particularly blatant example of political constructivism, from the Washington Post in an article on President Obama’s post-debate campaign speech:

Obama said that when he reached the debate stage “I met this very spirited fellow who claimed to be Mitt Romney. But it couldn’t have been Mitt Romney,” Obama said, adding that the “real Mitt Romney has been running around the country for the last year promising $5 trillion in tax cuts that favor the wealthy. The fellow on stage last night said he didn’t know anything about that.”

The Mitt Romney everyone saw onstage giving his views from his own mouth is not the real Romney.  The real Romney is the one we have been constructing in our campaign ads.

And notice how the fact cited here comes from an elaborately spinning interpretation:  It is claimed, perhaps accurately (a matter for old-school analysis), that Romney’s economic plan doesn’t add up and is off by $5 trillion.  The Democrats then use this number in different ways.  Here Obama calls it $5 trillion in tax cuts for the wealthy.  In the debate and in campaign ads he takes it as a $5 trillion tax increase on the middle class.  This is because for his numbers to add up, he would have to get the $5 trillion from somewhere, so he would have to raise taxes on the middle tax.  Notice the movement  from “would have to” to “will.”  Romney will raise your taxes.

Never mind the Republican belief in supply-side economics and that Republicans from the time of Ronald Reagan through George W. Bush never raise taxes to this magnitude, preferring instead to just let shortages add to the deficit.

Never mind that Romney said in the debate that he would not raise taxes by $5 trillion.  Furthermore, that he would not cut what the wealthy are paying now.

No, this is not his real position.  His real position is what we say it is, the way we have constructed it.

 

via Obama challenges Romney’s candor morning after 1st debate, says rival owes people ‘the truth’ – The Washington Post.

Nothing left but sex and ennui

Great quotation and embedded quotations from novelist Andrew Klavan, as part of his review of the founder-of-Scientology movie The Master:

There’s a reason modernism collapsed into the ruinous and stupid-making morass of post-modernism. Ultimately, modernist reality was smaller and seedier than human life as it is lived. As the novelist and critic Gabriel Josipovici points out in critiquing one modernist novel, “describing the smell of sweat and semen during the act of sex no more anchors the novel to ‘reality’ than writing about stars in the eyes of the beloved.”

Myself, I attribute the unrealistic smallness of modernism to its secular nature. Without God, as Tolstoy explained, there’s nothing left to write about but sex and ennui.

via PJ Lifestyle » Why The Master Is No Master-Piece.

What a stunning insight from Tolstoy!   That was back in the 19th century, but he predicted the major subject matter of 20th and 21st century literary art.  I would just add that one can also write about–or make movies about or make music about–attempts to mask the ennui, the boredom, with sensationalistic distractions.  Thus, the explosions, car chases, murders, gore, escapism, and psychological fantasies that make up much of our pop culture.  (Not that there isn’t much of value and even greatness in 20th and 21st century literature–I am by no means dismissing or even criticizing it–but there sure is a lot of sex and ennui.)


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