Monday, June 28, 2004


A further note on Straussianism: Strauss focuses on the major thinkers of the ancient world to find precedents for his view that the REAL knowledge must be kept secret from "the masses". In fact, however, it was the mediaeval Catholic church that really put such ideas into practice. The "mysteries" of the Mass were celebrated behind a "rude screen" in mediaeval cathedrals -- so that the people could not see what was going on. And the church's opposition to the Bible in the language of the people (because of the "danger" of it being "misunderstood") is well-known. So if anybody thinks that this real-life Straussian entity was an ideal arrangement, they have all all the Protestant thinkers from Wycliffe and Luther onwards to contend with -- not to mention the many earlier Catholic reformers as diverse as Abelard and St. Bernard of Clairvaux. I should add, however, that there are large divides among Straussians and I would agree with some (e.g. Mansfield) much more than others. See here. Understood as an attack on moral relativism, Straussianism can be valuable.

The Straussians seem generally to be seen as part of neoconservatism -- probably because of a shared elitism. The older neoconservatives are of course ex-Trotskyists so lack the traditional conservative suspicion of the State. They just want to use the State in a more realistic and hence more benign way than their former brethren on the Left. But lovers of the State they are. I personally am very glad that no type of neoconservatism seems to have any mass following. Their influence seems to be solely of a think-tank kind. Note this report of the current thinking of Irving Kristol, probably the leading light among the founders of neoconservatism. He has what I can only call a horrifying vision for America. He wants America to become the world's new dictator, no less. He won't sell that idea anywhere in mainstream America. I think Rockwell voices the libertarian reply to the neoconservatives pretty well here.

One person who does agree with Kristol is, of all things, a Scottish historian: Niall Ferguson. There is a good article on Ferguson here which both sets out his arguments and mentions some of the problems with them. A lot of intellectuals are obviously way out of touch with ordinary people. The idea that you could persuade the average American to take on the burdens of empire for some dreamy reason is absurd. The great majority of Americans just want to be left alone to get on with their own lives in peace and safety.

The statist mind: "The Greeks had a name for this monstrous ego: hubris, which, as far as I'm concerned, is the defining characteristic of the State. They considered it a madness, one that the afflicted never knew was affecting them. They defined a sequence--koros (stability) to hubris (monstrous, conscienceless arrogance) to ate (a madness where evil appears as good) to nemesis (destruction)..... A more modern term for hubris, for Kirk's monstrous ego, is narcissism. Perceiving people as things, ones not fully human, is the essence of narcissism. Peck wrote this about narcissism, "Since [narcissists] deep down, feel themselves to be faultless, it is inevitable that when they are in conflict with the world they will invariably perceive the conflict as the world's fault. Since they must deny their own badness, they must perceive others as bad. They project their own evil onto the world."

Orrin Judd has an account of intellectuals which implies an inbuilt bias to the Left in them: "an "intellectual" is someone who deals in pure ideas, that is ideas untested by reality. The term "Intellectual" in turn has come to denote anyone who believes that these untested ideas should be tried out upon society. Once we accept these fairly simple definitions, it becomes pretty obvious why America has an anti-intellectual tradition ... it is the nature of "intellect" to oppose the existing order". I think Orrin is a bit sweeping there but there is something to what he says.


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