John C Wright wears many hats, a retired attorney, newspaper editor, writer of philosophy, as well as a celebrated author of fantasy and science fiction novels.
For all intents and purposes it’s his philosophical writings that we’ll concentrate on, or more precisely, part of his collection of essays under the same name as the title of this blog.
He begins by complaining about the condition of the modern psyche, whom in his own words “adopt without demur the Orwellian anti-language of political correctness.”
This does resonate with many of us, that people who are supposedly rational beings turn into human drones by mouthing mindless mantra’s, thinking this enhances their intelligence when all it does is detract from it. And Orwell’s futuristic words of warning from the past about changing language and its meanings fly right over their heads.
Wright also laments the paradoxes, self-contradictions and logical absurdities in relativist morality;(moral judgements are true or false relative to culture or history) materialistic ontology; (materialism- a philosophy that holds the nature of the world to be entirely dependent on matter) subjective epistemology; (philosophy concerning the nature of knowledge; beliefs are subjective- whilst truth is objective) and “other nuggets of vacuous blither forming the foundations of modern thought.”
People excuse their leader’s lies, abuses of power and any of a number of vices, including the personal ones such as adultery, but note the righteous indignation and howls of outrage if someone points to a biblical or any other truism.
In addition, we witness the childish personal attacks, slanders, sneers and accusation directed at those who hold opposing views.
He maintains the core of postmodernism rests on the following assumptions;
1) Human nature is cultural, that is, manmade.
2) Nature is created by the individual, including one’s natural talents and good fortune.
3) The above points aren’t up for debate.
It can be argued that all societies are culturally relativistic, but our current interpretation is wrong. Each society has its own moral and behavioural code, but it cannot be used to measure the morality of another. Cultural relativism is a cross cultural (different cultured) principal as opposed to an intra-cultural (of the same Culture) one and the failure to distinguish between the two leads to the denial of any one society having any moral standards which is erroneous and leads to moral chaos.
Wright points out that that if human nature is cultural, then the limitations of that nature such as the inevitability of death is inescapable, and can be met and overcome by some change to the culture, some progressive improvement to our laws and customs.
In reality, any attempts to change the culture lead to four stages of decay, from the Christian to the Worldly man, to the Ideologue, to the Mystic, to the Nihilist.
His conclusion is the belief that human nature is infinitely pliant, leads to despair.
Secondly, if individual nature is personal, and death inevitable, the only available philosophies to adopt are that of the Stoic or the Hedonist, either we live for duty or for pleasure.
He states that individualism logically necessitates ingratitude as the default emotional response to life.
He describes the nature of the postmodern progressive as hypocritical, conceited and uncivil, not so much narcissistic as despairing, holding reason to be vanity, and philosophy as useless.
He accuses them of assuming a demeanour of barking moonbat lunacy- you have to love how he waxes lyrical- when they confer with others, exchanging meaningless and soothing slogans and nonsense words, lulled to sleep by the perfect agreement in the perfectly empty word noises, unless someone jars the serenity by disagreeing on some small point.
Immediately the barking moonbats close in- as he so succinctly puts it-screeching and caterwauling, until the deviant offers servile apologies and self-flagellation.
Wright then raises the topic of the culture’s aversion to heroes in works of fiction as well as in life in general. He alludes to a conversation with someone on the subject, of how “they waxed psychological” in attempting to explain the otherwise incomprehensible appeal of books with heroes in them.
Her theory- was that teens liked heroes because teenaged readers are uncertain of their social position. An act of heroism will tend to confirm the hero as being a high-status figure, a man with many friends, and admirers, perhaps even make him attractive to the opposite sex. Acting heroically feeds the hunger teens have for security in their social relationships. Where the teen has no ability to act heroically, he lives vicariously in a fantasy of heroic action by reading about heroes in books.
The noble cause, and other virtues of fortitude, justice, sacrifices, and so-on did not exist for this person. But the baser motive of seeking the good opinion of foolish peers did.
As Wright says, the Marxist worldview doesn’t allow for heroes, only victims and oppressors.
In his conclusion Wright maintains that despair is the key. It explains nearly everything that is so puzzling about the madness of modern life, the self-contradictory dogmas that make up the default assumptions of the Dark Ages in which we live.
To have nothing makes one bitter and irrational.
The modern age is suffering from spiritual and philosophical starvation.
He ends by saying, to cue them we must love them, to cue them we must be a light to them.
To live up to the difficult, nay impossible task of becoming saints, as humble and glorious stars in the host of heaven.