The Big Picture

 

In 1952, a German Quaker teacher/editor named William Hubben wrote a short book with an ambitious scope: “Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche & Kafka.” Mr. Hubben found these four men to be insightful observers of the collapse of Christianity, and prophets of the resulting destruction of Western civilization. Written immediately after the two world wars, it appeared to Mr. Hubben that their predictions were coming true. He also seemed at times to find hope in their messages, for example:

Logic and human reasoning are inadequate to comprehend truth, and in this emphasis Dostoevsky speaks entirely the language of Kierkegaard, of whom he had never heard. Christianity is a way of life, an existential condition. Again, like Kierkegaard, who affirmed that suffering is the climate in which man’s soul begins to breathe. Dostoevsky stresses the function of suffering as part of God’s revelation of truth to man.

Could the destruction and suffering of the early 1900s perhaps help mankind understand “God’s revelation of truth”? I’m not sure that’s what he was suggesting. But he certainly was suggesting, through much of the book, that the dismal outlook of these brilliant outcasts was not a series of overwrought conspiracy theories, but rather a perfectly rational explanation of the inevitable. It would seem that Mr. Hubben had a point. Which I find horrifying. Because a lot of very smart people right now see the decline of Western civilization to be accelerating in these modern times.

What if they’re right?

There have always been conspiracy theorists, and naysayers, and Bible-banging hellfire-and-brimstone ideologues. Such people are often ignored. Which is generally a healthy approach for most of us.

But what if the collapse of Western civilization predicted by the men above is progressing just as they foresaw? What if the freedom and happiness of the American experiment was a brief historical anomaly? What if the rise of China and Islam are simply the world’s way of returning mankind to its long, historical baseline of tyranny, cruelty, and oppression?

I know what you’re thinking. No, I have not had any bourbon tonight. Perhaps I should.

I’m not sure if I believe any of this myself. But I can understand why so many people are so concerned. Because the more I think about this, the more concerned I get.

Mr. Hubbard read the great philosophers, watched the two world wars, and thought, quite literally, “Oh my God … ”

I read about history, watch the suicide of Western civilization, and think, quite literally, “Oh my God … ”

Perhaps Mr. Hubbard and I are both being melodramatic. Perhaps we should take a chill pill, and not overreact to isolated events that do not necessarily predict the destiny of mankind. For Pete’s sake. Right?

But the history of mankind is horrifying. If the future behavior of men is predicted by the past behavior of men, then we have a very serious problem. The American founders understood what they were up against and did a heroic job building a country that maximized the potential of men, in many ways. But those who seek to control men are finally gaining the upper hand and seek to destroy (or “fundamentally transform”) this remarkable country, founded on a remarkable idea.

It’s strange how something like America must be built by rare, great men, but can be destroyed by common, petty thugs. Perhaps this is just the way of men. Perhaps it has always been thus. Perhaps this is why history is so horrifying.

Perhaps we should be paying more attention to the big picture. And to Dostoevsky, Kierkegaard, Nietzsche, and Kafka. And Orwell and Huxley. And Pope John Paul II and Reagan and Thatcher. And Sowell and Friedman. Perhaps we should be paying more attention to a lot of people who are a lot smarter than me.

Or perhaps I should be drinking more bourbon and trying to relax. I’m not sure.

Although right now, bourbon sounds pretty good …

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  1. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    It is easy to get caught up in the stressful thought process that these are the “worst of times”, and “critical to the future as we know it”.  I have felt that way for a couple of years, with the lockdowns, the exponential slide towards socialism, the cancelling, the 
    “fact-checking”, the pResident’s all encompassing failure at every level and turn, the mandates, the tyranny, the destructive nature of BLM, and the injustice of the persecution of Jan 6th paraders. All of it.

    I try to get some semblance of history, to scale the trauma and stresses of today versus, different periods. From ancient or modern worlds, there are so many periods that dwarf our issues, from world wars, dark ages, the centuries of crusades, pol pot, genghis khan, thousands sacrificed at Incan temples, Trojan wars, the Persian War, the Peloponnesian War and the campaigns of Alexander the Great.  All of these easily dwarf our current situation.   But we live today, and see our world threatened with perceived destruction, so it is the only thing that matters to us now.  

    History can be terrifying.  Ironically, with all of the horrors I listed in the paragraph above, from those centuries of ashes, rose the US, founded on unique and noble principles.  It would be awesome if we kept it going a few more centuries.  I hope we do. And I’ll join you with a glass of bourbon, as we watch our children and grandchildren wrestle with their future and see if they can preserve it. 

    • #1
  2. Headedwest Coolidge
    Headedwest
    @Headedwest

    In my college days, I worked my way through the multi-volume set of Will (and then his wife Ariel) Durant’s “The Story of Civilization”. I tended to skip the art and music parts (for the most part) and just read the history of the rise and fall of civilizations and empires. There is a numbing repetition of what happens:

    1. A civilization has success and it works, so it grows and maybe conquers weaker states.

    2. The success brings weakness and the rise of people who don’t conform to the norms.

    3. At some point the regime needs to devalue the currency, and eventually it collapses.

    It’s kind of easy for me to imagine that we are between stage 2 and 3 at this moment.

    Here is a long quote from the wiki article on Durant about how he saw this cycle:

    Hence a certain tension between religion and society marks the higher stages of every civilization. Religion begins by offering magical aid to harassed and bewildered men; it culminates by giving to a people that unity of morals and belief which seems so favorable to statesmanship and art; it ends by fighting suicidally in the lost cause of the past. For as knowledge grows or alters continually, it clashes with mythology and theology, which change with geological leisureliness. Priestly control of arts and letters is then felt as a galling shackle or hateful barrier, and intellectual history takes on the character of a “conflict between science and religion.” Institutions which were at first in the hands of the clergy, like law and punishment, education and morals, marriage and divorce, tend to escape from ecclesiastical control, and become secular, perhaps profane. The intellectual classes abandon the ancient theology and—after some hesitation—the moral code allied with it; literature and philosophy become anticlerical. The movement of liberation rises to an exuberant worship of reason, and falls to a paralyzing disillusionment with every dogma and every idea. Conduct, deprived of its religious supports, deteriorates into epicurean chaos; and life itself, shorn of consoling faith, becomes a burden alike to conscious poverty and to weary wealth. In the end a society and its religion tend to fall together, like body and soul, in a harmonious death.

    • #2
  3. Trink Coolidge
    Trink
    @Trink

    Hubby and I don’t watch news anymore.   He’s a retired radiologist.  He’s seen enough suffering.  He wants to enjoy what time remains.  However.  We both know . . believe that the world we grew up in is gone.   It’s over.   It’s somewhat consoling to know that there are others who are cognizant of the looming storm and are hopefully preparing as much as possible for what lies ahead.   I read your posts because they blend these troubling facts with hands-in-the-air beseeching that feels so right – so familiar.

    • #3
  4. Henry Castaigne Member
    Henry Castaigne
    @HenryCastaigne

    Trink (View Comment):

    Hubby and I don’t watch news anymore. He’s a retired radiologist. He’s seen enough suffering. He wants to enjoy what time remains. However. We both know . . believe that the world we grew up in is gone. It’s over. It’s somewhat consoling to know that there are others who are cognizant of the looming storm and are hopefully preparing as much as possible for what lies ahead. I read your posts because they blend these troubling facts with hands-in-the-air beseeching that feels so right – so familiar.

    Maybe the Christians will outbreed the atheists and the world will become conservative again. 

    • #4
  5. Henry Racette Contributor
    Henry Racette
    @HenryRacette

    Dr. Bastiat: But the history of mankind is horrifying.

    It has its horrible moments, certainly. Things that happen fast are usually bad, because of the relative pace of building and destroying. And history tends to be a compendium of things that happen fast.

    But if we somehow wrote the Grand Unified Equation of the Human Condition, and we plugged in all the variables, of prosperity and longevity and pain and health and freedom and suffering and war and peace — if we plugged them all in and then plotted the state of humanity over the past five thousand years…

    I think it would probably trend upwards. Even with the great wars, I suspect it would trend upwards. Perhaps that really is the big picture.

    • #5
  6. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    I noticed that you seem to have an undercurrent in your political writings that voting may be effectively over, and this is alarming.  Though, you haven’t stated this outright I don’t think.  Nevertheless that’s what I fear.  And you’re right that the Bible (Jesus specifically) predicted an apocalypse before His return and institution of His Kingdom on Earth, and I call this the greatest (true) conspiracy theory ever.

    And I write here about the oh-woe-is-me decline of the West and the rise of evil men and their evil plans of evil world-wide governmental, economic and spiritual unification, and at the same time I hope for anyone rationally to contradict me.

    But on the other hand, I read of Klaus Schwab’s book in which he openly states that his intention is world domination, and we will have nothing.  And I look at the consolidation power of world-wide forums and organizations.  And we see the use of electronic funds such as credit cards being used for common everyday payments being revoked for certain people who defy the governmental and social story line; and the attempts to bring about a world-wide digital currency, such as they attempted in India, and which we know can turn off financial access to anyone for any reason.

    We see the world being supplied by fewer and fewer corporations spanning borders of sovereign countries, which are said to be controlling more and more of what is produced and distributed in order to create shortages and raise prices, such as what is happening now to beef.

    And we see world-wide government lockdowns and travel restrictions especially in the Western world, to control a world-wide plague of exaggerated scale, and country leaders saying that if you don’t get a shot in the arm, you will be forced out of society, out of jobs, out of stores and hospitals.

    And we see an imposed social order all over the world, or at least in the advanced parts of it, in which thoughts are prohibited as well as words, and this order is, by past cultural standards, irrational and perverse.

    This seems not a coincidental accumulation of diverse occurrences, but seems to be a world-wide and coordinated effort.

    If this is the end times, as apparently every generation has thought it was for two thousand years, it is workable this time.

    God spared Nineveh from destruction because they repented.

    My morning devotional reading today was:

    “For the truths sake, which dwelleth in us, and shall be with us for ever.”
    — 2 John 2

    Once let the truth of God obtain an entrance into the human heart and subdue the whole man unto itself, no power human or infernal can dislodge it. We entertain it not as a guest but as the master of the house—this is a Christian necessity, he is no Christian who doth not thus believe.

    In this there is confidence and peace.  Fear not.

    • #6
  7. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    Oh, and regarding Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Hitler, we in the United States have killed an average of 1.3 million innocent people each year since 1973.  Often literally drawn and quartered.  

    That’s a total of 62 million slaughtered.  Mao can’t even beat this.

     

    • #7
  8. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    Flicker (View Comment):
    This seems not a coincidental accumulation of diverse occurrences, this seems to be a world-wide and coordinated effort.

    While people do plan and coordinate, no comprehensive planning and coordination is necessary for all this to occur. It’s just the nature of things (and people). Without understanding that, I don’t think we have much idea what we’re up against.

    • #8
  9. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    This seems not a coincidental accumulation of diverse occurrences, this seems to be a world-wide and coordinated effort.

    While people do plan and coordinate, no comprehensive planning and coordination is necessary for all this to occur. It’s just the nature of things (and people). Without understanding that, I don’t think we have much idea what we’re up against.

    So then, Why now, Why this, and Why everywhere are irrelevant questions?  It’s just a perfect storm of control and oppression?

    • #9
  10. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):
    This seems not a coincidental accumulation of diverse occurrences, this seems to be a world-wide and coordinated effort.

    While people do plan and coordinate, no comprehensive planning and coordination is necessary for all this to occur. It’s just the nature of things (and people). Without understanding that, I don’t think we have much idea what we’re up against.

    Everybody knows everybody.  Here’s just one example.

    The Four Companies That Control the 147 Companies That Own Everything

    Brendan Coffey

    There may be 147 companies in the world that own everything, as colleague Bruce Upbin points out and they are dominated by investment companies as Eric Savitz rightly points out. But it’s not you and I who really control those companies, even though much of our money is in them. Given the nature of how money is invested, there are four companies in the shadows that really control those companies that own everything.

    Before I reveal them, some light math:

    According to the 2011 annual factbook from the Investment Company Institute, there is $24.7 trillion in all the mutual funds in the world (a little less than half from the US). Based on data from the ICI, $1.24 trillion of this is directly invested in index funds, plus another $992 billion in assets beyond that $24.7 trillion in Exchange Traded Funds, which aren’t mutual funds but are index funds. That means the bulk of that money is in “active” managed funds or fund of funds.

    But then consider this: the chief of hedge funds at a very large asset manager told me last week (alas, I cannot identify either) that an internal study his firm recently performed found that the vast majority of mutual funds defined as actively managed see 95% of the assets they hold determined by an index. That means just 5% of actively managed funds really are driven by the active manager’s judgment.

    The 147 Companies That Control Everything

    Bruce Upbin

    Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.

    • #10
  11. The Reticulator Member
    The Reticulator
    @TheReticulator

    So what? If it wasn’t these, it would be some others.

    • #11
  12. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    April 7, 2021 — Dr. Michael Yeadon, Pfizer’s former Vice President and Chief Scientist for Allergy & Respiratory, 32 years in the industry leading new medicines research, “the most senior research position” in his field.

    “But what I would like to do is talk about immune escape because I think that’s probably going to be the end game for this whole event, which I think is probably a conspiracy. Last year I thought it was what I called ‘convergent opportunism,’ that is a bunch of different stakeholder groups have managed to pounce on a world in chaos to push us in a particular direction. So it looked like it was kind of linked, but I was prepared to say it was just convergence.”

    “I [now] think that’s naïve. There is no question in my mind that very significant powerbrokers around the world have either planned to take advantage of the next pandemic or created the pandemic. One of those two things is true because the reason it must be true is that dozens and dozens of governments are all saying the same lies and doing the same inefficacious things that demonstrably cost lives.

    “And they are talking the same sort of future script which is, ‘We don’t want you to move around because of these pesky varmints, these “variants”’… but they’re all saying this and they are all saying ‘don’t worry, there will be “top-up” vaccines that will cope with the potential escapees.’ They’re all saying this when it is obviously nonsense.”

    “I think the end game is going to be, ‘everyone receives a vaccine’… Everyone on the planet is going to find themselves persuaded, cajoled, not quite mandated, hemmed-in to take a jab.

    “When they do that every single individual on the planet will have a name, or unique digital ID and a health status flag which will be ‘vaccinated,’ or not … and whoever possesses that, sort of single database, operable centrally, applicable everywhere to control, to provide as it were, a privilege, you can either cross this particular threshold or conduct this particular transaction or not depending on [what] the controllers of that one human population database decide. And I think that’s what this is all about because once you’ve got that, we become playthings and the world can be as the controllers of that database want it.

    “For example, you might find that after a banking reset that you can only spend through using an app … off this [database], your ID, your name, [and] your health status flag.”

    “And, yes, certainly crossing an international border is the most obvious use for these vaccine passports, as they are called, but I’ve heard talk of them already that they could be necessary for you to get into public spaces, enclosed public spaces. I expect that if they wanted to, you would not be able to leave your house in the future without the appropriate privilege on your app.

    • #12
  13. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    The above excerpt of an April interview is preceded in the article by a synopsis of his view of covid and its variants. and followed by examples of what might be the near future, some of which have already happened.

    • #13
  14. Phil Turmel Coolidge
    Phil Turmel
    @PhilTurmel

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Perhaps we should be paying more attention to a lot of people that are a lot smarter than me.

    Or perhaps I should be drinking more bourbon, and trying to relax.  I’m not sure.

    Embrace the healing power of “and“.  Beside, one should lay in a large stock of distilled spirits–to use as antiseptics in the dystopian wasteland to come.

    • #14
  15. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):
    Maybe the Christians will outbreed the atheists and the world will become conservative again.

    And don’t forget how the left is aborting itself . . .

    • #15
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor
    Susan Quinn
    @SusanQuinn

    It is both helpful and dangerous to compare our current world to the past. We tend to notice the worst and discount the best–it’s kind of what we do. But like Henry in Comment #5, I refuse to get stuck there. In these times, how do we know that those who would tear us down wouldn’t relish our getting stuck in the disasters and negativity and finally just give up? I’m not willing to make their job easy for them. As much as I complain, they will have to take me kicking and screaming, if at all.

    And I continue to hold on to hope and the resilience of the American people.

    • #16
  17. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Is it that God has at last removed his blessing from the U.S.A. and what we feel now is just the clank of the old historical machinery, the sudden jerking ahead of the roller-coaster cars as the chain catches hold and carries us back into history with its ordinary catastrophes, carries us out and up toward the brink from that felicitous and privileged siding where even unbelievers admitted that if it was not God who blessed the U.S.A., then at least some great good luck had befallen us, and that now the blessing or the luck is over, the machinery clanks, the chain catches hold, and the cars jerk forward?”

    ― Walker Percy, Love in the Ruins

    or, for another mechanical analogy:

    The spring is wound up tight. It will uncoil of itself. That is what is so convenient in tragedy. The least little turn of the wrist will do the job . . . The rest is automatic. You don’t need to lift a finger. The machine is in perfect order; it has been oiled ever since time began, and it runs without friction

    –Jean Anouilh, Antigone

     

    People really don’t realize what they’re messing with here, with the destruction of the underpinnings of civilization.

     

     

     

    • #17
  18. David Foster Member
    David Foster
    @DavidFoster

    Back in 1950, Arthur Koestler wrote a novel titled The Age of Longing, which is basically about the West’s loss of civilizational self-confidence.  It wasn’t among AK’s most successful works, but it is an important and thought-provoking work, probably more relevant today…certainly more relevant in the US…than it was when it first came out.

    My review: Sleeping with the Enemy.

     

    • #18
  19. JennaStocker Member
    JennaStocker
    @JennaStocker

    “the dismal outlook of these brilliant outcasts was not a series of overwrought conspiracy theories, but rather a perfectly rational explanation of the inevitable.”

    A very good, thought provoking post. I don’t think the author you cite is wholly correct in his assessment- or at least the one you present. At least for Dostoyevsky, he understood the danger of man in a utilitarian and rational society. Man’s intent may be altruistic in this state, but it comes at the expense of suppressing the outflow Christian compassion. In this sense, it parallels what we see battling today: one in which “freedom” comes only from unmooring ourselves from the restraints of god to pursue a utopia in which man is the ultimate “decider of fate”; and the freedom that comes within the bounds of a belief in the inherent fallibility of man. He needs the constraints of a higher god or moral order to pursue the virtues obtainable in an orderly society.

    Joseph Frank wrote a very aptly about Crime and Punishment that exemplifies Dostoyevsky’s philosophy: “antinomy between instinctive kindness, sympathy, and pity on the one hand and, on the other, a proud and idealistic egoism that has become perverted into a contemptuous disdain for the submissive herd”.

    And in the end, I think he was optimistic about man’s capacity to recognize and pursue redemption. It’s parallel in a way to the Stoics who follow the virtues as a means to the truth. Nietzsche declared “god is dead”, but it wasn’t His absence that was a warning, but that man killed the idea of god, placing himself at the pinnacle in His stead, but again, I remain cautiously optimistic that that America specifically and Western ideals generally will prevail in the backlash of the attacks on these things today. For too long we allowed the hypnosis of calm sooth us into submission to a cadre of elites (bipartisan!) who believed in the superiority of their worldview apart from religion and anchored to the State. But sometimes the warring is indicative of the importance of the fight – and an awakening of liberty loving, God-fearing people who won’t go to the gulag. Thanks again for the post! (Sorry for the rant)

    • #19
  20. KCVolunteer Lincoln
    KCVolunteer
    @KCVolunteer

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Oh, and regarding Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Hitler, we in the United States have killed an average of 1.3 million innocent people each year since 1973. Often literally drawn and quartered.

    That’s a total of 62 million slaughtered. Mao can’t even beat this.

    A woman says, “My body, my choice.” But, what if her body is nothing more than a vessel, capable of producing a miracle, temporarily on loan from God?

    • #20
  21. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    JennaStocker (View Comment):
    (Sorry for the rant)

    Brilliant stuff, Jenna.  Thanks.

    • #21
  22. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Trink (View Comment):

    Hubby and I don’t watch news anymore. He’s a retired radiologist. He’s seen enough suffering. He wants to enjoy what time remains. However. We both know . . believe that the world we grew up in is gone. It’s over. It’s somewhat consoling to know that there are others who are cognizant of the looming storm and are hopefully preparing as much as possible for what lies ahead. I read your posts because they blend these troubling facts with hands-in-the-air beseeching that feels so right – so familiar.

    Maybe the Christians will outbreed the atheists and the world will become conservative again.

    It will collapse and become conservative out of survivalist necessity.

    • #22
  23. JoshuaFinch Coolidge
    JoshuaFinch
    @JoshuaFinch

    If politics is downstream from culture (Breitbart), is there really much difference between conservatives and progressives? Do conservative men talk about God to their kids more than progressive men? Do conservative women dress more conservatively than progressive women? Only a spiritual awakening expressed in daily conversation and modest behavior can bring us back. I was hoping Kanye West would speak out more about his spiritual journey. In this day and age, it may take a celebrity or two to start a spiritual movement of consequence.

    • #23
  24. Flicker Coolidge
    Flicker
    @Flicker

    KCVolunteer (View Comment):

    Flicker (View Comment):

    Oh, and regarding Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Hitler, we in the United States have killed an average of 1.3 million innocent people each year since 1973. Often literally drawn and quartered.

    That’s a total of 62 million slaughtered. Mao can’t even beat this.

    A woman says, “My body, my choice.” But, what if her body is nothing more than a vessel, capable of producing a miracle, temporarily on loan from God?

    Yes, without going into how human beings (or even sex itself) came into existence, it’s clear that human beings want sex.  But today sex is disconnected from reproduction.  But that’s sex’s chief function: to bring new beings into existence.  Women cannot rightly say, This is my body, because it is in the nature of humanity to reproduce, and the mechanism for this is a symbiosis of the existing adult and the forming infant.  Certainly the adult knows more, and has greater consciousness, and knowable personal desires than a forming infant, but this one-sided power is not to be abused.

    It’s not my body anymore, but our body.

    The extension of This is my body, has always been, I don’t need to breast feed you, either.  But women have carried and fed us, and we are all recipients of this grace.  To do otherwise is fundamentally inhuman, and leads to extinction.

    And if mankind is nothing more than a meat sack (as some call it) and has no importance or purpose for existing, then Mao did nothing wrong.  And killing our young is acceptable.

    • #24
  25. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Dr. Bastiat:

    Logic and human reasoning are inadequate to comprehend truth, and in this emphasis Dostoevsky speaks entirely the language of Kierkegaard, of whom he had never heard. Christianity is a way of life, an existential condition. Again, like Kierkegaard, who affirmed that suffering is the climate in which man’s soul begins to breathe. Dostoevsky stresses the function of suffering as part of God’s revelation of truth to man.

     

    I think this statement is true with respect to Kierkegaard, if by “logic and human reasoning” we mean philosophy as it became understood in the modern world vs. philosophy as it was understood in the classical and medieval worlds. In my view, Kierkegaard was not “down on reason”, but was passionately dedicated to recovering a richer and more profound understanding of reason that had been lost in the modern era. The modern era, dazzled by science, took the abstract, disinterested point of view of the spectator that is appropriate for empirical science to be the model for all thought. The result was that the model thinker of the 19th century was someone like Hegel, a university professor who spun out elaborate logical theories intended to capture all of human life like flies in a spider web. But what do these theories have to do with the man Hegel, who gets up every morning, eats his breakfast and goes about his day? Compare him to Socrates, whose thought was not merely a logical reconstruction of existence, but the fabric of his own life. Or, even more so, a St. Thomas Aquinas.

    It’s hard for us to get a grip on Kierkegaard, not because he is particularly difficult, but because we take the viewpoint of the disinterested spectator as the sine qua non of “real thinking” so much so that we can barely imagine any alternative.  So when Kierkegaard proposes that, in fact, “real thinking” can only begin with passionate interest rather than disinterest, we take him to mean that “reason is inadequate to comprehend truth”, and he is resorting to emotion or irrationalism.  But he means just the opposite. “Passionate interest” means living in your thought, the way Socrates lived in his thought. Given the opportunity to escape prison while awaiting execution, Socrates demurred on the grounds that his understanding of justice prevented him from doing so. Not because he thought had the final word on justice – he invited his friends to dispute with him about it – but because he understood that justice really means something only if I submit to it, here and now. That’s not emotion or irrationalism, but what Kierkegaard called “subjective reasoning”; in other words, reasoning as though the results will have decisive consequences for you as a subject, rather than as a disinterested spectator.

    • #25
  26. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    We should remember that Christianity, and the civilization it inspired, is the religion of the Resurrection. As J.R.R. Tolkien said

    “I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”

    Christianity has been in crisis and on the verge of defeat and extinction from Day One. But to quote another Roman Catholic, Etienne Gilson, “The Catholic Church always buries its undertakers.”

    This is the test of Faith. Do we lose heart when all seems lost and everyone has abandoned his post? Or do we turn with confidence to God in such situations, knowing that it is just then that he reveals His Glory?

    • #26
  27. Percival Thatcher
    Percival
    @Percival

     

    J Climacus (View Comment):

    We should remember that Christianity, and the civilization it inspired, is the religion of the Resurrection. As J.R.R. Tolkien said

    “I am a Christian, and indeed a Roman Catholic, so that I do not expect ‘history’ to be anything but a ‘long defeat’ – though it contains (and in a legend may contain more clearly and movingly) some samples or glimpses of final victory.”

    Christianity has been in crisis and on the verge of defeat and extinction from Day One. But to quote another Roman Catholic, Etienne Gilson, “The Catholic Church always buries its undertakers.”

    This is the test of Faith. Do we lose heart when all seems lost and everyone has abandoned his post? Or do we turn with confidence to God in such situations, knowing that it is just then that he reveals His Glory?

    It’s not fair that I only get to like that once.

    We’ve been repressed, suppressed, and depressed before. So what else is new?

    • #27
  28. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    It’s hard for us to get a grip on Kierkegaard, not because he is particularly difficult, but because we take the viewpoint of the disinterested spectator as the sine qua non of “real thinking” so much so that we can barely imagine any alternative.  So when Kierkegaard proposes that, in fact, “real thinking” can only begin with passionate interest rather than disinterest, we take him to mean that “reason is inadequate to comprehend truth”, and he is resorting to emotion or irrationalism.  But he means just the opposite. “Passionate interest” means living in your thought, the way Socrates lived in his thought.

    Comment of the year.  Brilliant stuff.  I need to go lie down for a moment.

    I’ve long admired Kierkegaard, even though I’ve struggled with him for the reasons you describe.  As a math / science geek, it’s difficult for me to balance the impact of emotions and rational thought.   Neither one really works, on its own.  I think what makes Kierkegaard great is his open recognition of the limitations of both.   I’m still trying to fit this together in my mind.  He died at 42 years old, probably of TB.  Tragic.  I would have loved to have read the evolution of this thinking over the next 40 years.

    I consider Kierkegaard to be one of the most extraordinary philosophers of all time.  Even though I don’t quite understand him, despite my best efforts.

    Brilliant stuff.  Thanks.

    • #28
  29. J Climacus Member
    J Climacus
    @JClimacus

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    J Climacus (View Comment):
    It’s hard for us to get a grip on Kierkegaard, not because he is particularly difficult, but because we take the viewpoint of the disinterested spectator as the sine qua non of “real thinking” so much so that we can barely imagine any alternative. So when Kierkegaard proposes that, in fact, “real thinking” can only begin with passionate interest rather than disinterest, we take him to mean that “reason is inadequate to comprehend truth”, and he is resorting to emotion or irrationalism. But he means just the opposite. “Passionate interest” means living in your thought, the way Socrates lived in his thought.

    Comment of the year. Brilliant stuff. I need to go lie down for a moment.

    I’ve long admired Kierkegaard, even though I’ve struggled with him for the reasons you describe. As a math / science geek, it’s difficult for me to balance the impact of emotions and rational thought. Neither one really works, on its own. I think what makes Kierkegaard great is his open recognition of the limitations of both. I’m still trying to fit this together in my mind. He died at 42 years old, probably of TB. Tragic. I would have loved to have read the evolution of this thinking over the next 40 years.

    I consider Kierkegaard to be one of the most extraordinary philosophers of all time. Even though I don’t quite understand him, despite my best efforts.

    Brilliant stuff. Thanks.

    You’re welcome, and thank you. Anytime I see your posts on Ricochet I know they are “must reading.”

    My real education began when I read Kierkegaard’s Concluding Unscientific Postscript after finding it in a used bookstore in Cambridge. Since then (almost 30 years ago), that work has been a companion book that I reread every few years. It’s the antidote to the “objective thinking” that has unfortunately effaced the fundamental and ancient insights of Western philosophy, summarized in Kierkegaard’s notion of “subjective thinking.” Prior to encountering Kierkegaard, I had read a good bit of philosophy and taken several courses in college. It all seemed to miss the point, but I didn’t know why or what the point actually was. I had read some Plato but, trapped in objective thinking, could never really take it seriously. Where were the proofs and equations? It was all just “talk.” 

    Kierkegaard was a revelation and after reading the CUP, classical philosophy became open to me and I eagerly began devouring Plato and Aristotle. It really was life changing. 

    • #29
  30. Dr. Bastiat Member
    Dr. Bastiat
    @drbastiat

    Flicker (View Comment):
    I noticed that you seem to have an undercurrent in your political writings that voting may be effectively over, and this is alarming.  Though, you haven’t stated this outright I don’t think.  Nevertheless that’s what I fear.

    You’re right – I’ve been careful not to state this explicitly.  I do fear, however, that leftists are gaining more & more control over our election systems, which means that conservatives must win more & more votes to overcome the margin of cheating built into our system.   I speak not simply of dead people voting, but of many layers of gamesmanship employed by the left, as described by Time Magazine

    • #30