A Divided Foundation

 

A political theory designed to understand human beings as they are in reality, and not to tell us stories about the adventures of some fantastic creature invented by philosophers, cannot avoid this capacity of the human individual to recognize the aims of the collective as his own.

I’ve been reading Yoram Hazony’s book The Virtues of Nationalism lately. I’ve also been reading Reason’s abortion articles and Ricochet, and a host of other things.

As a result, I’m struggling with one of the assumptions Hazony makes about human nature and I think he greatly takes for granted the need for a moral framework for it to persist past childhood… that is the natural inclination to view a collective group as an extension of oneself.

Indeed, the very love that he evidently feels for his wife and children, and for his parents, and for brothers and sisters, and that moves him to protect them when they are in danger, is nothing other than another name for this same urge to protect the integrity of his self—for these loved ones have been embraced, insofar has his own consciousness is concerned, within the rubric of his own self, and are experienced as if they were a part of him.

This is the primary element of tribalism, however it is even more primarily the foundation of family.

He makes some great points… that how we view family is that they are a part of ourselves and we care for them as if they were ourselves. It has biblical support,  but is not necessarily biblical. This concept is present in Exodus 24 (?) Concerning the freeing of a slave who married and had kids while a slave, it’s in I Corinthians’ assertion that a husband and wife are the same body, and it’s in Peter’s admonishment of failing to care for your own makes one worse than an unbeliever.

However, our modern concept of individualism has so rotted out this natural inclination to view others around us as an extension of self that we can’t even argue ourselves out of a paper bag when it comes to the moral imperative of women not aborting their own babies, where there should be a moral imperative to protect as if it were her own self. In fact, if we view the baby as an extension of the mother, transgender arguments does away with the arguments against harming your own body (an assumption made in I Corinthians)!

I’m reading his book and am finding myself sinking into despair at how far gone our culture is that what was once taken for granted as morally understood no longer is at all. We have no agreed upon moral assumptions on which to build arguments on. 

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  1. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    I share your grief at the state of society.

    Stina: I’m reading his book and am finding myself sinking into despair at how far gone our culture is that what was once taken for granted as morally understood no longer is at all. We have no agreed upon moral assumptions on which to build arguments on. 

    I see this to a smaller degree here on R. The issue is the abandonment of God and His precepts. 

    • #1
  2. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpring
    @WillowSpring

    Stina: I’m reading his book and am finding myself sinking into despair at how far gone our culture is that what was once taken for granted as morally understood no longer is at all. We have no agreed upon moral assumptions on which to build arguments on. 

    I get the same feeling when reading history about our founding fathers and the debate over the Constitution.

    • #2
  3. Manny Member
    Manny
    @Manny

    Add me to one who shares this grief.  I was never a Libertarian, but I certainly had more Libertarian leanings.  Until I realize how much harm such radical individualism was doing to our society and to western culture as a whole.

    Edit: Let me add, it’s a two fold punch to our culture.  Yes the radical individualism coupled by the huge amounts of immigration from places that we do not have a shared culture.  More homogeneous societies are much more integrated and unified.

    • #3
  4. I Walton Member
    I Walton
    @IWalton

    Don’t despair.  We’ve let the Kooks take over and while they’re just a large minority, they run the things they set out to take over.  And while they are anti Christianand Jew they’ve never thought seriously about the matter and are unaware of the history of  human thought, so we just have to get them out of power, by replacing the organized interests that run the public schools system and liberal arts colleges with parents and a very broad set of ordinary and diverse interests who have interests in kids who learn and know how to learn. Then get our act together  and win the political battles at all levels of government.  Tall order.  But the issue is as much political as theological.This is what happens to traditions when we let mobs of  faddish simpletons accumulate too much power.

    • #4
  5. GrannyDude Member
    GrannyDude
    @GrannyDude

    Prompted by this, Stina, I went to Reason.com and looked at a few articles and—perhaps more importantly—the comments.

    I’ve said before, here at Ricochet, that I count the “bodily autonomy” argument for abortion the most persuasive: that is, that an unwanted (and/or hazardous)  pregnancy is a unique situation in which the rights of two persons come into conflict.  

    Pro-choice commenters much prefer to describe one of those persons as a “zygote” or “embryo,” of course, but when pinned down and forced to consider the 10, 12, 16, 20+ week fetus, they default to elaborate allegories, e.g. the landlord who has the right to evict an unwanted tenant even if the tenant is helpless and   even if the eviction requires deadly force.

    I’ve made such comparisons myself, but what is interesting to me is that they don’t seem to take the next step.  Whether such a landlord would be legally justified or not,  could such a landlord possibly be considered good?

    What does it say about the state of our culture when, every year, thousands of American women behave like peculiarly savage, cruel “landlords”  and everyone else is required to offer sympathetic approval?  

     

    • #5
  6. Kevin Schulte Member
    Kevin Schulte
    @KevinSchulte

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    What does it say about the state of our culture when, every year, thousands of American women behave like peculiarly savage, cruel “landlords” and everyone else is required to offer sympathetic approval?

    Great analogy Granny,.

    I would only add wicked landlord to the list.

    • #6
  7. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Nationalism’s opponents are the proponents of today’s version of liberalism, neo-liberalism, and libertarians. And you are right there is no basis of a shared morality, i.e., no consensus on what constitutes the good life. But has there ever been? That’s why there is politics and when that doesn’t work, armed conflict.

    The real problem has come when liberalism has divorced itself from nationalism and nationalism from liberalism. The two are needed together to temper one another. And it should be strictly within a domestic setting. Carrying it over into foreign relations is dangerous and results in needless, unproductive, expensive wars.  See John Mearsheimer’s Great Delusion: Liberal Dreams and International Realities.

     

    • #7
  8. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Stina: As a result, I’m struggling with one of the assumptions Hazony makes about human nature and I think he greatly takes for granted the need for a moral framework for it to persist past childhood… that is the natural inclination to view a collective group as an extension of oneself.

    I’m sorry, but that is so very, very wrong.  You elide family and tribe, and refer to them both by the phrase “collective group.”  One’s family is certainly an extension of oneself.  One’s tribe is not, and the responsibilities owed to one’s tribe are very different from what is owed to one’s family.  Raising children requires a combination of dictatorship and socialism, without much democracy at all.  A family organized that way is healthy.  A tribe organized that way is hopelessly sick and dysfunctional.

    And I am moved to say one other thing.  Preface:  I am not a person of faith myself, but I make it a point to support and encourage faith in others.  (Unless and until their faith drives them to evil actions, like flying planes into buildings.)  I believe that faith, more often than not, is a comfort to the faithful and a motivator to moral behavior.  So I wish you well in your faith.  On the other hand, I am getting just a little bit sick of hearing that all of society’s problems are the result of people not holding the faith of the speaker.  In other words, all of society’s problems are my fault.  So here’s my comment:  No, they’re not.  If you want to form a theocracy, please do it somewhere else.

    • #8
  9. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    GrannyDude (View Comment):
    Prompted by this, Stina, I went to Reason.com and looked at a few articles and—perhaps more importantly—the comments.

    It absolutely was the comments! It always is for me. And it isn’t just abortion topics that I see it… its everywhere. That one was just the starkest one… that a woman has no obligation to her offspring if she willingly engages in activity that makes their existence possible.

    Of course she has no obligation! That’s slavery! So says the individualist.

    Hang On (View Comment):
    But has there ever been? That’s why there is politics and when that doesn’t work, armed conflict.

    Politics was about ordering… not about morality. And a people could debate on the ordering by building arguments on a shared moral framework. The moral assumptions in a cohesive nation are built into the cake. You don’t need to keep re-establishing them.

    I can make a case for nationalism with someone who understands the moral obligation one has for his family. But even among conservatives, this rabid form of individualism has taken root and there are some right here on Ricochet who question that very obligation.

    I can argue it from the perspective of Bible-based christianity (such an odd limiter, but strangely necessary), because the assumption among such believers is that our moral code derives from it.

    But I can not defend nationalism from people who lack that basic foundation.

    And this isn’t just about nationalism or politics, but a moral foundation that sees our fortunes as tied to the fortunes of those around us – our families, communities, cities, countries. It is lacking in our business ethics, investment ethics, and even in our inability to have compassion for neighbors in worse shape than we are.

    Its pervasive. And I would absolutely argue that that kind of pervasiveness is new. Our moral underpinnings is widespread narcissism.

    • #9
  10. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    So I wish you well in your faith. On the other hand, I am getting just a little bit sick of hearing that all of society’s problems are the result of people not holding the faith of the speaker.

    A civilization can not stand with a divided foundation.

    Whatever that foundation is, it can’t be disconnected sand with no bonds from one to the next.

    Be it Christianity or Judaism, Taoism or Buddhism, the foundation can’t sustain widespread heterogeneity without collapsing in on itself.

    Without a shared moral basis, you have no foundation to build the institutions your civilization relies on.

    • #10
  11. Larry3435 Member
    Larry3435
    @Larry3435

    Stina (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    So I wish you well in your faith. On the other hand, I am getting just a little bit sick of hearing that all of society’s problems are the result of people not holding the faith of the speaker.

    A civilization can not stand with a divided foundation.

    Whatever that foundation is, it can’t be disconnected sand with no bonds from one to the next.

    Be it Christianity or Judaism, Taoism or Buddhism, the foundation can’t sustain widespread heterogeneity without collapsing in on itself.

    Without a shared moral basis, you have no foundation to build the institutions your civilization relies on.

    Thus sayeth you.  Speaking ex cathedra, of course, from no authority in particular. That all you got?

    • #11
  12. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Thus sayeth you. Speaking ex cathedra, of course, from no authority in particular. That all you got?

    Thus sayeth history and philosophy. I’ve got thousands of years backing me up. You have Locke.

    • #12
  13. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Stina:

    He makes some great points… that how we view family is that they are a part of ourselves and we care for them as if they were ourselves. It has biblical support, but is not necessarily biblical. This concept is present in Exodus 24 (?) Concerning the freeing of a slave who married and had kids while a slave, it’s in I Corinthians’ assertion that a husband and wife are the same body, and it’s in Peter’s admonishment of failing to care for your own makes one worse than an unbeliever.

    However, our modern concept of individualism has so rotted out this natural inclination to view others around us as an extension of self…

    I don’t think that’s a Biblical idea at all. Obviously, a husband and wife are one flesh, but that only has significance because it is not true of the other men and women around us.

    When the New Testament says Christians are one body, it says so not because all men are brothers, but specifically because we are the body of Christ. In Christ we find our individuality as different parts of His body with different functions (eye, ear, hand, etc.), and also our unity.

    The sanctity of human life, and the worth and dignity of each human being, aren’t based (solipsistically) on whether they’re part of me, or you. I would hate to have our political leaders behave as if we are just extensions of themselves!

    Our worth as humans derives from our being made in the image of God. If I respect and value the people around me, it’s not because they’re me. It’s because something higher than me made those people, and put Himself into them.

    • #13
  14. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Stina (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    But has there ever been? That’s why there is politics and when that doesn’t work, armed conflict.

    Politics was about ordering… not about morality. And a people could debate on the ordering by building arguments on a shared moral framework. The moral assumptions in a cohesive nation are built into the cake. You don’t need to keep re-establishing them.

    I can make a case for nationalism with someone who understands the moral obligation one has for his family. But even among conservatives, this rabid form of individualism has taken root and there are some right here on Ricochet who question that very obligation.

    I can argue it from the perspective of Bible-based christianity (such an odd limiter, but strangely necessary), because the assumption among such believers is that our moral code derives from it.

    But I can not defend nationalism from people who lack that basic foundation.

    And this isn’t just about nationalism or politics, but a moral foundation that sees our fortunes as tied to the fortunes of those around us – our families, communities, cities, countries. It is lacking in our business ethics, investment ethics, and even in our inability to have compassion for neighbors in worse shape than we are.

    Its pervasive. And I would absolutely argue that that kind of pervasiveness is new. Our moral underpinnings is widespread narcissism.

    I agree with you that there has to be a set of values, a morality on which a nation is founded. But there has never been 100% agreement and never will be. I also agree with you about a splintering so there is no cohesion currently.  But then that is why there are rules within one society with police, courts and a security apparatus.  It has always been there in our country and in others. Who has control of it is based on politics. Having control of it and using those blunt instruments more overtly as is happening now is precisely because there is not the set of values and morals you speak about. It also happened prior to the Civil War. It is often repeated that at that time, both North and South prayed to the same God, read the same scripture. But they didn’t believe the scripture said the same thing and they believed God meant different things all the while professing to be devout Christians. So I guess I am arguing that it isn’t as new as you seem to think. But the consequences are horrendous when there is such a fracturing.

    • #14
  15. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    Our worth as humans derives from our being made in the image of God. If I respect and value the people around me, it’s not because they’re me. It’s because there’s something higher than me made those people, and put Himself into them.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself?

    Carry each other’s burdens?

    Weep when one weeps, laugh when one laughs?

    Corporatism, while mostly lost in modern theology, is a part of the tradition of Christian theology.

    But I would like to point out that my quoted comment was limited in scope to FAMILY for a reason, something your comment clearly ignored. I’m not yet able to construct my arguments for extending family, but even the concept of family as a cohesive unit isn’t recognized.

    You say husband and wife, but children, brothers & sisters, and parents are also “one flesh”. In fact, a child is the incarnation of the husband’s and wife’s marriage bond.

    • #15
  16. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Hang On (View Comment):
    But then that is why there are rules within one society with police, courts and a security apparatus. It has always been there in our country and in others.

    The greater the splintering, the bigger and more authoritarian the government.

    • #16
  17. Hang On Member
    Hang On
    @HangOn

    Stina (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    But then that is why there are rules within one society with police, courts and a security apparatus. It has always been there in our country and in others.

    The greater the splintering, the bigger and more authoritarian the government.

    Absolutely.

    Sorry I didn’t understand earlier you were trying to get at and limit conversation to family. I hope I have not stepped on toes going far beyond that.

    • #17
  18. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Stina: As a result, I’m struggling with one of the assumptions Hazony makes about human nature and I think he greatly takes for granted the need for a moral framework for it to persist past childhood… that is the natural inclination to view a collective group as an extension of oneself.

    I’m sorry, but that is so very, very wrong. You elide family and tribe, and refer to them both by the phrase “collective group.” One’s family is certainly an extension of oneself. One’s tribe is not, and the responsibilities owed to one’s tribe are very different from what is owed to one’s family. Raising children requires a combination of dictatorship and socialism, without much democracy at all. A family organized that way is healthy. A tribe organized that way is hopelessly sick and dysfunctional.

    And I am moved to say one other thing. Preface: I am not a person of faith myself, but I make it a point to support and encourage faith in others. (Unless and until their faith drives them to evil actions, like flying planes into buildings.) I believe that faith, more often than not, is a comfort to the faithful and a motivator to moral behavior. So I wish you well in your faith. On the other hand, I am getting just a little bit sick of hearing that all of society’s problems are the result of people not holding the faith of the speaker. In other words, all of society’s problems are my fault. So here’s my comment: No, they’re not. If you want to form a theocracy, please do it somewhere else.

    I agree with the first paragraph, but I don’t think the second coheres.

    Saying that society requires a foundation of religious faith, or just saying it makes us more moral people doesn’t get us to any kind of theocracy. I don’t know how you go from saying that faith helps people, to complaining about people who are in favor of more people having faith.

     

    • #18
  19. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Hang On (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Hang On (View Comment):
    But then that is why there are rules within one society with police, courts and a security apparatus. It has always been there in our country and in others.

    The greater the splintering, the bigger and more authoritarian the government.

    Absolutely.

    Sorry I didn’t understand earlier you were trying to get at and limit conversation to family. I hope I have not stepped on toes going far beyond that.

    Eh it wasn’t you.

    The part Blissey quoted revolved around family and he claimed it wasn’t biblical (I think he was referring to the tribe as not being biblical, but I had limited that part to family).

    • #19
  20. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    Stina (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    So I wish you well in your faith. On the other hand, I am getting just a little bit sick of hearing that all of society’s problems are the result of people not holding the faith of the speaker.

    A civilization can not stand with a divided foundation.

    Whatever that foundation is, it can’t be disconnected sand with no bonds from one to the next.

    Be it Christianity or Judaism, Taoism or Buddhism, the foundation can’t sustain widespread heterogeneity without collapsing in on itself.

    Without a shared moral basis, you have no foundation to build the institutions your civilization relies on.

    Thus sayeth you. Speaking ex cathedra, of course, from no authority in particular. That all you got?

    Well, Abraham Lincoln is a pretty good authority.  Though he was paraphrasing a better one.

    What do you got, Larry?  What are your examples of societies with no moral consensus that have done well?

    • #20
  21. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Stina (View Comment):

    Larry3435 (View Comment):
    Thus sayeth you. Speaking ex cathedra, of course, from no authority in particular. That all you got?

    Thus sayeth history and philosophy. I’ve got thousands of years backing me up. You have Locke.

    Locke actually bases his arguments on the God of the Bible, so Stina, you are the one with Locke on your side.

    On the other side are Voltaire, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Nietzche, and the postmodernists.  Not good company, in my estimation.

    • #21
  22. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Stina: However, our modern concept of individualism has so rotted out this natural inclination to view others around us as an extension of self that we can’t even argue ourselves out of a paper bag when it comes to the moral imperative of women not aborting their own babies, where there should be a moral imperative to protect as if it were her own self.

    I don’t consider the movement toward favoring abortion to have arisen because of an over indulgence in individualism. Most of those who support the concept of abortion as a right I have for some long period thought of as politically leftists, not religious, and adhering more to collectivist concepts. Most of those who do not support abortion as a right do so under the concept of protecting the right to life of an unborn individual. This latter may stem from religious doctrine or from founding doctrine of the U.S. Constitution.

    Some of the points made in the post and earlier comments are unclear so I welcome comments of those who think I am correct or misguided in what I had been thinking about abortion.

    • #22
  23. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    Most of those who do not support abortion as a right do so under the concept of protecting the right to life of an unborn individual

    My revulsion of abortion is deeper than that… it’s a violation of the bond between mother and child. And that philosophy has largely been developed along the same lines as my valuation of familial and community bonds.

    For most, I’d grant it’s about murdering an individual.

    But if it’s just an individual where the mother has no obligation to it outside of its individual right to life, then how do you defend shooting a robber in your home?

    I can’t reconcile these two views without the an added layer. The baby is more than an individual. It is her child.

    • #23
  24. Misthiocracy secretly Member
    Misthiocracy secretly
    @Misthiocracy

    Folk might be interested in the Secular Pro-Life facebook page:

    https://www.facebook.com/secularprolife/

    • #24
  25. Joshua Bissey Coolidge
    Joshua Bissey
    @TheSockMonkey

    Stina (View Comment):

    Joshua Bissey (View Comment):
    Our worth as humans derives from our being made in the image of God. If I respect and value the people around me, it’s not because they’re me. It’s because there’s something higher than me made those people, and put Himself into them.

    Love your neighbor as you love yourself?

    Carry each other’s burdens?

    Weep when one weeps, laugh when one laughs?

    Corporatism, while mostly lost in modern theology, is a part of the tradition of Christian theology.

    But I would like to point out that my quoted comment was limited in scope to FAMILY for a reason, something your comment clearly ignored. I’m not yet able to construct my arguments for extending family, but even the concept of family as a cohesive unit isn’t recognized.

    You say husband and wife, but children, brothers & sisters, and parents are also “one flesh”. In fact, a child is the incarnation of the husband’s and wife’s marriage bond.

    Then I misunderstood you. My apologies .

    • #25
  26. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Good podcast…

    http://ricochet.com/podcast/the-american-mind/what-is-nationalism-a-conversation-with-chris-demuth/

     

    • #26
  27. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Regardless whether the language we use in fact shapes our thoughts, it certainly does reflect them. Reading your post I was struck first by the word collective in both the first quoted text and in your commentary.

    You lament that the foundations of society are divided – what do you see to be the fault line? I suggest it divides those who perceive collectives from those who choose communities.

    • #27
  28. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Barfly (View Comment):
    I suggest it divides those who perceive collectives from those who choose communities.

    Its Hazony’s word, but communities are collectives. The conservative issue with the collective was being forced into one by the government… top down grouping.

    But we do organize ourselves into collectives naturally by free association and by inherited obligation. A man and woman who choose to marry start a collective (family) based on free association. Their offspring does not freely associate, but is nevertheless bound to that collective. Through passing down of morals and values from parents to children, they may find themselves as members of other collectives involuntarily (until they are older) as a member of a faith community or citizen of a country.

    These are collectives. It isn’t just socialism. It’s a natural way we organize ourselves, which is why free association was part of our constitution.

    • #28
  29. Bob Thompson Member
    Bob Thompson
    @BobThompson

    Stina (View Comment):
    These are collectives. It isn’t just socialism. It’s a natural way we organize ourselves, which is why free association was part of our constitution.

    Stina: However, our modern concept of individualism has so rotted out this natural inclination to view others around us as an extension of self

    I, and I think most conservatives, are ok with collectives as long as the association is voluntary. I don’t follow your point on the rotting out of the concept of individualism except as applied to abortion and the ruling of the Supreme Court which was wrong. Of course, those who favor involuntary collectives, i.e. government or certain groups who try to incorporate such through religion, will apply many things similar to that treatment of abortion in the name of individualism, which is a a wrong approach.

    • #29
  30. Stina Member
    Stina
    @CM

    Bob Thompson (View Comment):
    I don’t follow your point on the rotting out of the concept of individualism

    I think there is an extreme to individualism that is becoming more prevalent… one that most classical liberals with any traditional bent would disagree with or deny its existence. It’s all over libertarianism and conservative economic policy, where there doesn’t exist a moral ethic in our culture to consider the impact we have on the people closest to us. This individualism has become a moral ethic itself, rather than a philosophy of governing people as individuals.

    Chris DeMuth also called it a kind of narcissism in that podcast I linked.

    • #30

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