Monday, June 5, 2017

A Meme Summary of Jordan Peterson's Thought

To climb your dominance hierarchy, you need to slay your dragon of chaos and rescue your virgin, roughly speaking. And a fundamental presupposition is that dragons hoard gold and are very low in agreeableness. And the thing about dragons is that they can eat you, eh? So pay attention. But otherwise you slip into nihilism, and you'll end up, say, bitter and resentful because life is suffering. That's why you got to clean your room and rescue your dead father from the belly of the whale/the underworld—because he's been sent to the Gulags, sunshine. You gotta slay the archetypal snake, y'know. You need to be high in conscientiousness and know your own capacity for evil because the shadow self goes all the way down to hell. You got to embrace your inner monster at every level; that's one way of thinking about it. And we just don't know the upper limits to that, so... Sort yourself out. Take responsibility, carry your load, bear your suffering so that your life will have meaning. Don't be a bloody Neo-Marxist. Don't be a puppet. Don't be a mouthpiece for language you detest. Because I'm not using those words. They're the creation of radical left-wing ideologues, and they're low resolution, and I'm not doing it. You must ascend the set of all possible dominance hierarchies, and that's that, bucko, and that's no joke.

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Source: Making the rounds of the Internet...

Repost: Christopher Morrissey, The Christian Humanism of Marshall McLuhan

Postmodern intellectual culture is perhaps best characterized as adhering to the thesis that all reality is socially constructed. Many have mistaken Marshall McLuhan for being a prophet of postmodernity, this new era of technological change marked by a new media domination of the global theatre. But McLuhan himself said:
“I am a Thomist for whom the sensory order resonates with the divine Logos. … Analogy is not concept. It is community. It is resonance. It is inclusive. It is the cognitive process itself. That is the analogy of the divine Logos. … [I]mmediate analogical awareness … begins in the senses and is derailed by concepts or ideas.”[1]
When he paid homage to his hero G.K. Chesterton, who influenced his conversion to Catholicism, McLuhan indirectly revealed something about himself, and how he wished to emulate his model:
“The specific contemporary relevance of Chesterton is this, that his metaphysical intuition of being was always in service of the search for moral and political order in the current chaos. He was a Thomist by connaturality with being, not by study of St. Thomas. And unlike the neo-Thomists his unfailing sense of the relevance of the analogy of being directed his gaze not to the schoolmen but to the heart of the chaos of our time”.[2]
Exasperated with their inability to appreciate his own efforts in this regard, McLuhan wrote to John Atkin that he was “a bit peeved at the local Thomists for leaving it to me to discover the meaning of their own thoughts instead of helping me—they held me up for years” (McLuhan to John Atkin, 16 March 1971).

Still, he resolved late in life to make charitable efforts in this regard; as McLuhan wrote to his friend, the Thomist Fredrick Wilhelmsen: “I am going to do some further work on translating myself into Thomistic terms. It is a commentary on the Thomists that I should have to tell them how to relate themselves to the contemporary world” (McLuhan to Fredrick Wilhelmsen, 10 March 1971).

McLuhan had even argued back in 1954 that “the role of the Catholic humanist is to cultivate a more than ordinary reverence for the past, for tradition, while exploring every present development for what it reveals about man which the past had not revealed. To be contemporary in this sense is no mere snobbism, not a matter of faddishness. It is an arduous but rewarding business.”[3]

With these latter remarks, I believe we find a decisive clue as to McLuhan’s own philosophy of history, implicit in his subsequent intellectual explorations. Regarding how a Thomist ought to make use of Aquinas in our time of postmodernity, McLuhan said that:
“[W]hereas St. Thomas was a great abstract synthesizer facing a unified psychological world, the modern Thomist has an abstract synthesis of human knowledge with which to face psychological chaos. Who then is the true Thomist? The man who contemplates an already achieved intellectual synthesis, or the man who, sustained by that synthesis, plunges into the heart of the chaos? I say ‘sustained’, not guided by, that synthesis; because the Catholic Thomist does not know the answers to contemporary problems in social and political ethics. He knows only when a particular line of action is promising and analogically consistent, whether it will tend to support a valid solution, and whether it is in conformity with reason and being.” (ibid xvii)
No doubt these remarks about Thomism are lesser-known facts about McLuhan. To those who heard him during the height of his fame, his much more famous pronouncements apparently failed to reveal these, his deepest concerns.

Most think of McLuhan simply as a prophet who predicted the Internet and announced the demise of nature, with the message that there is no escape from technology’s media extensions to our nature, no escape from this alteration of our relation to the rest of nature.

Indeed, McLuhan seems to be giving voice to the postmodern, “everything is socially constructed” thesis, when he says things like this about nature:
“Twenty-five hundred years of rational culture are in the process of dissolution. Age-old habits of conceptualization will not serve to train observation on the effects of the new man-made forms of energy. Since Plato, philosophers and scientists have attributed constant forms and patterns of action only to the world of ‘Nature.’ Both Plato and Aristotle, and their followers, as well as all the other schools of philosophy, have refused to recognize any patterns of energy arising from man-made technologies. Having invented ‘Nature’ as a world of rigorous order and repetition, they studied and observed only ‘natural’ forms as having power to shape and influence psyche and society. The world of man’s artifacts was considered neutral until the electric age. As the electric environment increasingly engulfed the old Greek ‘Nature,’ it became apparent that ‘Nature’ was a figure abstracted from a ground of existence that was far from ‘natural.’”[4]
At first glance, this would seem to say there is no nature; it seems to say that everything is constructed. But note the crucial qualifying word in the above passage: “only.” It suggests that McLuhan, rather, is asking us to go beyond Greek thought and extend our inquiry into nature into the places where we have not been accustomed to take it.

McLuhan wishes to draw our attention to the fact that our tools shape us: they shape our perception of what is natural. That technological mediation, altering the sensory grounds of input, is what is missing from the Greek philosophers’ notion of nature. It is not that he recommends we abandon their notion, but rather that we develop it more rigorously, because we have to contend with the way nature and culture are blended in the immediate web of our environmental perception.

A philosophy of history has to take into account both mind-dependent reality (socially constructed realities) and mind-independent reality (for example, natural units, such as rocks, trees, and horses). What is history, after all, if not an awareness of the blend, the ongoing mutual influence, between both?

McLuhan’s philosophy of history is founded on this key idea: we shape our environment, and it shapes us. History obviously encompasses the interaction of both realities: the mind-independent and the mind-dependent.

The task of a Catholic humanism is thus to think about nothing less than all of reality, in its entire scope.

Notes:

[1] McLuhan to John W. Mole, 18 April 1969.

[2] McLuhan, introduction to Paradox in Chesterton, by Hugh Kenner (New York: Sheed and Ward, 1947), xi–xii.

[3] McLuhan, “Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters,” [1954] in The Medium and the Light, 158–59.

[4] McLuhan and Nevitt, Take Today: The Executive as Dropout (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972): 7.

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Source: Christopher Morrissey, "The Christian Humanism of Marshall McLuhan," The Imaginative Conservative, last modified January 7, 2016, accessed June 6, 2017, http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/01/marshall-mcluhans-catholic-humanism-a-thomism-for-the-chaos-of-our-time.html.

Marshall McLuhan on the Role of the Christian Humanist

[...] the role of the Catholic humanist is to cultivate a more than ordinary reverence for the past, for tradition, while exploring every present development for what it reveals about man which the past had not revealed. To be contemporary in this sense is no mere snobbism, not a matter of faddishness. It is an arduous but rewarding business.

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Source: Marshall McLuhan, “Catholic Humanism and Modern Letters,” in The Medium and the Light, ed. Eric McLuhan and Jacek Szklarek (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 1999), 158–59.

Bp. Athanasius Schneider on the Effects of Ignoring Original Sin

[...] without the acceptance of the truth about original sin and sins in general, one cannot understand properly the redemption of the human race through the sacrifice of Christ at the Cross. If one eliminates the language of sin, one finally also eliminates the true redemption; and one then turns Christianity into a Humanism or into a Pelagianism. Then there is left only the self-redemption or a religion of a naturalistic moral ethic and pedagogy, or a new religion of ecology and of climate change.

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Source: Athanasius Schneider, interview by Maike Hickson, LifeSiteNews, June 8, 2015.

Michael Crichton on the Noble Savage and Romanticized Nature

And what about indigenous peoples, living in a state of harmony with the Eden-like environment? Well, they never did. On this continent, the newly arrived people who crossed the land bridge almost immediately set about wiping out hundreds of species of large animals, and they did this several thousand years before the white man showed up, to accelerate the process. And what was the condition of life? Loving, peaceful, harmonious? Hardly: the early peoples of the New World lived in a state of constant warfare. Generations of hatred, tribal hatreds, constant battles. The warlike tribes of this continent are famous: the Comanche, Sioux, Apache, Mohawk, Aztecs, Toltec, Incas. Some of them practiced infanticide, and human sacrifice. And those tribes that were not fiercely warlike were exterminated, or learned to build their villages high in the cliffs to attain some measure of safety.

How about the human condition in the rest of the world? The Maori of New Zealand committed massacres regularly. The dyaks of Borneo were headhunters. The Polynesians, living in an environment as close to paradise as one can imagine, fought constantly, and created a society so hideously restrictive that you could lose your life if you stepped in the footprint of a chief. It was the Polynesians who gave us the very concept of taboo, as well as the word itself. The noble savage is a fantasy, and it was never true. That anyone still believes it, 200 years after Rousseau, shows the tenacity of religious myths, their ability to hang on in the face of centuries of factual contradiction.

There was even an academic movement, during the latter 20th century, that claimed that cannibalism was a white man's invention to demonize the indigenous peoples. (Only academics could fight such a battle.) It was some thirty years before professors finally agreed that yes, cannibalism does inbdeed occur among human beings. Meanwhile, all during this time New Guinea highlanders in the 20th century continued to eat the brains of their enemies until they were finally made to understand that they risked kuru, a fatal neurological disease, when they did so.

More recently still the gentle Tasaday of the Philippines turned out to be a publicity stunt, a nonexistent tribe. And African pygmies have one of the highest murder rates on the planet.

In short, the romantic view of the natural world as a blissful Eden is only held by people who have no actual experience of nature. People who live in nature are not romantic about it at all. They may hold spiritual beliefs about the world around them, they may have a sense of the unity of nature or the aliveness of all things, but they still kill the animals and uproot the plants in order to eat, to live. If they don't, they will die.

And if you, even now, put yourself in nature even for a matter of days, you will quickly be disabused of all your romantic fantasies. Take a trek through the jungles of Borneo, and in short order you will have festering sores on your skin, you'll have bugs all over your body, biting in your hair, crawling up your nose and into your ears, you'll have infections and sickness and if you're not with somebody who knows what they're doing, you'll quickly starve to death. But chances are that even in the jungles of Borneo you won't experience nature so directly, because you will have covered your entire body with DEET and you will be doing everything you can to keep those bugs off you.

The truth is, almost nobody wants to experience real nature. What people want is to spend a week or two in a cabin in the woods, with screens on the windows. They want a simplified life for a while, without all their stuff. Or a nice river rafting trip for a few days, with somebody else doing the cooking. Nobody wants to go back to nature in any real way, and nobody does. It's all talk-and as the years go on, and the world population grows increasingly urban, it's uninformed talk. Farmers know what they're talking about. City people don't. It's all fantasy.

One way to measure the prevalence of fantasy is to note the number of people who die because they haven't the least knowledge of how nature really is. They stand beside wild animals, like buffalo, for a picture and get trampled to death; they climb a mountain in dicey weather without proper gear, and freeze to death. They drown in the surf on holiday because they can't conceive the real power of what we blithely call "the force of nature." They have seen the ocean. But they haven't been in it.

The television generation expects nature to act the way they want it to be. They think all life experiences can be tivo-ed. The notion that the natural world obeys its own rules and doesn't give a damn about your expectations comes as a massive shock. Well-to-do, educated people in an urban environment experience the ability to fashion their daily lives as they wish. They buy clothes that suit their taste, and decorate their apartments as they wish. Within limits, they can contrive a daily urban world that pleases them.

But the natural world is not so malleable. On the contrary, it will demand that you adapt to it-and if you don't, you die. It is a harsh, powerful, and unforgiving world, that most urban westerners have never experienced.

Many years ago I was trekking in the Karakorum mountains of northern Pakistan, when my group came to a river that we had to cross. It was a glacial river, freezing cold, and it was running very fast, but it wasn't deep---maybe three feet at most. My guide set out ropes for people to hold as they crossed the river, and everybody proceeded, one at a time, with extreme care. I asked the guide what was the big deal about crossing a three-foot river. He said, well, supposing you fell and suffered a compound fracture. We were now four days trek from the last big town, where there was a radio. Even if the guide went back double time to get help, it'd still be at least three days before he could return with a helicopter. If a helicopter were available at all. And in three days, I'd probably be dead from my injuries. So that was why everybody was crossing carefully. Because out in nature a little slip could be deadly.

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Source: Michael Crichton, "Remarks to the Commonwealth Club" (presentation, San Francisco, CA, September 15, 2003).

Michael Crichton on Failed Environmental Predictions

Well, it's interesting. You may have noticed that something has been left off the doomsday list, lately. Although the preachers of environmentalism have been yelling about population for fifty years, over the last decade world population seems to be taking an unexpected turn. Fertility rates are falling almost everywhere. As a result, over the course of my lifetime the thoughtful predictions for total world population have gone from a high of 20 billion, to 15 billion, to 11 billion (which was the UN estimate around 1990) to now 9 billion, and soon, perhaps less. There are some who think that world population will peak in 2050 and then start to decline. There are some who predict we will have fewer people in 2100 than we do today. Is this a reason to rejoice, to say hallelujah? Certainly not. Without a pause, we now hear about the coming crisis of world economy from a shrinking population. We hear about the impending crisis of an aging population. Nobody anywhere will say that the core fears expressed for most of my life have turned out not to be true. As we have moved into the future, these doomsday visions vanished, like a mirage in the desert. They were never there---though they still appear, in the future. As mirages do.

Okay, so, the preachers made a mistake. They got one prediction wrong; they're human. So what. Unfortunately, it's not just one prediction. It's a whole slew of them. We are running out of oil. We are running out of all natural resources. Paul Ehrlich: 60 million Americans will die of starvation in the 1980s. Forty thousand species become extinct every year. Half of all species on the planet will be extinct by 2000. And on and on and on.

With so many past failures, you might think that environmental predictions would become more cautious. But not if it's a religion. Remember, the nut on the sidewalk carrying the placard that predicts the end of the world doesn't quit when the world doesn't end on the day he expects. He just changes his placard, sets a new doomsday date, and goes back to walking the streets.

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Source: Michael Crichton, "Remarks to the Commonwealth Club" (presentation, San Francisco, CA, September 15, 2003).

Michael Crichton on the Religion of Environmentalism

I studied anthropology in college, and one of the things I learned was that certain human social structures always reappear. They can't be eliminated from society. One of those structures is religion. Today it is said we live in a secular society in which many people---the best people, the most enlightened people---do not believe in any religion. But I think that you cannot eliminate religion from the psyche of mankind. If you suppress it in one form, it merely re-emerges in another form. You can not believe in God, but you still have to believe in something that gives meaning to your life, and shapes your sense of the world. Such a belief is religious.

Today, one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths.

There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

Eden, the fall of man, the loss of grace, the coming doomsday---these are deeply held mythic structures. They are profoundly conservative beliefs. They may even be hard-wired in the brain, for all I know. I certainly don't want to talk anybody out of them, as I don't want to talk anybody out of a belief that Jesus Christ is the son of God who rose from the dead. But the reason I don't want to talk anybody out of these beliefs is that I know that I can't talk anybody out of them. These are not facts that can be argued. These are issues of faith.

And so it is, sadly, with environmentalism. Increasingly it seems facts aren't necessary, because the tenets of environmentalism are all about belief. It's about whether you are going to be a sinner, or saved. Whether you are going to be one of the people on the side of salvation, or on the side of doom. Whether you are going to be one of us, or one of them.

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Source: Michael Crichton, "Remarks to the Commonwealth Club" (presentation, San Francisco, CA, September 15, 2003).