Monday, August 21, 2006

The Trees That Bare The Barren Fruit - pt 4

Irrationality, like buried chemical waste, sooner or later must seep into all the tissues of thought.
- Richard Mitchell - Less than words can say

What Roots produce Trees which bare such barren Fruit?
To make and hold such ideas as those of the Leftists discussed in the previous post, they must hold concepts that have little to do with the reality that you and I experience here on earth, which is a perfect point from which to introduce the following quote, directly from the Horses Mouth of Chomsky himself:

"These ideas grew out of the Enlightenment; their roots are in Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Humboldt's Limits of State Action, Kant's insistence, in his defense of the French Revolution, that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved. With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order."

(Make a mental note of the statement that “that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved” it is a common formulation that we’ll come back to later.)

(And by the way, “Libertarian Socialism”? Excuse me? Though I feel the libertarian movement is flawed, one thing Libertarians are not known for is supporting big government intrusion and welfare programs of Socialism. Again, leftists seek to take the positive connotations of a word, while discarding all of its actual meaning in order to lend those positive connotations “Liberty, Independence, Success” to their real goal – the all pervasive controlling hand “for the peoples best interests”.)

Where he and his kind got such ideas to make such bizarre thought possible, was from The Rationalist school, first advanced in the modern era by Descartes. They hold that the truth is accessible only by using your faculty of reason – exclusively. That means that you get ideas and understanding, by thought alone, and any static accidentally picked from the outside world through things like Facts, will have to be worked around as best as you are able.

“I think therefore I am” means that only the thoughts which are somehow occurring within his head are valid! [ignore the fact that he couldn’t have detailed thoughts, or words, or any idea of what words referred to without the Reality of what they refer to – to refer to!] Descartes even formulated an entire theory of Physics – without referring to the real world! And his followers – Kant, Hegel, Goethe and more, even fought to have his bogus ramblings reign supreme over that of Newtons, which was so vulgar as to actually use reality to test & validate it’s propositions.

They feel that Knowledge developed through the use of reason alone is more certain and reliable, because it was more closely connected to pure “Idea” thought while the senses are, at best, inadequate and, at worst, deceptive.

The problem with rationalism, in a nutshell, is that it leaves reality out of it’s description of reality. Descartes’ ludicrous physics, were constructed wholly from rationalistic assumptions about motion, which are so amazingly wrong – it’s hard to see how even in his own head, he thought they might be “true”. (Keep that word “True” in mind – what does it mean? True in relation to what?)

Newton’s physics, came from the motto “I don’t hypothesize [in the absence of facts],” which was and is essentially true and remains part of the scientific toolbox to this day.
As another amazing example, Goethe even sat alone in a completely darkened room to “observe” the behavior of his eyes, in order to test theories of…
…wait for it…



Descartes’ principle of “I think, therefore I am,” is the starting point for all knowledge in his philosophic system. Think of all the pointy headed theories you’ve ever heard – and reflect that they were derived with this philosophic framework at the shaping root of it all, designed by what their theorizers wanted to believe would be true within how they felt the world should be, and then the answer to your oft shouted question of “how the HELL could someone really come up with this stuff?!!!” will become much clearer to you.

As helpful & beneficial to the world that Descartes one contribution of truly astounding value to the world, “Analytic Geometry”, was, his attempt to use it to reduce everything, and I do mean everything, to quantitative analysis, has been nearly as destructive, as analytic geometry was constructive. If it couldn’t be quantified, it couldn’t lay claim to real knowledge. Whenever you hear Sociologists reduce feelings to 30% negative – or a Utilitarian claiming that they can balance this action, which may rob some amount producers of some portion of their wealth, against the good they believe will be created for the needier segments of society, you’re hearing the echo of Descartes.

Poison BlossomsSo Descartes got this ball of thought disconnected from reality rolling down the philosophical hill. While Kant would eventually provide it with a massive amount of writing to serve as its foundational theory – it isn’t very solid, but it is very big, it would be Rousseau whose theories would supply the emotional impact and staying power – particularly among the Educational Establishment, which it needed to carry it past Kant’s coming philosophic ballast, and into the ‘practical’ application within the visible world, through Marx.

It’s worth noting that Kant, whom people actually did set their clocks by as he walked down the street at the same time each and every day, blew his routine once, in order to finish Rousseau's 'Emile' – his treatise on what and how education should be conducted. He was hooked. You might want to keep in mind that all five of Rousseau’s children, illegitimately conceived, were given by him, over the objections of their mother, to a foundling asylum (essentially an orphanage), one after the other – a near certain death sentence at the time, which indeed proved true for each of them, as they all died there – this man is the fount of wisdom for our public schools). It was Rousseau's portrait that Kant had mounted in his study.

(Rousseau’s educational concepts expressed in Emile essentially encouraged the teacher to allow the child to attend to whatever seemed to interest him, at what ever pace seemed agreeable to him, without taxing his mind with anymore scientific ideas than absolutely necessary, and similarly for any Artistic practices that didn’t exalt the community first and foremost. It is Rousseaus pen that we have to thank for all the structureless classes lacking in content and intellectual discipline, the “New Math” and “See and Say” educational trends that have turned this country, once the most educationally advanced countries in the world, into the present nation of mostly illiterate and scientifically ignorant that has come down to us in the progressive school theories of today. But that is for a later posting.)

In contrast to what Kant would feel towards Rousseau, Voltaire (France’s last bright light) saw the viciousness of Rousseau’s views, even while his fellow "Philosophes" cheered him on. Voltaire believed that it was only through the disciplined practice of Reason that any possibility existed for eventually throwing off the chains of the worlds ancient passions and superstitions. After reading a copy of Rousseau's 'work' The Social Contract, Voltaire replied:

"I have received your new book against the human race, and thank you for it. Never was such cleverness used in the design of making us all stupid. One longs, in reading your book, to walk on all fours. But as I have lost that habit for more than sixty years, I feel unhappily the impossibility of resuming it. Nor can I embark in search of the savages in Canada, because the maladies to which I am condemned render a European surgeon necessary to me; because war is going on in those regions; and because the example of our actions has made the savages nearly as bad as ourselves."

In his debut essay written on whether "Progress of Science and the Arts" had been morally beneficial or not, Rousseau held that once people had lived lives that were simple, virtuous, and happy. Iron, wheat and other such benefits of Science and the Arts, had given rise to population increases and wars making the peoples lives more complex, more corrupt, and unhappy. Governments were more powerful and individual liberties were lost. Anticipating Marx's "Opiate of the masses", Rousseau held that Princes promoted the peoples involvement with the arts because they helped to "wind garlands of flowers around the chains that bind them".

While Rousseau marketed (anachronistic, but accurate) the idea that there should be an equality in political rights and duties, there was also a "general will" volonté générale which should be interpreted and imposed in order to limit the ability of the wealthy to impose on the freedoms and the lives of others.

As historian Will Durant notes in In "Rousseau and Revolution", vol 10 of his monumental "Story of Civilization", about one of Rousseau's entries in Diderot's Encyclopedia, 7 years before writing his Social Contract:

Now for the first time Rousseau announces his peculiar doctrine that there is in every society a "general will" over and above the algebraic sum of the wishes and dislikes of its constituent individuals. The community, in Rousseau's developing philosophy, is a social organism with its own soul:

"The body politic is also a moral being, possessed of a will; and this general will, which tends always to the preservation and welfare of the whole and of every part, is the source of the laws, and constitutes for all the members of the state, in their relations to one another, the rule of what is just or unjust."

What Rousseau means is that there exists overseeing all, a disembodied general Will, independent of insignificant individuals and which they foresee qualified elites will be required to reveal that Will’s its meaning and purpose.

As Irving Babbit at the close of the 19th century, often summarized in books such as "Literature and the American College", Rousseau held that men and women naturally have sympathetic feelings toward their fellows; hence, all that is needed for good to emerge is for people to give free vent to their impulses. If corruption is evident, according to this view, its source must be sought not in the hearts of individual men and women but in social and political institutions.

This of course also means that new social and political institutions must be continually erected and empowered to correct and guide the poor people back into their simple natural lives.

About Emile, the book that stopped the clock of Kant’s regular walk, Durant notes:

For a moment he (Rousseau) doubted whether a man who had sent all his children to a foundling asylum, and who had failed as a tutor in the Mably family, was fit to talk on parentage and education; but as usual he found it pleasant to give his imagination free rein, hampered by experience.

Why should he have doubts about his fitness to write on educating children? Hmm, perhaps this line from his Confessions might give a clue:

“My thoughts were incessantly occupied with girls and women, but in a manner peculiar to myself. These ideas kept my senses in a perpetual and disagreeable activity.... My agitation rose to the point where, unable to satisfy my desires, I inflamed them with the most extravagant maneuvers. I went about seeking dark alleys, hidden retreats, where I might expose myself at a distance to persons of the [other] sex in the state wherein I would have wished to be near them. That which they saw was not the obscene object- I did not dream of that; it was the ridiculous object [the buttocks]. The foolish pleasure which I had in displaying it before their eyes cannot be described. From this there was but a step to the desired treatment [whipping]”

Obviously still a role model for many public school teachers (sorry, couldn’t resist)

Essentially Rousseau took Descartes one step further, where Descartes held that “I think therefore I am”, Rousseau can be summed up by saying “I Feel therefore I Want it to BE!” He exalted the idea of the Noble Savage, over that of society. In his view, civilization went horribly wrong when it left the path of nature’s basic subsistence level living, and pursued Reason.

Edmund Burke said of the French Revolutionaries about Rousseau:

“… there is a great dispute, among their leaders, which of them is the best resemblance of Rousseau. In truth, they all resemble him.... Him they study, him they meditate; him they turn over in all the time they can spare from the laborious mischief of the day or the debauches of the night. Rousseau is their canon of Holy Writ; to him they erect their first statue.”

And Philosophical historian Bryan Magee noted:

"With Rousseau the individual has no rights at all to deviate from the general will, so this democracy is compatible with a complete absence of personal freedom. Here was the first formulation in Western philosophy of some of the basic ideas underlying the great totalitarian movements of the 20th century, Communism and Fascism—which likewise claimed to represent the people, and to have mass support, and even to be democratic, while denying individual rights; and which also allotted a key role to charismatic leaders; and which waged both hot and cold war against the Anglo-Saxon democracies who based themselves on Lockean principles."

When you convince a people that a General Will exists, & the best ideas results from urges & feelings over Reason – what types of philosophical, educational & political systems must result? What kind of society are such ideas likely to result in? Whatever it might be, it shouldn’t be surprising that with ideas such as Rousseau’s inspiring it, the anarchic terror of the French Revolution, is what must follow. And it was led by one of Rousseau’s most admiring students, Robespierre.

In Robespierre’s utopian vision, the individual has the duty "to detest bad faith and despotism, to punish tyrants and traitors, to assist the unfortunate and respect the weak, to defend the oppressed, to do all the good one can to one's neighbor, and to behave with justice towards all men." Robespierre was a disciple of Rousseau--both considered the general will an absolute necessity. For Robespierre, the realization of the general will would make the Republic of Virtue a reality. Its denial would mean a return to despotism. Robespierre knew that a REPUBLIC OF VIRTUE could not become a reality unless the threats of foreign and civil war were removed. To preserve the Republic, Robespierre and the CPS instituted the Reign of Terror. Counter-revolutionaries, the Girondins, priests, nobles, and aristocrats immediately fell under suspicion. Danton (1759-1794), a revolutionary who sought peace with Europe, was executed.

Though the movers and shakers of the French Revolution attempted to couch its statements in similar clothing to the ideas of the American Revolution, it focused on the collective rather than the individuals.

It’s interesting to note that the American Constitution and Bill of Rights came down to us, intellectually, through Locke, and the movers and shakers of the French Revolution read it and then filtered it through the warping lens of Rousseau, and the policies and documents they produced (this should seem familiar by now) attempted to keep the favorable connotations of “Rights” and “Liberty”, but they proceeded to discard everything which Rights and Liberty would depend on to be supported. Where the American Bill of Rights lists what government cannot do, the Revolutionaries’ declared that citizens must be enabled to be Free.

In Rousseau’s view, property laws existed for the wealthy to protect their wealth. According to Rousseau, the mere existence of property, and the laws that went with it, was what were most responsible for pitting men against each other. How Chomsky-like.

As seems to be the case with many aspiring socialist tyrants, Rousseau admired the ideals and practices of ancient Sparta, especially their system of mandatory public education for all children, which he felt would instill a love of country, morality and martial spirit in its youth. That was the surface connotation that he and so many others peddled. The underlying facts about the Spartans were that they were an elite few who brutally ruled the much larger population of Helots in their country as slaves, slaves who were forced to tend to and provide for their masters every need.

Rousseau’s (and his spiritual offspring, Marx) special perspective on the Spartans however, was to recommend reversing the tables, somewhat, by making the wealthy into societies virtual slaves, by suggesting that significant taxes should be levied on inheritances and luxuries in order to be used to provide an income for the state, and its many needy works.

The desire for the unearned, and a special kind of anger towards that which is Earned, is I think the real tie that binds the leftists together from Rousseau through Marx and down to our present day Progressive/Leftists.

More on that in the next post.

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