Friday, July 01, 2022

Disorienting America - the modern thinking behind abandoning True North

We've already noted the abundance of good intentions that patriots like Noah Webster, Dr. Rush, and Ben Franklin had when urging a 'New!' system of education upon us as a means to improve people and fit them to secure their new Republic, much of which sounded a lot like what 'conservatives' often say today. But were you aware that they also expressed some intentions which many would find to be not just at odds with the more liberty oriented ideals of our Founding Fathers, but which sounded more than a little bit like what we'd expect to hear from a Hillary Clinton or a (former) Gov McAuliffe?

I've picked on Noah Webster enough already, here're two quotes off the top from another one of our Founding Reformers, Dr. Rush:
"...Let our pupil be taught that he does not belong to himself, but that he is public property..."
, or of education for political and ideological purposes:
"...From the observations that have been made it is plain that I consider it as possible to convert men into republican machines. This must be done if we expect them to perform their parts properly in the great machine of the government of the state..."
, and similar statements can be found from Noah Webster, and Ben Franklin, though in their defense, it doesn't take much reading of the rest of what they had to say to realize that they didn't intend those statements to be as alarming as they are to anyone who knows the history that has followed in the wake of such statements, but the more important thing to note is how easily their good intentions concealed even from themselves, the radical nature of the unstated assumptions that are inherent in what they'd proposed. We, OTOH, don't have their excuse, as their theoretically potential future is our actually documented past (and present), and we should know that, and we should know its effects on our past, and present, and how it is likely to affect our future.

The fact is that despite the very American sentiments that were 'in the air' at the end of the 18th century, there was something else in the air that was exerting a more southerly pull upon the compass arrows of those who came within its influence, and though it had many sources, where they all first came together most prominently at, was through the celebrated scribblings of Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

Despite the glowing captions you'll undoubtedly find around his smiling face in most of your kids Social Studies textbooks, where he's usually portrayed as a champion of 'Rights!' and a leader in 'The Age of Reason', it was Rousseau who infamously described the man who engages in the process of reasoning as being 'a depraved animal' (which should raise some questions about the rest of those textbooks as well).
"...a state of reflection is a state against nature, and that the man who meditates is a depraved animal..." Discourse on the Origin of Inequality Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Rousseau was a determinist, a 'necessitarian', believing that a person's life was not what results from the character, understanding, and judgement which their own choices had fashioned for them, but that 'free will' was an illusion and their lives were but the necessary products of the circumstances of their environment [Clarification: Rousseau didn't claim to be a determinist, he wrote often and much about reasoning and making choices, but the truth is that Rousseau denied the value of reasoning, reviled what came of it, and believed that people were, in later terms, 'products of their environment'. What he claimed in the pretty phrases, he denounced and denied in the details, which I've walked through before here. Occasionally a troll has a good point, I should have made a clear distinction between Rousseau's stated position, and my assessment of it. Do yourself a favor, and look closer at his words, start to finish - do they add up?]. While I can easily imagine why Rousseau would want to blame his own character & choices on the environment to explain why he prowled through the streets at night in search of young women to expose himself to, or to explain why he took each of his six infant children from their mother's breast and sent them off to certain death in a foundling hospital, but exactly which environmental issues would cause that sort of behavior against a person's will, escapes me.

What textbooks should instead be making known to students about Rousseau, is that he was one of, if not the first, major figure to denounce Western Civilization as being a mistake, and to glorify the primitivism of the 'noble savage' as being superior to it; and to deride property and property rights as mistakes that were the root of all evil, and to condemn the institutions of marriage and the family, and to promote a modern sense of Fascism wherein those who thought and spoke in disagreement with the General Will of the state - that they "...will be forced to be free..." (hence The Terror and the Guillotine of  Robespierre & Marat in the French Revolution), and he was one of the first to seek to radically reform the purpose and means of educating the young ('Emile; or, On Education') so that they'd better fit into his ideal mold for them. In short, he was more Marxist than Marx, before Marx was even born, and it is no stretch at all to say that without Rousseau, there would have been no Marx, as the German philosophers who Marx learned from, were rooted in the ill-reasoning mind of Rousseau.

Rousseau's darker intentions fed the roots of German philosophy via the likes of Immanuel Kant, who idolized him, and it was Kant's convoluted philosophy that declared that the problem with philosophy was that reality, 'the thing itself', was ultimately unknowable to man, and so Reason had to be destroyed to save appearances (more on that in coming posts). Another was Johan Gotleib Fichte, an influential follower of Kant's, who said that it wasn't really a problem that we couldn't know reality, because our own thoughts were the only reality that really mattered. And then there's his density himself, GWF Hegel, who scoffed at both reality and traditional philosophy's concerns over 'mere Aristotelian contradictions', as he claimed that the only 'reality' that really mattered was what emerged from his form of the 'Dialectic' begun by Kant & Fichte, for 'resolving' contradictions, a process that was popularized (by Fichte) as "Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis".

That 'new reality' of the German Method filled the philosophically charged atmosphere of the early 1800s, and young American scholars breathed it in deep while taking the popular 'European tour',
"...The impact of German university scholarship upon nineteenth-century American higher education is one of the most significant themes in modem intellectual history..." Higher education in transition: a history of American colleges and universities
and its innovations were everywhere, from the University of Berlin's (re)introduction of 'Phd' certifications, to the fashion of giving everything a more scientific air as men in lab coats were going about subjecting everything from poetry to history, and the classroom as well, to laboratory experimentation. Those results were compiled and quantified and analyzed into claims of having accurately measured people's thoughts and behavior (see Wilhelm Wundt) well enough, to be able to 'improve them' by 'scientifically' managing and improving every aspect of society (hello 'Social Science' and "...Social studies emerged as an attempt to use education as a vehicle to promote social welfare..."). Age-old wisdom, such as Aristotle's observation that:
" is the mark of an educated man to look for precision in each class of things just so far as the nature of the subject admits; it is evidently equally foolish to accept probable reasoning from a mathematician and to demand from a rhetorician scientific proofs..."
, were shrugged off as 'old fashioned' fears whose contradictions to their new ideas, were being resolved through their Dialectical process, and synthesized into new more useful terminologies & practices (what Nietzsche's line has quipped into "They muddy the water, to make it seem deep.").

Few works will give you a clearer sense of the practical nature of these new ideas than a series of popular lectures that Fichte had given on education in 1810, his 'Addresses to the German People', in which he urged that schools be used to create a stronger and more secure state through a more scientific application of education, affirming that a:
"... new education must consist essentially in this, that it completely destroys freedom of will in the soil which it undertakes to cultivate, and produces on the contrary strict necessity in the decisions of the will, the opposite being impossible..."
Fichte wanted to establish a compulsory system of education that would destroy its student's free will, not because he intended to form the German nation into a people who would be the perfect tools for the rise of national socialism (though of course, it did help to do that), but as his solution to what he saw as the cause behind the recent humiliating defeats of the German states and Prussian army & society by Napoleon. He believed that students who were given a liberal education thought too much, and so were too likely to 'choose wrong' in the face of threatening situations. Fichte's solution to ensure that would happen never again, was to prevent them from 'thinking too much' by scientifically controlling what materials students were exposed to and forcefully filling their heads with what experts had pre-determined to be 'the right' ideas, answers, and responses, and testing and re-testing those results into habits of mind, so that they would not be able to make wrong choices in the future.

Fichte's ideas were more than simply new educational reforms, they were emblematic of those who were expert in the new ideas of a more malleable reality, one in which the modern man, the new man, had recast Metaphysics from the old Aristotelian study of what reality is, into convoluted assertions of modernity, that we cannot ever really know what is, or if anything really exists at all. Such views hammered away at reforming our understanding of how we know what is true, forming into competing epistemologies which, in the end, tend to conclude that ultimately we can know nothing beyond our own subjective opinions (if the relevance escapes you, pay attention to the footnotes, CRT would not, could not, exist as it does today without that as its foundation).

It should surprise no one that those who want to feel freed from the constraints of reality and its requirements for reasonable proof, will latch onto whatever 'reason' seems to justify demanding that other people accept their subjective whims as facts. For those who respect reality and value what is objectively true, the person making such claims as 'because it's true for you, doesn't mean it's true for me' reveal themselves to be unwise, and those seriously making such assertions can have no love for wisdom. But then again those willing to accept that reality can't really be known, are not concerned with wisdom, and aren't in the habit of questioning whether or not what they want to believe is actually true, and so when presented with arguments and evidence for what is 'objectively true', they'll wave if off with 'that's just like your opinion, man'.

Of course if those who disregard truth & wisdom actually believed their own words, they'd be dead, as 'your truth' that you can fly wouldn't save you from having leapt off of a cliff, but again truth was never their real concern, getting away with lies, was; and much like the child who, seeing that their parent is too occupied to punish them for the cookie they see them stealing, will reach into the cookie jar for yet another cookie. Sure, they'll get punished later, but for now they're eating cookies.

They aren't interested in reality or conforming to it, they are interested in change, and you are the reality that they want to see changed, not themselves, and certainly not what they so want to believe as being *true*. Modernity's new North is that what is valid is not measured by 'truth', but by having sufficient quantities of likeminded people to force others to change; that's the only measure of 'respect' for 'truth' they have (oh, hello political polling), and they'd do so without concern for whether or not 'the Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return' - maybe they will return, but in the meantime they're eating cookies.

Under such influences as those in the minds of 'those who know best' in society, the end of 'The Age of Enlightenment' brought an end to philosophy as 'the love of wisdom', as Hegel put it in the preface to the Phenomenology of Spirit,
“To help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title of ‘love of knowing’ and be actual knowledge — that is what I have set before me”
, whatever 'good' his intentions aimed at, he and his fellows transformed philosophy into a 'misosophy', the hatred of wisdom, and as society's compass needle wandered steadily further from True North, the ethical compasses of the well intentioned reformers of the period wandered right along with them, pleased to begin taking their own good intentions as newly fixed stars to steer by, and thrilled to teach their new stars as being reliable guides for generations yet unborn to use in navigating their lives by.

As the saying goes: "Thar be dragons".

How the new maps were made to reorient around their new more southerly (and sulphureous) headings, is what we'll begin looking more closely at next.


Van Harvey said...

I'm going to reply to a comment from the shallowZastro troll that is relevant here (see 'Clarification' in the post above), but in addition to the natural ugliness of his thinking, it's also visually ugly - just a mass of text plopped into the comment box - so I'll pretty it up a bit, post it myself, and reply to it below.

Van Harvey said...

From shallowZastro:[line breaks, links, and formatting, compliments of myself]
There it is! Another misrepresentation!

"...and to promote a modern sense of Fascism wherein those who thought and spoke in disagreement with the General Will of the state - that they "...will be forced to be free..." (hence The Terror and the Guillotine of Robespierre & Marat in the French Revolution)..."

Lol. No. A little more of that quote:
[the full passage "...will be forced to be free..." was already linked to above - I encourage reading it, but I've no interest in repeating it again here, especially as I've already read through it, here:]

This quote isn't "modern fascism," and it isn't Rousseau endorsing the guillotine. It's literally modern democracy. In this quote, Rousseau is saying that, if sovereignty is popular (the people have the ultimate say in who's in charge, what happens), in order for things to work effectively, people who have a dissenting opinion against the masses must, inevitably, accept the general direction of things, as it is the will of the people. If each (or some) dissenting individuals were allowed to determine process, you wouldn't have a very effective democracy, now would you? It's literally democracy, Van.

Van Harvey said...

First a couple small tidbits: shallowZastro said " isn't Rousseau endorsing the guillotine...", as Rousseau was dead a decade before Dr. Guillotin even proposed the Guillotine, allow me to reply appropriately: "Duh". And as you've already established yourself as a troll who has no interest in understanding the truth of anything, I won't attempt to further explain the obvious to you on that count.

"It's literally modern democracy." It is literally no shock at all to hear such approval from a marxist professor (actually a 'gradual student', but, I'll humor him) who identifies as a marxist despite the hundred million+ lives slaughtered in the name of that ideology, and were expended on implementing exactly that idea of Rousseau's, which was the logical outcome of his ideas. Despicable.

Oh, and thank God America is not a democracy, because the willingness of the majority to force or exterminate dissenting minorities, is exactly why marxists & other pro-regressives are so fanatical about referring to our constitutional representative republic (in which only some of its processes are decided by majority rule), as a 'democracy'. Doubly despicable

Our Constitution establishes a Rule of Law for justly upholding & defending the Individual Rights and Property ('Administrative State' not withstanding) of all of its people.

Van Harvey said...

As to shallowZ's objections towards my characterizing Rousseau as the *philosopher* who laid the groundwork of ideas that Fascism would develop from, here's a nice bit from Rousseau's "Considerations on the Government of Poland", with a view towards 'Education' (schooling) being used by the state in order to mold the minds of youth to serve the state:

"...Chapter IV - Education
THIS is the important question. It is education that must give souls a national formation, and direct their opinions and tastes in such a way that they will be patriotic by inclination, by passion, by necessity. When first he opens his eyes, an infant ought to see the fatherland, and up to the day of his death he ought never to see anything else. Every true republican has drunk in love of country, that is to say love of law and liberty, along with his mother's milk. This love is his whole existence; he sees nothing but the fatherland, he lives for it alone; when he is solitary, he is nothing; when he has ceased to have a fatherland, he no longer exists; and if he is not dead, he is worse than dead. ..."

, and unlike Webster & Rush who strayed into similar thoughts, that was not a careless one-off of Rousseau's, it is entirely consistent with a careful reading of the whole of his thinking.

And since shallowZ is rather big on not voicing an opinion without having other people who back it up (collectivist, don'chaknow), here's some corroborating commentary from City Journal on the man who first put Rousseau's ideas into practice, Maximillian Robespierre:

"...Leading the betrayal of the Revolution’s initial ideals and its transformation into a murderous ideological tyranny was Maximilien Robespierre, a monster who set up a system expressly aimed at killing thousands of innocents. He knew exactly what he was doing, meant to do it, and believed he was right to do it. He is the prototype of a particularly odious kind of evildoer: the ideologue who believes that reason and morality are on the side of his butcheries. Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot are of the same mold. They are the characteristic scourges of humanity in modern times, but Robespierre has a good claim to being the first. Understanding his motives and rationale deepens our understanding of the worst horrors of the recent past and those that may lurk in the future...."

, and noting that his motives and rationale came from:

"...The source of Robespierre’s deepest convictions and of his certainty about them was his unquestioning commitment to an ideology he had largely derived from Rousseau, whom he regarded as “the tutor of the human race.” This ideology led him to believe that politics was an application of morality and that a good government was based on moral principles that ineluctably cause the interests of individuals to become indistinguishable from the general interest. Put another way, uncorrupted human beings intuitively recognize and act in the general interest. Any divergence between individual and general interest indicates the individual’s immorality and irrationality. If any individual fails to see that his true interests are the same as the general interest, he must be forced to act as if he did see it, for his own good...."

That IS Rousseau's 'forced to be free' in practice, as it must always be.

Astro said...
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Astro said...
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Van Harvey said...

shallowZasstro said " try to argue that nationalism is the same as authoritarianism..." Fascinating. Not only did I not argue that in that comment, but I did not argue that anywhere in the post above, or anywhere else in this blog. Why? Because it is a foolish distinction to attempt to make, as 'Nationalism' is only meaningful in relation to the particular nation it is 'ism'ing', and that may, or may not, involve authoritarian behavior, depending upon the nature of that nation.

Nationalism in the hands of a Robespierre, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, etc., is a tyrannical evil and a threat to liberty everywhere.

Nationalism within a people whose government is limited by a constitution such as ours, with a Rule of Law which is dedicated to upholding and defending its people's individual rights, is something that is structured to thwart our tyrannical impulses, and so enables liberty to be preserved - so long as its people understand and respect the nature of their nation.

But to the degree that our understanding of that has degraded, we've allowed governmental power to slip the shackles of those constitutional limitations (especially as regards the 'Administrative State' (creating untouchable bureaucrats, and alphabet agencies for them to form and operate bureaucracies in, especially as realized on the parts of T.R. (and Obama) & Wilson)), then our tyrannical impulses to 'do good!' become extremely difficult to check, and that imperils our liberty (and that of other peoples as well). We're still better off than most other nations, but if the pro-regressive 'living constitution' is allowed to kill our Constitution, I'm very much concerned that America could become the most tyrannical enemy to life & liberty in history.

IOW, for me America is more than the geographical location which a nation known by that name can be found, America, and being an American, is tied to the ideas and understanding identified through the Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian civilization which it was founded upon and derived from. Without that, this nation becomes 'America' in name only.

Van Harvey said...

shallowZasstro said "... the primary theme of this blog is attacking education that is "un-American."..." Wrong. Again.

First, in that the primary theme of this blog, is "Seeking after the Education that our schools are unable to provide", and to criticize those forms of 'education' that disrupt a person's ability to become educated.

Second, in that I don't attack education that is 'un-American', but that is anti-American, and there is a significant difference. Dr. Rush & Noah Webster were both very concerned about 'un-American' education, Webster chided Washington for even considering having his wards educated by a Scotsman, which is a foolish 'Go Team America!' view of education, and as I've pointed out repeatedly in this series of posts, their approach (in that, and their overall utilitarian approach) is one that warps and corrupts the understanding of and ability to become educated. It's also an approach that either ignores or demotes what should be a more primary concern for education, such as Frederick Douglass's comment, which I do endorse, that "The life of the nation is secure only while the nation is honest, truthful, and virtuous." - and that is far more important and relevant to a worthwhile education, than what nation a person is a citizen of.

A thumbnail view which I typically give, is something along the lines of Education is"... to lead students out of bondage to their passions and false assumptions, by teaching students to become virtuous, informed, self-governing individuals capable of living lives worth living in society with others of differing opinions and abilities.", or with more detail, something like:

"...what I'm good with, generally speaking, is what was once understood as being the purpose of educating students, that being to help students develop into well informed individuals with an intellectually integrated understanding of the habits, knowledge and aims of Western Civilization (Greco-Roman/Judeo-Christian), with a strong emphasis on striving to live up to its ideals of truth and justice, for the purpose of enabling a student to become a virtuous and independent person capable of living a good life, in a society blessed with liberty. A person so equipped was self-evidently a benefit to themselves & their community, because they tended to be more consciously capable of distinguishing, and choosing to do, what was wise and true. That, and not the schools they attended or degrees accumulated in them, marked them as being Educated..."

There is nothing exclusively 'American' about that. Nevertheless, a proper attention to that, and to history, will involve gaining a knowledge and understanding of the ideas which America was derived from and founded upon, and why. Of that last, while I do think it is irresponsible for any American citizen to be ignorant of those basics, that is not in and of itself, a requirement of being Educated. BTW, I despise the pro-regressive innovation of 'Civics Class'.

The various Pro-Regressive ideologies which you embrace, marxism of course included, are not bad because they aren't American or are un-American, but because they are formed upon the denial of what is real and true and proliferate various lies which are in turn antithetical to what makes America possible, which makes them in the deepest sense possible, anti-American.

Van Harvey said...

shallowZasstro said "...Once again, you practice everything you pretend to hate." I know what I'm about, and pretending to hate something has no part of it. What's tragically ironic about you, is that you are (in everything from the ideology you'd like to see the world enslaved by, to your persistent attempts to annoy and get attention from those who have no interest in, or respect for you, you are the very thing that you should hate. Sad.

Van Harvey said...

shallowZasstro said "FASCISM!!" That you are diverted by and appreciative of the pretty phrases, and fail to look past them and to their actual meaning, is unsurprising in someone who looks favorably on marxism, and I have little doubt that you would have aligned with and exalted the actions of Robespierre, who DID understand what Rousseau meant and intended, and put those ideas into the practice which they logically lead to, as the City Journal noted:

"...Any divergence between individual and general interest indicates the individual’s immorality and irrationality. If any individual fails to see that his true interests are the same as the general interest, he must be forced to act as if he did see it, for his own good...."

The ideas of Rousseau's, processed through the misosophies of Kant, Hegel, Peirce/Dewey/James, is what Mussolini and his ghost-author and intellectual guru, Giovanni Gentile expressed as:
"everything in the state, nothing against the State, nothing outside the state"

IOW: Fascism. If you can't see that, it's likely because you've willingly indoctrinated yourself to not see wrong-think.

I've also got to add, that it is bordering on horrific, that of all that was pointed to in this post, it was these points were the ones you wanted to argue. Sad.

BTW, perhaps things operate differently out there in your ivory bunker, but here I recognize the existence of stupid questions, especially when put forward by trolls who think that their own commentary is the measure of other people's opinions... and especially when they fully and (hopefully) deliberately ignore the fact that the answer to them has already been given.

When you are able to manage a comment, such as the two above, that are more concerned with disagreement than with being disagreeable, I'll probably reply to it. Otherwise, nope.

Van Harvey said...

Uh-Oh! Look at that, shallowZasstro, cowardly troll that he is, deleted the comment of his that I'd already replied to, which... is why I will no longer allow his comments to pass directly through moderation. Here's the stupidity he'd posted:

I love that in your penultimate comment, you try to argue that nationalism is the same as authoritarianism.

This is especially ironic, because the primary theme of this blog is attacking education that is "un-American." Once again, you practice everything you pretend to hate.

Van Harvey said...

Not being a fan of waiting in suspense, I'll go ahead and delete his other comment for him, and repost it out of his reach. shallowZAstro said:

"Every true republican has drunk in love of country, that is to say love of law and liberty, along with his mother's milk"