Monday, January 24, 2011

Richard Weaver on the Nasty Practical Consequences of Nominalism

J.F. Johnston, Jr., First Principles

...Richard Weaver published his best‑known work, Ideas Have Consequences, in which he developed a theory of decline strikingly similar to [C.E.M. Joad's]. Weaver was born in North Carolina in 1910 and studied at the University of Kentucky, followed by graduate work at Vanderbilt, where he was strongly influenced by his teacher John Crowe Ransom and other “Southern Agrarians.” Weaver taught for most of his career at the University of Chicago, and wrote a number of books and essays exploring the theme of philosophical, social, and educational decline. He was an associate editor of Modern Age and a contributor to National Review and other conservative publications. After Weaver’s death, Henry Regnery wrote that Ideas Have Consequences was one of the three books which provided the intellectual basis for the modern American conservative movement...

Nominalism

In Ideas Have Consequences, Weaver ... starts with the premise that true knowledge is the knowledge of universals. The fourteenth-century nominalists, Weaver argues, in attacking the objective reality of universal ideas, initiated a dangerous intellectual trend. The nominalists asserted that so‑called "universals" (whiteness, justice, etc.) do not have independent existence but are merely names for a collection of individual things. If nominalism is correct, there are no objective values such as the good, the true, or the just. All of these things are merely names for kinds of conduct of which we happen to approve. The nominalist position eventually led to a philosophically empty form of radical empiricism or positivism, which replaced the reality apprehended by reason with impressions received by the senses. This philosophical error ultimately ends in subjectivism, relativism, and the denial of truth itself...

Presentism, Barbarism...

True knowledge, for Weaver is knowledge of forms, essences, and principles rather than of the sensory and the transient. Knowledge, in other words, is a product of reason; and belief in universals and principles is inseparable from the life of reason. The empirical tradition, in its concentration on the particulars of subjective experience, has ended by affirming that immediate experience is an end in itself. Again, this was precisely the conclusion reached independently by Joad. Weaver calls this attitude the "cult of presentism."

The desire for immediacy is a false and dangerous idol because the present has only an infinitesimal existence, and has no meaning apart from the past and future, to which the present must be connected by the reality of history, memory, and rational expectation. The cult of presentism is, in fact, a characteristic of the barbarian, who regards forms, essences, and universals as irrelevant to his desire for immediate gratification. The barbarian rejects the cultivation of the intellect and seeks only power or physical comfort...Read it all

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--->AP: Wikileaks warns only 1% published; AP summary of documents so far...(click) "WikiLeaks has given the world's public an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at U.S. diplomacy. Among the most eye-catching revelations were reports that Arab countries had lobbied for an attack on Iran, China had made plans for the collapse of its North Korean ally, and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton had ordered U.S. diplomats to gather the computer passwords, fingerprints and even DNA of their foreign counterparts. Some of the most controversial cables dealt with a directive to harvest biometric information on a range of officials..."

--->NBC: U.S. can't link accused Army private to Assange...

--->DN: Leaked "Palestine Papers" Underscore Weakness of Palestinian Authority, Rejectionism of Israel and US...Video Report

--->Court orders Rahm Emanuel off mayoral ballot... due to residency ineligibility

--->Have 'Scientists' Discovered How to Make Rain in the Desert...?

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