Platonism ... termed Nominalism... Only individuals exist and are known, basically by sense knowledge.... It forms the basis of modern liberalism, both of the Anglo “classical” variety as well as of the Kantian variety
In a very nice article at The Federalist today, Nathanael Blake uses an article by Nicholas Kristoff to launch into some reflections on the key connection between sexual ethics and the greater good—the human flourishing—of society. The subtitle gets to the core of what he’s saying:
I’ll skip over the part that refers specifically to Kristoff as basically a waste. The core part comes in the second half. In the course of his reflections Blake notes that the “ethos of sexual liberation”—at the very heart of Wokeness and the liberal worldview—derives from what he refers to as the view of human beings as “atomized individuals.”
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What he’s referring to is the philosophical view that derives, ultimately, from Platonism but which took over the philosophical faculties of the Western universities in the late Middle Ages. That view is termed Nominalism, and it basically denies that there is any knowable common natures—such as human nature. Or at least not any natures that can be known by humans. Only individuals exist and are known, basically by sense knowledge. I oversimplify, but this view took root in the West and gradually spread. It forms the basis of modern liberalism, both of the Anglo “classical” variety as well as of the Kantian variety that has been so influential—which sees universal rules of conduct as resulting from constructs of the human mind, not connected to a knowable reality—”postulates of practical reason”. This all came to a head at the self-styled “Enlightenment”. We still live in its aftermath, as that Englightenment project swirls downward.
Socialism is no more, really, than a “left” version of what we call “classical liberalism,” which is the “right” version. If there are only individuals and no definable human nature, if it’s up to each of us (according to our SCOTUS) to define the “sweet mystery of life” for ourselves, then society is indeed composed of “atomized individuals”. For “right” liberalism those individuals are the repository of “human rights”—a position that is ultimately irrational, as we see from its development in our own day. “Left” liberalism sees those individuals as ultimately subordinate to the collective—an equally irrational position, but one which gains strength by at least appealing to Man’s obvious social nature, even as it denies fundamental dignity to the individual.
The reality behind both “right” and “left” liberalism is the Law of the Jungle, by which the powerful prevail and subject and exploit the weak—most of us.
It has taken centuries for these views to take root, and even now there is resistance, but there can be little doubt that that resistance is at a low ebb. To give some idea of how low that ebb is, I’ll cite an address that was given by Joseph Ratzinger the day after Karol Wojtyła died. Most people considered it to be, in essence, Ratzinger’s “campaign speech” for the papacy. I really recommend the entire address to your attention, for what it tells about the intellectual bankruptcy of the West in its leading spiritual institution:
As you will see, Ratzinger reflects on Europe’s “Crisis of Culture” while himself renouncing essentially the entire intellectual heritage of the West in favor of the Jansenist Blaise Pascal’s irrationalism. Here is the key passage—and note the prominence of moral considerations that formed the basis of the Enlightenment’s irrational project. How to form a coherent morality while rejecting objective knowledge of human nature:
This is Ratzinger’s renunciation of the philosophia perennis of the West. He advocates for embracing Kantian agnosticism and engaging in what amounts to a make believe life. This is the man mourned by well meaning but deluded “conservatives” or whatever. I won’t belabor the point here, having written at great length on the subject elsewhere.
Nevertheless, I want to quote Blake at some length because he seems to me to appeal to the objective knowledge of human nature which alone can save Man from the crisis in which we find ourselves. In doing so Blake places himself in firm opposition to the public orthodoxy of the American Empire. Just keep the preceding in mind as you read: