From the outset, one of the underlying themes of The Texas Pilgrim has been the notion that “ideas have consequences”, and one of the thinkers who inspired that notion in me is Richard M. Weaver, whose 1948 book of that name has been an invaluable source of the wisdom of that aphorism. Periodically I like to revisit it and did so again over the Christmas holidays. Weaver masterfully diagnoses the ills of the age as the culmination of an evolution of thought that began with a major change in philosophy when in the fourteenth century, led by William of Occam, man’s conception of the reality of transcendentals was first seriously challenged. In short, the issue involved, as Weaver writes, “whether or not there is source of truth higher than, and independent of, man; and the answer to the question is decisive for one’s view of the nature and destiny of mankind”.
Thus was born the philosophy of nominalism—the idea that the only reality is that perceived by the senses. Once this concept took hold, the rest, as they say, is history. From there, we proceeded beyond the careful scientific study of nature to the denial of anything transcending experience, elevating rationalism to the rank of a philosophy, with man explained only by his environment, and to psychological “behaviorism” and the abolishment of free will. And from there it was not a great leap to the postmodern abandonment of timeless moral truth and the attendant moral relativism that plagues our age.
Needless to say, the consequences abound.
Greg Stachura says
I too have enjoyed Weaver’s fine thinking, despite the citations of his defense of the Old South by critics who cannot see his point of the value of an ordered elevation of social rank, based on an informed understanding of the Permanent Things.
Weaver stands in the good company of conservative thinkers who recognized the errors of that drift away from a reverence for an authority greater than man.