In revisiting Richard Weaver it occurred to me that a significant by-product of the relativism sparked by the evolution of the philosophy of nominalism that he explains is a pervasive subjectivism that colors every issue in the public realm. As a society it seems we have dumped objectivism and adopted an attitude totally driven by our “feelings”. I recently stumbled upon an interesting article by Lance Morrow, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, who discusses this phenomenon as follows:
The 21st century’s amazing alteration in American life–the advance of new normals on every front–have been promulgated by a vast autocracy of feelings…….A sort of arrested development is at work in such passions. In the over-privileged, they amount to a decadent luxury. In the underprivileged, grievances transmuted into feelings become a weapon of demagogues and neurotics. To the rest of us, the adult world is more complicated, and vastly more interesting, than Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.
Over time, this autocracy can, and already is, creating what some have called “idea laundering”, developing whole new categories of language and nonsensical jargon like “intersectionality”, “triggering”, “sicgender”, etc., that are being trafficked in higher education circles as credible intellectual studies. And the tragedy is that we’re buying into this nonsense. More consequences, and the trouble is that many of these in this instance are not unintended. We need more Weaver, but I’ll bet he is not on many freshman assigned reading lists.
Greg Stachura says
Feeling has usurped thinking in th primacy of human argument. It has been a clever insurrection of the language demolition gang for it turns on the silly argument that feelings are “neither right nor wrong” and therefore not subject to objctive criticism.
Another great error in this counterfeiting of the language is its failure to call into account the logic and reason that must underpin thoughts vs. those often unreasonable rousings that percolate from our human hearts.
david redford says
Let me say a few words on behalf of feelings. As a lawyer I live in a world of logic and reasoning with some feelings thrown in before juries. However after 79 years of living and having a wife as a psychologist I know the reality and value of feelings, good and bad. I have lately had some obsession with decency. There is no objective standard for indecency but we know it when we see or hear it. I have been tempted to creat some hats that say “Make America Decent Again”. We have a president who, like a third grader in the schoolyard, has labeled at least thirty of his opponents with degrading names–“crazy”, “lying”, “sleepy”, “low energy”, “low IQ”(used mainly for women), “shifty”, “Pocahantas”, “little Mike Bloomberg” and many others. A president continually calling people names is indecent without question. My republican friends admit this but no republican leader calls Trump out for it. Obviously calling people names is a substitute for substantive thinking and expression. I am glad I am not a republican who tells his third grader grandson not to call his friends “fatty” and is asked why it is okay for the president to do it. In the McCarthy hearing in 1954 against the army Joesph Welch represented the army. When McCarthy started accusing a young man in Welch’s firm of being a communist Welch said “have you no sense of decency sir”. That stopped McCarthy in his tracks and the public began to understand who McCarthy was. It was the start of the end for him. Could some prominent republican have the courage to do this with Trump so that we can make American decent again. It should be stated that Rou Cohn helped to create McCarthy. Cohn was Trump’s lawyer when Trump was younger and his approach of attack and never admitting fault helped to create Trump.
Following the reasoning of Lance Morrow with the Ethics & Public Policy Center which you cite Trump’s name calling is “sort of arrested development at work” and shows his indecency and limited thinking ability. The “adult world is more complicated” than name calling. Indecency like this is an expression of grievance that appeals to the uneducated and “underprivileged” to use Morrow’s words. This appeal through grievance as Morrow says is transmuted into feelings becoming “a weapon of demogoges and neurotics”. Trump fits these categories. Many Americans are beginning to take on Trump’s histrionic traits and even his lying. Maybe republicans ignore feelings of disgust at the indecency of Trump because they think it is not related to reason but indecency is important to Americans including me.
Jim Windham says
Good post David, and I salute you for figuring out a way to segue from my reference to the leftist movement that is corrupting our language to an appeal for decency–a pretty thin stretch, but you made it.
And, of course, it’s all about Trump’s tone because that’s the only card the left has to play. I’m all for decency and I too have problems with the current incivility across the board, but Trump is really a relatively small player here. The awarding of a few schoolyard nicknames to political opponents is childish to be sure, but pales in significance with events such as the shameful Kavanaugh hearings orchestrated by your party, the leftist harassment of conservative speakers and thought on college campuses, and the corruption in higher education I reference, all of which will have negative implications long after Trump is gone.
Jim Gattis says
Do we need to speak to the level of the audience we want to reach? In my charity work I meet a lot of people that frequently only relate in name calling terms mentioned above.