Monday, March 31, 2008

Early Struggles

Yahoo!News: "Early Picasso nude found in English bedroom"

"A nude painting by Pablo Picasso when he was aged about 20 has been found in the bedroom of a house in south-west England, the auctioneers selling it said Monday. "Etreinte" (Embrace), a watercolour, shows a nude Picasso entwined in an intimate embrace with his girlfriend Louise Lenoir, known as Odette. It was painted in 1901 or 1902, when the Spanish artist would have been 20 or 21 and still struggling for recognition, and was authenticated by Picasso in 1969. (...) It was a breathtaking find (...) The identity of the owner is unknown but is believed to be a member of an international royal family, British media reported." >>>

Here's a Picasso, and an "Etreinte", but a much later work ...

Friday, March 28, 2008

A Lecture from Athens

Following yesterday's posting "Objective Art: Toulouse-Lautrec - Paris, Athens" detailing the remarkable exhibition at the Herakleidon, "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belle Epoque in Paris and Athens" running until 4th May, we are happy to announce that on Wednesday 16th April, collector and founder of the Herakleidon Museum, Paul Firos, will be hosting a lecture “The Life, Times and Art of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec”.

The hall is open from 18:00. Lecture starts at 18:30. Entrance is free, but due to the limited number of seats, attendants are kindly requested to make reservations by telephone 210 34 61 981 (Mon.-Fr. 9:00-17:00) or via email.

Leaving you with an atmospheric picture of Athens central Syntagma Square around 1905, by M. Veloudios, from the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archives collection.

Objective Art: Toulouse-Lautrec - Paris, Athens

Herakleidon: "Toulouse-Lautrec and the Belle Epoque in Paris and Athens"

(...) Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) is best known for his works depicting scenes from cabarets, theaters, dance halls, and brothels. These were themes that the artist lived, beginning in 1885 when he moved to Montmartre and immersed himself in its nightlife. He wanted to show life as it is, not as it should be, but this objectivity was not without empathy or humor. (...)

At the center of this exhibition is a rare collection of approximately 70 original works on paper by Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, which the organizers have placed in the historical, social, artistic, and aesthetic context of the time (1800 to the beginning of the 20th century). Furthermore, there has been an effort to approximate the prevailing historical and artistic conditions of urban Athens of the same era, with the goal of revealing the influence of the French Belle Epoque on the social and artistic life of Athens and to establish a number of obvious parallels. (...)

- Caption: Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, La Troupe de Mademoiselle Eglantine, 1896, lithograph -

The urban way of life and the means of entertainment in Greece during the last two decades of the 19th century have been re-created with the help of rare archival material, mainly from the collections of the Hellenic Literary and Historical Archives (E.L.I.A.), the Benaki Museum Photographic Archive, Alpha Bank and Mr. Petros Vergos. Publicity posters, often created by important Greek artists such as Gyzis and Galanos, calendar and journal covers, photographs and postcards, theatrical programs with emphasis on French repertoire, and literary passages invite the visitor to become acquainted with the flavor of that era. (...)

Herakleidon, Experience in Visual Arts is located at16 Herakleidon St., Thissio, Tel.: 210 34 61 981 and runs to 4th May. The museum is open on Tue-Sat: 13:00-21:00, Sun: 11:00-19:00, Monday: closed

- Caption: Man on Horseback, Acropolis in the background (ca.1900), Benaki Museum -

The exhibition has been extended! See part II >>>

Saturday, March 22, 2008


Yahoo!News: "Thousands Stuck with Fake Art Prints"

Take a second look at that signed Picasso print you bought on eBay. A ring of art counterfeiters has sold thousands of prints since 1999 bearing the forged signatures of Picasso, Miro, Dali and other famous artists to buyers around the world.

- Caption: Faux Miraux -

"Thousands of people will learn they ... bought a fake," said Chicago-based U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, who announced indictments on Wednesday charging two Americans, a Spaniard from Barcelona, and two Italians from Milan and Monsummano with multiple counts of fraud. (...) >>>

- Caption: Genuine Miro signature -

Friday, March 21, 2008

La Vie Nazi en Rose ...

EURSOC: "Paris in the Occupation"

Opening today at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris is an exhibition of colour photographs by André Zucca titled "Parisians under the Occupation."

At a time when all photography in Paris was strictly monitored by the Nazis, Zucca (who died in 1973) was the only French snapper working in colour. He was authorised to photograph daily life in the French capital for a German magazine distributed in occupied nations: The Nazis wanted to show how life continued in the city despite the Occupation. So there are street and café scenes (in both rich and poor quartiers), with now and again, smiling workers and chic women, with now and again the shock of a Nazi soldier on the street, or, in the case of a photo of the rue de Rivoli, Nazi banners draped on the occupiers' headquarters. The exhibition continues until June 1. >>>

- Update: "La Vie Nazi en Rose", part II

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Modern Defiance in China

Art Daily: "Record Set For A Chinese Contemporary Ink Painting at Auction"

Sotheby’s fifth sale of Contemporary Art Asia: China Korea Japan in New York brought a solid $23,210,525 (est. $23.1/33.4 million) and was highlighted by Zeng Fanzhi’s Mask Series No. 11, 1996, a triptych showing the strivings of individualism amidst the communist collective that was latent but still present during the Cultural Revolution of Zeng’s youth, which sold for $1,127,000 to a European buyer (lot 11, est. $800,000/1 million). (...) >>>

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Meet Ed, he's a pet

CNN: "Mummified dinosaur unearthed in North Dakota" (watch the audio-slide show)

Using tiny brushes and chisels, workers picking at a big greenish-black rock in the basement of North Dakota's state museum are meticulously uncovering something amazing: a nearly complete dinosaur, skin and all.

Unlike almost every other dinosaur fossil ever found, the Edmontosaurus named Dakota, a duckbilled dinosaur unearthed in southwestern North Dakota in 2004, is covered by fossilized skin that is hard as iron. It's among just a few mummified dinosaurs in the world, say the researchers who are slowly freeing it from a 65-million-year-old rock tomb.

"This is the closest many people will ever get to seeing what large parts of a dinosaur actually looked like, in the flesh," said Phillip Manning, a paleontologist at Manchester University in England, a member of the international team researching Dakota. (...) >>>

Monday, March 17, 2008

Boris' Many Faces

Celebrating Boris' presentation of the London Mayor campaign's housing manifesto, with another of Boris' manifestations:

- Caption: oil by Felicity Gill -

On being painted by Felicity Gill, Boris says: "It was a privilege and a glorified ego massage!"

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Ideological Archeology: Kant (III)

Often erroneously classified as part of the Enlightenment, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804) in his mindset is entirely collectivist and subjectivist: in his Second Preface of the first Critique he writes that he found it ...

"necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," ...

hardly the words of a scientific thinker. Needless to say that his subsequent philosophical findings supported subjectivism. Kant was an austere Lutheran Pietist and a great admirer of Rousseau. The individual to him represented little more than a miserable sinner in need of a strong master, only good as canon-fodder to teach him some morals.

Kant foresees in a teleological progress towards an end-game by means of strive, war and discord. This brings man as a species to a more ethically evolved order. The process will ultimately culminate in a world government, an international and cosmopolitan federation of states, awaiting the coming of the Day of Judgment. This is the Hidden Plan of Nature according to Kant.

The Enlighteners working towards the separation of Church and State, the philosophers based on Rousseau, Kant and Hegel - even the atheists - confusing 'is' with 'ought', reverted to recreating 'paradises' on earth.

The tenets of the Enlightenment were abandoned by the Counter-Enlighteners and replaced by philosophical principles reflecting the faith: realism made way for idea-lism, and individualism for collectivism; intuition and revelation were adopted as sources of knowledge rather than reason and experience, social theories replaced liberal capitalist theory.

Today's postmoderns are adept followers of Rousseau, Kant and Hegel, faithfully subscribing to their most irrational claims. The mind versus body dualism, reflecting the macro and microcosm, tends to identify the mind with the soul, giving rise to visualizing the mind as non-physical pure substance, distinct from the physical organs and brain. Rather then thinking of them as tools to knowledge, this leads us to view the senses and the brain as obstacles, standing in the way between the mind and reality.

Moreover, some sensorial imperfections (colour blindness, for example) in some people, induced Kant to declare the senses unsound tools to knowledge overall. To clarify the Kantian position on the separation of the mind from reality, Objectivist philosopher Stephen Hicks makes a feminist analogy: to support Kant is to state that women are absolutely autonomous and free to do as they please, as long as it is within the confines of the kitchen; Kant imprisons the mind in the skull and isolates it from the real world.

It is ironic that the Counter-Enlighteners, who sought to prevent the godless, spiritless and amoral future that would be the result of reason and individualism, have brought about precisely that by Kant's subjectivism and his imprisonment of the mind. Hicks: "Once reason is in principle severed from reality, one enters a different philosophical universe altogether."

Kant also held that reality conforms to reason, not vice versa. This marks the infamous shift from objectivity to subjectivity, the basis of the postmodern egocentricist pathology of the Master of the Universe syndrom (each individual creates his own personal version of reality: If I die overnight, will the sun still rise tomorrow?).

Anthony Rizzi in "Science before Science: a Guide to Thinking in the 21st Century" laments Kant's now codified idea-lism ...
" ... the default declared position in academia and in nearly all other environments. Kant's success is partly explained by his tying his philosphical system to Newtonian physics [... which he wanted to] have a certainty that it did not have. However, Kant thought that one could not know the thing itself
(...) Kant and Kantians múst say, "Kant doesn't know anything about anything." Such is always the end of the matter when one forgets that all knowledge in man comes through the senses. We non-Kantians can be simultaneously more accurate and kinder; we can say, "The foundational principles of Kant's philosophical system were wrong, but still he knew a lot of other things."

This enthusiasm is at once tempered by a footnote:

"Many attribute to Kant a developed skill in physics. Physisist and renowned philosopher and historian of science, Fr. Stanley Jaki has shown that Kant's knowledge and ability in physics was minimal (though Kant considered himself another Newton) (...) the book [Universal Natural History] is a storehouse of inaccuracies, contradictions and amateurism and plain fancy."
What else is new in subjectivism?

- Filed on Articles in "The Dystopia of Paradise", cat. Postmodernism -

Friday, March 14, 2008

Botero: A World of his Own ...

... true to the subjectivist Master of the Universe* syndrome, Art Daily announces that "Using a broad range of media, the Colombian-born Botero has created a world of his own, one that is at once accessible and enigmatic (...)" ...

Art Daily: "The Delaware Art Museum Presents Retrospective "The Baroque World of Fernando Botero"

The Delaware Art Museum presents The Baroque World of Fernando Botero, a major retrospective exhibition featuring 100 paintings, sculptures, and drawings, on view March 15, 2008 – June 8, 2008. Fernando Botero (b. 1932), well known for his extravagantly rounded figures, is one of the most internationally popular artists working today. (...) >>>

* Since Kant found it wise and "necessary to deny knowledge in order to make room for faith," thereby facilitating the idea that consciousness evolves separated from reality; and Hegel held that consciousness creates reality instead of vice versa; and contradictions moreover are thus a phenomenon that can be ignored; we are stuck with the idea that people can create "their own worlds". Since postmodernists take everything literally, we are supposed to accept that Botero's universe of excessively round figures, although enigmatic, is somehow accessible. No wonder it's a jungle out there ...

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Ideological Archeology: Rousseau (II)

Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (1712-1778) personal life is marked by traits sounding awkwardly contemporary. Self-pity and paranoia play see-saw with wrong choices and deflecting blame. Man is by nature good, it is society that is the cause of corruption and vice. Iconic for Rousseauian thought is the image of the noble savage, man in his natural state before his fall from Paradise.

There is nothing ambiguous about his ethics however: he believed his 'doctrine of two substances' to be the key to the absolute quality of good and evil [Jonathan I. Israel, Radical Enlightenment, 2001, p., 2001, p. 719]. In an example in a classical setting he saw in Athenian decadence the degrading influence of reason. He preferred the cruder, militaristic Spartans, an unspoiled and nobler tribe. Their callous practice of exposing babies to nature - now in dispute - may well have inspired Rousseau to expose his own five illegitimate children to the hardships of the Paris orphanage.

Although Rousseau died in 1778, before the French Revolution, his justification of violence to power was the source of inspiration of the Reign of Terror that the Jacobins unleashed during the latter part of the rebellion. In 1792 the French 'citizen army' faced the Prussian forces at Valmy. In a psychological victory they prevented them from marching on to Paris to restore the monarchy. Earlier in the capital a mob had stormed the Tuilleries Palace. In the massacres over a thousand political prisoners were brutally hacked to death. Fabre d'Eglantine declared: "In the towns, let the blood of traitors be the first Holocaust to Liberty, so that in advancing to meet the common enemy, we leave nothing behind to disquiet us!" [Wildmonk]

After "the first Holocaust to Liberty" many more would follow. It is a specific feature, typical of Rousseau's constellation of ideas. The chief ingredients as expressed in "Profession de Foi" are a sweeping rejection of tradition, Revelation, and all institutionalized authority. [Radical Enlightenment, p. 718]

In Roussea's ideas we find the source of every anti-Liberal, violent revolution ever since the French Revolution went off the Lockean track. Rousseau is ultimately the father of many noxious and lethal traditions besides: Romanticism, redistributive Socialism, philosophical agrarianism, conservative Communitarianism, Nazism, and more to the point, the Counter-Enlightenment and postmodernism. Cultures, adopting Rousseauian ideas found in them a mirror of some aspect of their own identity. [Wildmonk]

Many have descended into the abyss of collectivist hell. In France his radical egalitarianism led to The Reign of Terror, in Germany to Left and Right Socialism with known result, in Russia and the Far East to communism, starvation and slaughter on grandiose scales. In China Mao Tse Tung's Great Leap Forward resulted in the greatest mass murder in human history and in Cambodia the Khmer Rouge's extermination campaign to establish Rousseauian agrarianism resulted in the deaths of well over twenty percent of the population. [Wildmonk] If this is not evil, frankly I don't know what is.

Why Rousseau is different
Rousseau stands apart in many respects. He marks the fault-line in Western tradition between Anglo-American and Continental lines of thought, and forms the point of departure from the Enlightenment because he is essentially anti-modern [Wildmonk]. While loosely following the traditional path of Enlightenment thought, his radical stance differs notably on the crucial issues of anti-individualism [Isaiah Berlin, "Against the Current", 2001], anti-capitalism and against private property ("Radical Enlightenment", p. 273), anti science and technology, his radical egalitarianism, and the inherent mindset in which the means are justified by the perceived noble end.

Rousseau is often quoted as the iconic philosopher of the Enlightenment, but it is quite clear he fiercely rejected all its tenets and values. No doubt, here we have the ground zero of the Counter-Enlightenment.

He was certainly no believer in mutually beneficial interaction, or the beneficial effects on society of self-interest (Bernard Mandeville (1670-1733), "The Fable of the Bees"), asserting that "society hardly needs to feed man's love for himself and his desire to be first among men." ["Radical Enlightenment", p. 273].

His radical egalitianism is echoed in the notion that rational and industrious man with dehumanizing machines would replace royalty as an enslaver of the common man, being better and more ruthless on the aggregation of material goods. He argued that the separation of the progress and dissemination of science and art from political and religious control are hazardous for society and for the virtue of the people [Bloom, 1990]. But it gets worse."

Common will" instead of freedom
In Rousseau we see the first social contract at the price of freedom and the birth of a notion called the "common will". The latter is a concept that in Rousseau's approach requires state intervention. This should not be confused with the 'common good'. It is a far more developed conception which, and unlike the former, can only be realized in the context of civil society under the state ["Radical Enlightenment", p. 720).

For the creation of a society of common will, "freedom of all the people", they need only accept the dictates of the state. This was Rousseau's essence of "true civilization." The struggle between rich and poor would then rise to a moral experience of self-restraint. [Wildmonk] With the faculty of moral choice thus abdicated and forfeited to the state, people would be free from lowly - earthly desires and reach full - ideal potential. Man is thus divorced from the social and economic context in which he lives and interacts with others. The ideal state of heaven, separated from earthly considerations.

This totalitarian approach to freedom, an abomination in every sense, was later further developed by Marx, who wrote that "capitalist, individual liberty is the most complete suppression of all individual liberty and total subjugation of individuality to social conditions" [Wildmonk: Marx, "Grundnisse", pp. 131]. "Freedom can only consist in socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulating their interchange with Nature, bringing it under their common control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and worthy of their human nature." [Wildmonk: Marx, "Selected Writings", pp. 496].

In this way man's separation from his nature and morality began. Never in human history were their worse judges of human character than Rousseau and his followers: all seek some degree of formal control over individual freedom for the purpose of creating material conditions deemed necessary for "true freedom", moralectomy in precise equal measure. Rousseau's concept of "common will" became the most savage, bloody instrument of social engineering in the history of mankind.

The Atlantic Ridge
In the United States Thomas Jefferson was the most prominent supporter of the French revolutionary achievements. Nevertheless, property rights and Enlightenment liberties were set in stone in the spirit of Locke, Montesquieu and Adam Smith. The present Democratic Party is being diverted further and further from that tradition as the sway of the postmoderns intensifies. Rhetorical style and attitude betray their influence.

While National Socialist and Communist ideas have swept America to some extent in their haydays - notwithstanding the counter culture, a product of the latter - these Rousseauian inspired ideologies remained by and large a marginal affair. Rousseau entering Locke's territory by the back- door may come as a surprise to some Americans - the wrong brand of revolution is encroaching on its most basic principles.

In Europe the situation was markedly different, as we shall see. Locke's influence remained on the whole limited to the British Isles. France and Germany have both Rousseau traditions, not Lockean. Today of great long-term concern is a possible return to some form of Rousseau inspired extreme ideology. It is chilling to see the rise of an unelected governing body on the European continent. The post-democratic elitism, combined with postmodern ideological chaos understood in the philosophical context, is an even more disquieting prospect.

Counter-Enlightenment projection* is on the order of the day and may even be consciously used as a tactic. Rousseau's brand of radical and revolutionary ideas, combined with the notion that civilization is so corrupt that it must be considered beyond salvation, makes him the father of all violent struggle in the last two and a half centuries.

Americans, tending to confuse Locke's revolution with Rousseau's, occasionally fall into the trap of supporting the wrong causes: initially the Russian Red Terror, and more recently, the covertly Islam inspired call for independence in the middle of Europe's powder keg, the Serbian province of Kosovo in the heart of the Balkans, thus providing a foothold in Europe for similarly based and equally pernicious radicalism.

The zero-sum game approach to economics also originates with Rousseau, which is giving rise to the annual media talking point that "a new report is suggesting that today's rich are getting richer, and the poor are getting poorer". This is incorrect propaganda, some reason requiring regular public re-affirmation, perhaps for that reason alone.

Rousseau and Religion
The great minds of the Enlightenment proper - Spinozists excluded - never saw Christianity as their mortal enemy. To them Church and the Enlightenment were natural allies. Rousseau was no exception, but he had only a passing acquaintance with the Christian political tradition. Therefore he dismissed the role of Christianity as a moderating force in society. He saw the faith as entirely a spiritual undertaking, occupying itself only with "heavenly things."

Rousseau's Christians are so detached from reality that they can hardly be recognized: a people so spiritualized that they display a profound disinterest if their earthly pursuits are successful or not. Rousseau's call for transcendent values to harness the energies of men towards the 'common will', coupled with the rejection of Christianity as a engine of these values, made it a central tenet of all the Rousseauian ideologies [Wildmonk].

To Rousseau religion was an imperative. "... the state cannot ... pursue a policy of toleration for disbelievers, or view religion as a matter of individual conscience. It absolutely must, therefore, reject dangerous notions of toleration and the separation of church and state." and "so fundamentally important is religion that the ultimate penalty is appropriate for disbelievers ..." [Stephen R.C. Hicks, "Explaining Postmodernism", Scholargy Press, 2004, p. 98].

Despite being so enamored with force-feeding religion, after the publication of his work "Emile" he was driven into temporary exile in Bern after a warrant for his arrest was issued. "Emile" was widely denounced as irreligious and seditious.

The Legacy
The loather of civilization Rousseau was nevertheless greatly admired by the early Counter-Enlighteners, as he is by today's postmoderns. His followers mostly selected from his work what they could use to prop up their ideologies. Marx accepted Rousseau's critique of Locke's economic man but stood solidly by the Enlightenment in his appreciation for science and technology. Marx even went so far as to describe his ideology as Scientific Marxism, basically a pseudo scientific rationalization of his aggregate of ideas.

Hegel as well as Rousseau inspired Marx' theory of dialectic materialism, in which the theme is the dichotomy of the Oppressor versus the Oppressed. Now clearly a tactic of this dialectic, Rousseau's vista of a noble, primordial world destroyed by man's egoism, might well also have sired the epidemic of Western self-loathing.

Ironically, while Rousseau was convinced that civilization was the cause of moral degradation, little did he know that his followers, by rejecting objective reality, would drop morality along with it. Despite two and a half centuries of genocidal legacy in pursuit of Rousseauian ideal society it enjoys considerable support among the Western intelligentsia, specifically in the humanities departments of academia, the media, all levels of education, contemporary arts, the political elite, advisory boards, government ministries and departments and what is loosely described as 'the corridors of power.'

The postmodern heirs remain committed to undermining free-market democracy, casting misty eyes upon the Rousseauean atrocities. 110 million dead are not vile enough to discredit 'the Party of Humanity' in the views of some of the most stubborn apologists. Considering that totalitarian societies are today's version of the tribal community he so admired, the Rousseau ideal society could well be described as an agrarian totalitarian state.

Another point of irony is that Rousseau's conviction, that reason engenders egocentrism has been falsified by every non-government sponsored humanitarian organization on the face of the planet, while Rousseau's faithful follower Hegel is responsible for the subjectivism that saw the birth of egocentrism gone mad, the 'Master of the Universe' syndrome (each individual creates his own personal version of reality: If I die overnight, will the sun still rise tomorrow?).

In France, Rousseau's ideal of small, intimate villages and a peaceful, agricultural society built on the consent of the common will has resulted in France becoming a by-word for centralized statism. Rousseau's tenet that reason caused man's fall from paradise may well be the basis of the later Counter-Enlightenment's political ideals, modelled on the re-creation of 'paradise on earth', Utopias which usually turn out to be dystopias instead.

Postmodernism or Rousseauism?
Rousseau can certainly be traced back as the source of all members of the postmodern coalition: environmentalists, third-worldists (Baran-Wallerstein), feminists, anarchists, 'gender, identity and sexual orientation' theorists, traditional socialists of various plumage, and 'classical' postmoderns. It is a true gathering of Rousseauians that has largely remained uninvestigated, underreported and certainly undeclared.

In the chaos of the total postmodern bankruptcy in the wake of mayhem, moralectomy and grandiose failure, there is but one purpose left. A resolve that brings these ideologies together with a tradition with which it has so much in common. We are witnessing a spontaneous feast of recognition with radical Islam.

It is truly remarkable that every prior held conviction and allegiance has by now been jilted in favour of furthering the causes of the intolerant: it's back to the Rousseau basics. The grant plan: a strategy to deconstruct Western, democratic, liberal capitalism by critical theory, and 'irrational means of the will.'

* If you think of yourself as a peaceful, loving person, while actually you are full of wrath and hatred, the psychological coping device of projection - as if by magic - transforms the object of that wratch into someone who is hateful, devisive, full of vitriol and bile, bigoted, intolerant and hatemongering.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Ideological Archeology: The Counter-Enlightenment (I)

The idea of the creation of a personalised universe, or rather a personal version of the universe originates with Protagoras (Greek: Πρωtaγόρaς, ca. 490-420 BC), who said "man is the measure of all things", he meant individual man, rather than mankind.

The sophists of the rough, second generation, notably Trasymachus, a character in Plato's Republic, put that notion of subjectivism to good use. In classical Greece the sophists used language, not in the service of truth or the transfer of information, but as a strategy for political point-scoring. The sophists held that justice is in the interest of the stronger: might makes right.

Objectivist philosopher Stephen Hicks in "Explaining Postmodernism" claims that "postmoderns - coming after two millennia of Christianity and two centuries of social theory - simply reverse that claim: Subjectivism and relativism are true, except that the postmodernists are on the side of the weaker and historically-oppressed groups. Justice, contrary to Trasymachus, is the interest of the weaker."

Contemporary postmoderns have harnessed this form of political correctness to today's version of the class struggle, the dialectic, a tool to perpetuate into eternity the struggle of the 'oppressed' minorities against the 'fake tolerance' of the 'power structure'. The latter should not be understood as 'whoever is in power', but rather 'whoever is in power, other than us'.

Althought we have not always seen it for what it was, during the last two and a half centuries or so the fruits of reason have been pitted in an existential dog fight with the reactionary forces of anti-realism. The movement in generally termed 'the Counter-Enlightenment', to underscore the culture's fundamental rejection of the Enlightenment.

In his ground-breaking book Hicks posits two theses: that the failure of epistemology (philosophy's study of human knowledge) made postmodernism possible; and that the failure of Socialism made postmodernism necessary. As Rousseau, Kant and Hegel were for church authority, the postmoderns are for collectivism: their raison d'être is a desperate 'rationalization' for holding on to a rejected system.

The emergence of the Counter-Enlightenment represents the turning point of the age of reason. The era between 1780 and 1815 was a defining period in modernism, as Anglo-American and German culture split into respectively the Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment.

The former began in England, and was picked up by the French. But Roussseau's followers wrested the Enlightenment inspired revolution away from John Locke's (1632 -1704) followers. This quote is from Locke's 2nd Treatise §3:

"In order to preserve the public good, the central function of government must be the protection of private property ..."
... compare that to Rousseau:
"For the creation of a society of 'common will', the people need only accept the dictates of the state" ...
The French Revolution turned it into the Jacobin Reign of Terror, the particularly bloody, third and last episode. The Germans thereafter, already suspicious of the culture of reason, began a counter movement in an effort to rescue religion from what they saw as the onslaught of reason. When the Enlightened French despot, Napoleon Bonaparte jumped into the vacuum left by the Reign of Terror and conquered Europe, the still largely feudal German states knew for sure what the age of reason had wrought.

The reaction was a counter movement by a brand of collectivist philosophers and intellectuals - politically on the Left as well as on the Right, some religious, later on also atheists - with a number of themes in common: Jean-Jacques Rousseau inspired "anti-individualism, the need for strong government, the view that religion is a state matter (whether to promote or suppress it), the view that education is a process of socialisation, ambivalence about science and technology, and strong themes of group conflict, violence and war.

Hicks: "Left and Right have often divided bitterly over which themes have priority and over how they should be applied. Yet, for all of their differences, both have consistently recognised a common enemy: Liberal capitalism, with its individualism, its limited government, its separation of church and state, its fairly constant view that education is not primarily a matter of political socialisation, and its persistent Whiggish optimism about prospects for peaceful trade and cooperation between members of all nations and groups. (...) the collectivist Right and Left are united in their major goals and in identifying the opposition."

"By the early twentieth century (...) the dominant issues for most continental political thinkers were not whether liberal capitalism was a viable option - but rather exactly when it would collapse - and whether Left or Right collectivism had the best claim to being the Socialism of the future. The defeat of the collectivist Right in World War II then meant that the Left was on its own to carry the Socialist mantle forward."
"Accordingly, when the Left ran into its major disasters as the twentieth century progressed, understanding its fundamental commonality with the collectivist Right helps to explain why in its desperation the Left has often adopted ''Fascistic'' tactics."
Another fateful innovation was set in by the counter movement. As had been the logic during the long period of Church authority over arts and science, all modern mainstream Enlightenment thinkers had accomodated the new advances in science and mathematics into Christian belief. Defying Aristotlean wisdom, human nature, as well as Hume's Law - the confusion of 'is' with 'ought' - the Counter-Enlightenment philosophers following Rousseau, Kant and Hegel - even the atheists - reversed this orthodoxy.

Instead - perhaps even subconsciously or by implication - they developed political models, which reflected religious ideals, the re-creation of paradises on earth, perhaps in an effort to fill the void left by Ancients Regimes. These political models sought to mirror the heavens, on the basis of 'as above, so below', macrocosm - microcosm: the ideal society. The tenets of the Enlightenment were abandoned and replaced by opposing principles: realism made way for Idea-lism, and individualism for collectivism; emotions, intuition and Revelation were adopted as sources of knowledge rather than reason and experience, social theories replaced liberal capitalist theory.

Universal Enlightenment values were applied, but were limited to specific themes. In these themes God was replaced by whatever fitted the theme: nationalists replaced God with the nation, state adolators deified the state, Socialists society, etcetera. We'll return to that after having a look up close at the main, early protagonists of the Counter-Enlightement drama.

Up next: ... Swiss-French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau's (1712-1778) personal life is marked by traits sounding akwardly contemporary ...

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Contradiction of Dogmatism

The Spectator: "Unthinking Dogmatism", by James MacMillan - Hat Tip: Road Sassy

James MacMillan explains why he hates the assumption that he is a liberal left-winger

My revulsion is particularly acute in the artistic circles I sometimes find myself in. I regret to say that the most eager acceptance of the new hectoring political puerilities are to be found in The Arts. This has its roots in Romanticism, of course, but a gradual systemisation of radical politics settled in the early 20th century. Think of how, from the 1920s, groups such as Imagists, Vorticists, Futurists, Surrealists, Expressionists habitually declare their commitment to Revolution. Yes, any old revolution would do, but as long as it overturned manners and lifestyles as well as aesthetics and politics.

This has nothing to do with a love of life, a love of the poor or the outsider, but >>>