Today there are two important articles out that, while they may be different in tone, I think you'll recognize as closely connected and directly related to our larger cultural and political crisis.
The first article is, remarkably, by a Yale graduate in philosophy. I say "remarkably" because I would have expected someone so sensible to have been weeded out. The sentence in the article that REALLY jumped out at me is this one:
"we are in the fight of our lives over epistemology"
Call it a fight instigated by a Great Philosophical Reset--one that dates back centuries but is reaching critical mass today in the public and civic life of our culture. Of course, few of our elite political masters would recognize this crisis as an epistemological or philosophical one. One no longer expects depth from politicians. Our real masters might well recognize the reality of this fight over epistemology--and for precisely that reason they would seek to cancel the very thought from the public discourse.
Yet it is a reality, and it's the reality that I attempted to address in the earlier years of this blog, especially from 2010-2012. The reality of this struggle, with its roots in epistemology, is also the reason that--seemingly in an earlier life--I translated Etienne Gilson's Thomist Reason and the Critique of Knowledge. In more recent days, this conviction lies behind my periodic presentation of the thinking of people like (but not limited to) Patrick Deneen. In one post I wrote the following--and the principles Deneen refers to are in fact epistemological and metaphysical. Most moderns would disdain preoccupation with such principles, but they do in fact control our world, willy nilly:
Deneen's overall thesis is that all liberalism contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction--progressive liberalism may get to the bottom of the slippery slope faster, but classical liberalism or libertarianism will get to the bottom just as surely because their fundamental principles are the same. Indeed, in a notable quote (see below) Deneen states with regard to the historical ignorance of his students:
The pervasive ignorance of our students ... is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide.
The civilization he speaks of, of course, is that of Western liberalism.
Deneen approaches the question of liberalism's death-wish from a philosophical and historical perspective but, before dismissing this as arcane theorizing, be advised that Deneen--writing in 2018--is keenly aware of current political realities. He writes with Trump--and "populism" generally--very much at the front of his mind.
So, with that introduction, the first article is:
As prescient as George Orwell was, even he didn’t have the foresight to see that a major battle would be fought over the truism that women cannot become men.
To whet your appetite for the entire article:
In both conceptions, reality “exists in the human mind, and nowhere else.” In fact, it is lunacy to believe that reality is something objective, external, existing in its own right.
This belief is cognitively dissonant with belief in an everyday experience in which the truths of the world and society hammer themselves home with shattering force. But learning to reconcile these two seemingly irreconcilable beliefs is a principal exercise in the subtle art of doublethink.
The first belief lends itself to solipsism. The second belief suggests objectivity. But the synthesis of the two leads to a perilous equilibrium where the only real goal is power. Because there are no objective truths, one can make whatever reality he pleases. But because one has to contend with other thinking beings, in order to have true control over reality, one must also control them.
Power typically is the ability to make people do things they otherwise would not do. And for power to be meaningful, one must in fact make people do things they otherwise would not do. For absent that, it simply would be the confluence of people’s desired actions.
But in collective solipsism, it is not enough to make people do things. You must make them believe things—as much as one can believe in something they know to be false. So in this system, you have to force people to believe things that they otherwise would reject. Without doing so the objective world still has primacy.
As prescient as Orwell was, even he didn’t have the foresight to see that a major battle would be fought over the truism that women cannot become men. But if we cede this battle—claiming that it is irrelevant or a distraction—we will have tacitly repudiated objectivity, one of the cornerstones of our civilization.
While our brave new world has a slightly brighter patina than Orwell’s dystopia and has closer and closer approximations to soma in the form of media and drugs, we are in the fight of our lives over epistemology. The consequences of failure would make Nineteen Eighty-Four look mild. Already, we see the news and social media practicing for the day that they institute Minitrue. They’re looking forward to it.
The second article addresses the very practical consequences that flow from the Great Reset in epistemology:
This article focuses on the everyday consequences we can expect from the Great Reset implicit in the slogan: Build back better. But make no mistake about it--it flows from the epistemology and philosophy that animate this quest for temporal power.