For a laugh

Leo Strauss once called "the pursuit of happiness" the "joyless quest for joy."


A Temptation for Political Man

I'm reading C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters for the first time. The Screwtape Letters is the story of an "under-secretary of a department" of Hell (Screwtape) giving advice to a "junior tempter," who is working on the corruption of a young man. Lewis's intention, of course, is that in learning of the tactics of Hell, we will also learn how to defend against them.

As a politically-minded fellow, I am struck early on by a passage where Screwtape is talking about introducing a temptation to instrumentalize faith:
Let him begin by treating the Patriotism or Pacifism as a part of his religion. Then let him, under the influence of partisan spirit, come to regard it as the most important part. Then quietly and gradually nurse him on to the stage at which the religion becomes merely part of the 'cause', in which Christianity is valued chiefly because of the excellent arguments it can produce in favour of the British war-effort or of Pacifism. The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing.
This is a temptation of which the political man, the man concerned with worldly life, should be particularly aware. The devil can corrupt our concern for justice by encouraging us to confuse it with our final end or our summum bonum. We mistake the trees for the forest, or choose the part over the whole. This is a temptation in all things, but political life, with its focus on justice in this world, is particularly prone to encouraging this mistake. The point is we need to put first things first, and the first thing is not politics but our relationship with God Himself. If we are not in right-relation with God, we cannot be in right-relation with our fellows. In being in right-relation with God, we are necessarily in right-relation with our fellows.

The triumph of justice, a social virtue, is ultimately dependent on each one of us personally having our priorities straight. This is not to say that this is something we do alone; nothing human can be done "alone" - this is a Liberal (enlightenment) myth. What it does say is that the line of good and evil and ultimately justice runs through each and every human heart. We cannot forget this in participating in our worldly affairs. The problem is not "out there" in some abstraction or social construct - it is in our hearts.


The New Atheists

"...what our new atheists regard as modern progress in the direction of rational liberation is itself a reactionary superstition. The modern Enlightenment has actually been a rebellion against the whole truth about our natures, about who we are, and about the true source of our freedom and dignity. And that rebellion has been not so much radical as selective and self-indulgent. By compassionately privileging personal freedom and human rights over what they believe they know through science, the new atheists remain parasitic on the key Christian insight about who we are. Their attachment to the humane virtues makes no sense outside the Christian claim for the unique and irreplaceable dignity of every human person. That claim is completely unsupported by either ancient (Aristotelian) or modern (Darwinian) science. The sentimental preferences of our atheists are really those of a Christianity without Christ."

- Peter Augustine Lawler
Over-quote week


Peter Lawler is my Hero

And he thinks exactly like I do with respect to beer, wine, hard alcohol, and coffee! On beer:
We drink beer to loosen up, to clamp down on our inhibitions. Then we anxious autonomy freaks can open up to others, be conversational, tell the truth with uncalculated abandon. Bars, of course, are among the most conversational places in America. And beer, we all know, is the mean between the extremes of hard liquor (that will get you too drunk to talk and cause you to lose any control over your moods and so might make you more solitary and melancholic than ever) and not drinking at all (which is a sure sign of a lack of convivality and openness to the joys of life).
and on wine:
Wine, in my opinion, does facilitate the social virtues about as well as beer. It was an excellent replacement for the martini (which tastes ridiculous and gets you drunk fast) among sophisticates such as us BIG THINKERS. So I endorse wine as long as it's fairly cheap. The movie's passionate argument against Merlot, to me, is an argument for it: It's impossible to screw Merlot up, and that can't be said of even Cabernet.
And finally coffee:
What about coffee? Well, I really like it and drink a lot of it. Some say I don't believe in progress. But who can deny that there's been remarkable progress in the coffee readily available to Americans over the last generation? STARBUCKS coffee is swill. But there are many better kinds of designer, grind-your-own bean coffee everywhere now. And coffee shops that serve all kinds of special roasts even in the sticks of our country. ...

Coffee is certainly the beverage for philosophers. Wine might lead some to speak the truth, but often in a stupid, blowhard way. Coffee, take it from me, is the more EROTIC beverage.


July 4, 2011

The report ['The Seventh Quarterly Report'] was written by the White House’s Council of Economic Advisors, a group of three economists who were all handpicked by Obama, and it chronicles the alleged success of the “stimulus” in adding or saving jobs. The council reports that, using “mainstream estimates of economic multipliers for the effects of fiscal stimulus” (which it describes as a “natural way to estimate the effects of” the legislation), the “stimulus” has added or saved just under 2.4 million jobs — whether private or public — at a cost (to date) of $666 billion. That’s a cost to taxpayers of $278,000 per job.
But what of the psychological effect!?!


What's Most True in Marx

"Capitalism makes human beings miserably anxious by turning every human purpose, except those that serve productivity, into a meaningless whim."
Peter Augustine Lawler writes this in the essay "Human Dignity and Higher Education Today" which can be found in his new book. It's an interesting thought. As a culture, we have no room, or at least make no room, for leisure. Heck, maybe we're not even sure what leisure is - it's probably a waste of time. The point of life is to work and to acquire. Continual acquisition, and the resultant change it brings, is probably the end we seek. Whatever we have, it's not good enough. This holds true for material things, but also social things like prestige or notoriety. How do we rediscover, as a culture, the value of leisure time? What is the right balance?