Michael Totten noted the publication of the diary of the philosopher Martin Heidegger as critiqued in the most recent issue of The Weekly Standard with proper disgust. You see, Heidegger was an early convert to Naziism and even though he lived until 1976 he never expressed any regrets.
As the most admired philosopher of the 20th century except for his political philosophy, Heidegger questioned the very essence of Being. That which had been assumed to be obvious for 2,500 years was called into question. “Cogito ergo sum” and all of the other variations on that theme became “WTF?”
The essence of philosophy centers on Ontology, or the nature of being; Epistemology, the nature and scope of knowledge; Logic, Metaphysics (the eternal why), and Aesthetics. Heidegger’s premise was to turn the work of his predecessors on its ear and deconstruct the history and principles of Western philosophy.
Heidegger’s work was considered the epitome of 20th century philosophy. His followers included Sartre, Derrida, and Foucault, the architects of modern existentialism, deconstructionism, and relativism and revisionism. His reputation was built on the work of Friedrich Nietzsche. Heidegger felt that Nietzsche was the culmination of Western metaphysics.
Nietzsche built his theories on Kierkegaard’s work and the dynamic of the aesthetic versus the ethical. Nietzsche attempted to synthesize Kierkegaard’s deeply held sense of the religious and of commitment and personal responsibility to strive for a higher level of being into the core principles of existentialism as outlined in “Man & Superman” which became the basis for Hitler’s Aryanism and perversely for Stalin’s New Soviet Man as well.
But it must be pointed out that Nietzsche was the Jim Morrison of 19th Century philosophy. He lived the lifestyle and threw philosophical bombs regularly. His arguments were contradictory, but the complexity and sheer scale of his eruptions of thought were overwhelming in the Victorian Age when all began to be questioned. He campaigned against morality and God Himself. He attacked the dichotomy of good and evil and his central expression of nihilism was the greatest assault upon the nature of good and evil in history. He railed against Socrates and Aristotle and called for the death of metaphysics in favor of a transfigurative collapse and rebirth of the superman, separated from the masses through intellect and force of will.
This is the foundation of modern philosophy. The triumph of the Id over the Ego and Superego.
Existentialism fit the times. As all of the old order in Europe was collapsing in the midst of World War I the old ways were under extreme pressure. Religion, so deeply identified with the state in Europe, became another casualty of war. Faith was challenged by the carnage. The absurdity of war bred the absurdity of surrealism. Expressionism became another outlet for the authenticity demanded of existentialism.
Existentialists argues that authentic existence involves the idea that one has to “create oneself” and then live in accordance with this self. And yet Kierkegaard was explicit in his faith in an authentically Christian life well led. Nietzsche preferred the romanticism and role of the natural man outlined by Rousseau and this help synthesize his own ideal.
Marx and Engels developed the theories of dialectical materialism and class struggle that entranced those disillusioned by the economic divides of the Industrial Age. The romance of Nietzsche and of Rousseau was transformed into the new, atheist city on a hill offered by Marxism. In Germany Nietzsche’s social Darwinism drove National Socialism. the failure of both systems was both practically and philosophically inevitable in retrospect.
This was proven starkly by the fall of first the Nazi, and then the Soviet Empires. The moral and ethical underpinnings of each were rotten. Sartre defended Marxism, arguing that it had been applied incorrectly. We are still waiting on the workers paradise.
Foucault and Derrida pushed existential thought even further, into deconstructionism and revisionism. Gramsci’s contribution was historicism. Ideas simply cannot be understood outside of their historical or social contexts. If all philosophies are simply alternative narratives how can one be held to be better than another? And if one can disassemble and then reassemble the facts into a new narrative that supports ones views, how can any narrative be true? There is, then, no objective truth according to these theories.
And yet this flies in the face of logic. Of course, both logic and metaphysics posit the existence of a higher force, God, who does not exist because His existence cannot be empirically proven according to the new rules.
But, as C.S. Lewis points out, the Tao exists across philosophies and cultures.
“The Tao, which others may call Natural Law or Traditional Morality or the First Principles of Practical Reason or the First Platitudes, is not one among a series of possible systems of value. It is the sole source of all value judgments. If it is rejected, all value is rejected. If any value is retained, it is retained. The effort to refute it and raise a new system of value in its place is self-contradictory. There has never been, and never will be, a radically new judgment of value in the history of the world. What purport to be new systems or…ideologies…all consist of fragments from the Tao itself, arbitrarily wrenched from their context in the whole and then swollen to madness in their isolation, yet still owing to the Tao and to it alone such validity as they posses.”
This set of principles has been arrived at completely separately in many cultures; In Greece; by the Jews; in India; in China. Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and many other traditions all reflect similar values on the basic levels.
These were not formulated as the tools for domination or the social constructs rationalizing ruling classes as deconstructionists or Marxists believe, but rather as social compacts derived from divine sources.
The histories of civilizations were best prepared by scholars to accurately depict the events of the times under study. Perhaps certain biases seep into narratives, but overall these histories are confirmed by multiple sources; scientific, mathematical, and historical. In each tradition accountability was demanded by a shared responsibility to future generations. You may not like some of history, but you are not allowed to choose that history. It can be critiqued, but it cannot be changed.
So if the foundations for modern philosophy can be so easily discredited why have our intelligentsia chosen not to do so?
Rationalism demands logic and order. Facts must be confirmed. The greater the theory, the more demanding the criticism of that theory must be in order to confirm or deny it. And yet if rationalism and logic are denied, how can we ascertain the essential truth.
Marxist dialectics emphasizes the primacy of the material way of life over all forms of social consciousness and the secondary, dependent character of the “ideal.”Thus as with Nietzsche’s theory God does not exist.
As St. Thomas Aquinas argued for the existence of God, there are 5 principles:
Motion -Some things undoubtedly move, though cannot cause their own motion. Since there can be no infinite chain of causes of motion, there must be a First Mover not moved by anything else, and this is what everyone understands by God.
Causation- As in the case of motion, nothing can cause itself, and an infinite chain of causation is impossible, so there must be a First Cause, called God.
Existence of necessary and the unnecessary- Our experience includes things certainly existing but apparently unnecessary. Not everything can be unnecessary, for then once there was nothing and there would still be nothing. Therefore, we are compelled to suppose something that exists necessarily, having this necessity only from itself; in fact itself the cause for other things to exist.
Gradation- If we can notice a gradation in things in the sense that some things are more hot, good, etc., there must be a superlative that is the truest and noblest thing, and so most fully existing. This then, we call God.
Ordered tendencies of nature- A direction of actions to an end is noticed in all bodies following natural laws. Anything without awareness tends to a goal under the guidance of one who is aware. This we call God.
The alternative is that Sh*t just happened. Which is more logical?
Today the vestiges of Nietzsche, Marx, Derrida, Sartre, and Foucault live on in a world of wishful thinking. Our intelligentisia see the world as the want or demand it to be rather than as it is. The destruction of logic and of critical thinking is leading to a new dark age, not in a physical sense but rather as one of illogic and superstition.
As we are finding out the hard way with dictators and national interests, reality is conflicting with the received wisdom. Despite 2,500 years of dialectics, we are being coerced into beliefs which defy logic.
Orwell, Huxley, Bradbury and others wrote of the dangers of modern irrationalism. Hofer’s True Believer was based upon the zealots of Naziism and Communism. Book burnings did happen. Races and those who disagreed were exterminated. The Jews, the kulaks in Ukraine, 50,000,000 victims of the cultural revolution and 3,000,000 more in Cambodia were all sacrificed within living memory on the altar of atheistic idealism.
Even in the face of the evidence the intelligentsia still hold many of those same beliefs in historicism and relativism and failed ideologies.
And yet the alternative is so simple that it has been obfuscated in a hurricane of sophism. All God has ever asked is to be believed. It’s called faith. Nietzsche is long dead. God isn’t.
To be continued…..