The Revolution of the Stupid

History, said Ortega, is amusing, unlike Nature, which, mere repetition of itself, is boring. But historical amusement also includes tragedy. At this moment, apart from the fact that everything is degenerating to begin again, according to the law of anakyklosis described by Polybius, and the games with which the capricious goddess Fortuna entertains Clio, what is amusing now are the idiotic simplifiers, who remind us of the schreckliche Simplifikateure (horrible simplifiers)—Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, etc.—whom Jacob Burckhardt saw coming and who “enlived” the 20th century. The new simplifiers, whose destructiveness does not even have any collective purpose, except rhetorically, are legion. They are people who were born stupid, attained the state of stupidity, or stupidity was thrust upon them. As Paul Tabori’s (1908-1974) tell us in his book, The Natural History of Stupidity [published in 1959 as The Natural Science of Stupidity, and then in 1993 as, The Natural History of Stupidity]: “Stupidity is Man’s deadliest weapon, his most devastating epidemic, his costliest luxury.”

Stupidity is also an important historical factor, sometimes the decisive one. But, like boredom and weariness, it has scarcely been studied as a cliopolitical category—perhaps because, as Napoleon is said to have said, surely thinking of his adversaries and enemies, “in politics, stupidity is not a handicap.” The revolution inspired by stupidity has distorted Karl Popper’s dream of an open society. To begin with, after the implosion of the USSR, stupidity confirmed the possibility of the end of history, naively diagnosed by Francis Fukuyama as the triumph of liberal democracy. In reality, it was what is generically called “social democracy,” disguised as liberalism in which reigns the “market of desire” of the “libertarian liberalism” of May 1968, denounced by the Marxist Michel Clouscard. The result is that many people today share the feeling that ill fare the lands of the West. It is already a cliché that the future of a demoralized Europe, given over to carpe diem, is dark and gloomy rather than disturbing. It is enough to bring to mind the moral and spiritual desertification and the plummeting birth rate, instigated by stupid governments, which will marginalize Europe from history.

[See Guillermo Mas Arellano, “Destruir la civilización: tres pensadores franceses” (“Destroying Civilization: Three French Thinkers”). In the press, it is becoming common to find allusions and articles about the stupidity or nonsense of politicians].

The stupid are narcissistic to a greater or lesser degree, and politics attracts narcissists like a honeycomb of rich honey attracts flies. But not enough attention is paid to their influence on politics and, therefore, on history. Karl Marx wrote in The Eighteenth Brumaire and Louis Bonaparte: “Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past. The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just as they seem to be occupied with revolutionizing themselves and things, creating something that did not exist before, precisely in such epochs of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service, borrowing from them names, battle slogans, and costumes in order to present this new scene in world history in time-honored disguise and borrowed language.” In other words, men make history without knowing what they are doing. The result depends on circumstances, on the protagonists and, fifty percent according to Machiavelli, seventy-five percent according to Frederick the Great, on chance. To say that one is on the right side or with the correct course of history is, then, stupidity (from stupidus, “dazed”), a concept that reduces the DRAE [Dictionary of the Royal Academy of the Spanish Language] to “remarkable clumsiness in understanding things.”

The present time is much more revolutionary than that of the Great French and Soviet Revolutions with the decisive interlude of the revolution of the intellectuals of 1848.

[Olavo de Carvalho: “the really decisive power is, in the long run, that of a priestly or intellectual order.” Once the intellectuals—Auguste Comte’s savants—became the ruling class, they began to spread more or less utopian ideas—beliefs, which ended up becoming ideas—beliefs that dissolved the European tradition of politics and led to totalitarianism: secularism, atheism, radical individualism, Freemasonry, nationalism, statism, interventionism, collectivism, socialism, communism, anarchism, racism, nihilism, etc.].

The present time is so abnormal that it has become normal to speak of the beginning of the reign of the Antichrist—the earthly Jerusalem—of the Apocalypse, of the Great Tribulation, or simply of the end of the world. Contributing recently to the spread of these prognoses are the real or supposed pandemic-business of the coronavirus and the scientistic myth of climate change in which even the singular Jesuit Pope Francis believes, “fascinated,” says Chantal Delsol, “by ecologist religion and post-Christian humanitarianism.”

Douglas Murray begins his widely read book, The Madness of Crowds [the Spanish translation of which bears the subtitle, How identity politics drove the world to madness]., with the phrase “we are going through a great crowd derangement.” Some brief annotations, comments and examples on the nature and importance of stupidity may be worthwhile, simply to draw attention to this possible cliopolitical category, which helps to understand, for example, that of misgovernment, both of which are nowadays practically normalized.

Polybius (200-118 B.C.) judiciously warned against attributing to divine intervention, events whose causes can be discovered to explain their origin and end. It is, therefore, pertinent to relate the existing confusion with the fact that societies that consider themselves “liberal” democratic are beginning to be, or are already, ochlocratic plutocracies, spiritually governed by Stupidita, a little known but very active ancient divinity, to whom Jean Paul Richter (1763-1825) dedicated a valuable essay-homage

[The god of stupidity and insanity in Greece was Κοαλεμος (Coalemos in Latin), of whom little data is known and whose etymology is disputed].

Hans Blumenberg pointed out the craving for novelty as a distinctive feature of Modernity and according to Jacques Barzun, “the new is always the best” is its guiding principle. Parodying Schopenhauer, Nietzsche’s mentor, ex novo lux: the critique of customs, usages, the historical past, religious, moral, aesthetic and political traditions by the subjectivist metaphysics of modern rationalism (Heidegger), and the slogan of the French Jacobins who legally proclaimed “1789” the “Year Zero” of the new history of man freed from all the past—prepared the reign of Stupidity. “The vulgar progressivism that considers everything past as essential barbarism” (Ortega).

The cult of their own identity is a defining feature of the narcissism of the stupid. The admirers of themselves (the greatest vice of all is the vice of oneself, said C. S. Lewis—the “identity” politics of fashionable multiculturalism—”all the brains in the world are powerless against whatever stupidity is in fashion” [La Fontaine, 1621-1695])—confuse differences with “diversity.” Combined with the collectivization of idiocy—which makes the most idiotic idiots feel intelligent—it may be the best explanation of what has been called the suicide of Western civilization by auto-narcissism. What Oliver Cromwell said could be applied to progressive politicians—the majority: “A man never goes so far as when he does not know whither he is going.” But, if Richter is to be believed, the triumph of Stupidity could be “the long-sought universal remedy against all maladies”—a search intensified by intellectuals won over by the ideological mode of thought that has been competing with traditional religion since the Great Revolution.

Stupidity is highly contagious. Boileau used to say: “an imbecile always finds another imbecile who admires him.” Hence the mass of optimists—”optimism is the opium of the people” (Milan Kundera)—are prone to think that universal stupidity is the normal state of humanity, and the pessimists, better informed people, maintain that human stupidity is a mathematical constant.

Flaubert, author of the unfinished novel Bouvard and Pécuchet, concerned about the presence of stupid people everywhere, concluded, in the manner of Carl Schmitt, that “stupidity is the enemy“—a fact often overlooked by historians, without realizing that history is also, in a way, Koalemos’ fight against common sense. Which, fortunately, as Unamuno warned, was already the least common of senses in his time.

[Flaubert captured early on the essence of political correctness: they are “imbeciles, he said, those who do not think as you do”].

At present, everyone is intently media-watching, whether with censorship, self-censorship or even without censorship, which reveals, in their eagerness to appear transgressive, that Koalemos vincit. That is to say, they corroborate, in the words of Quevedo, that “all those who seem stupid, are stupid; and, moreover, so are half of those who do not seem so”—as it should be in advanced democracy, of which so much is said without knowing what it actually consists of.

The general cause is, as Lucien Jerphagnon recalled in his important book, La… sottise? Vingt-huit siècles qu’on en parle (Stupidity…? Twenty-eight centuries of talking about it), and the one pointed out by St. Augustine—stupidity is a consequence of Adam’s sin, and since man is a sinner, the stupid are the majority. This raises the dilemma of whether stupidity is democratic or that democracy itself is stupid. But given the truth that democracy is the realm of opinion, it can be inferred, for example, that it is the messianic export, urbi et orbi, from North America of the democracy prophesied by John Dewey as the religion of progress—the greatest revolution of all times, since it entails the universal reign of Koalemos, a reign in which the normal, common sense, is condemned, and what was once considered abnormal is innovative and transgressive and is thus praised as correct.

[“If stupidity did not look so much like progress, talent, hope, or improvement, no one would want to be stupid,” said Robert Musil, in “Über die Dummheit,” “On Stupidity” (1937)].

Those who are not on the right side of history, fortunately less and less, protest because the persecution of the sane, the normal, the usual is enforced, and the abnormal imposed, without understanding that it is what, finally, Koalemos gratias, should be normal.

The greatest danger of stupidity consists in politicis, in that it is not incompatible with being “cunning.” For “the probability that a given person is stupid,” judiciously writes Carlo M. Cipolla, “is independent of any other characteristic of the same person.” The stupid can be intelligent and “there are stupid men who possess vast knowledge,” said Tabori. A very serious problem, if Jean-Baptiste Molière was right, for whom “people are never so close to stupidity as when they think they are wise.” In this case, as “every form of intelligence has its form of stupidity” (Robert Musil), if the intelligent person thinks he is wise, he tends to detach himself from the reality in which he lives and to live in unreality. For example, inventing an ideology or ascribing to one, generally, if possible, democratic, as the socialist one claims to be, since every ideology has a utopian objective. This is what Julien Benda called “the treason of the intellectuals,” the modern clerics, who exchange the religious faith of the priests for faith in the uncertain. Today they usually officiate as organic intellectual priests dedicated to fostering collective stupidity.

[Charles de Gaulle said: “You can be sure that the Americans will commit all the stupid things they can think of, as well as some that are beyond imagination.” This is the case of President Biden and his cohort of cretinous leftists. The Mathematical Association of America has declared mathematics to be racist].

The stupid, said Jerphagnon, completing Flaubert’s observation, are those who ignore their own condition and consider stupid those who say or do something that does not please them, “so they are a very large family.” He recalls Plato’s confession to Simonides in the Protagoras, St. Augustine’s acknowledgment that the absolute majority of men—and women—are imbeciles, fools and idiots, and Descartes’ assertion that “we rarely have occasion to deal with completely reasonable people.” In short, “throughout history there have been people, and not exactly insignificant ones, who have denounced stupidity; it is possible to smell it everywhere and it floats in the atmosphere of all times,” with which Jerphagnon concluded his interesting inquiry.

It is necessary to distinguish, however, the normal stupidity of ordinary life, in which we all do stupid things, from the much more serious stupidity of the elites as such. The first, generally harmless, is like the sauce of life. It is a literary and theatrical theme—comedy as a specific genre—elevated to the rank of art by the cinema with Chaplin, Oliver Hardy and Stan Laurel (“the Fat and the Skinny”), the Marx Brothers, Jerry Lewis, etc. The second, that of the ruling classes, is on the other hand very dangerous; especially when it affects like a plague the strata of politicians and intellectuals. Then it is revolutionary—it operates as a highly contagious and destructive disease, capable of annihilating peoples suffering from stupid governments, especially if they are trapped in the forma mentis of ideology, which justifies and empowers the will-to-power of the stupid, tendentially narcissistic. Ideology is a partial truth that is presented politically as universal (Antonio García-Trevijano), with the utopian pretension of definitively reconciling with itself the human species, a group, even individuals, anxious to change their social position. As Gómez Dávila wrote in a short extract: “Ideas tyrannize those who have few;” and ideology fanatically guides those who achieve power with the support of the mass of fools who believe others who are less foolish. With the not infrequent collaboration of businessmen who take advantage of the stupidity of others. Ortega’s man-mass is the normal individual, sick with stupidity, led by the most astute.

[Richter: “Those who have most favored and nurtured the Stupidity of the people are those who have profited the most”].

The big problem is when the stupid rule, a revolutionary inversion of natural hierarchies. “The fool will be servant to the wise” (Proverbs 11:29). The inversion of the hierarchical order in public life is the reason why collective stupidity is today an expanding phenomenon, described as infantilization by those concerned with the spread and intensity of the phenomenon in everyday life.

John Paul II recognized that “stupidity is also a gift of God, but we must not misuse it.” A frequent motive is vanity, which often deviates or obscures intelligence. Then, the intelligent person aspires to be what he is not and acts stupidly, because “pride is a fairy that satisfies all the desires of the idiot” (Jean Paul Richter), a creature who always wants to be satisfied with himself. And since vanity, as Hobbes observed, is a frequent affliction of the politician, today we can speak of the predominance of the “idiot genus” because of the large number of politicians, required by bureaucratization in the statist governments, supported by the mass of the stupid. Moreover, idiots prefer the company of idiots. Karl Kraus used to say, “the secret of the demagogue consists in making himself as stupid as his audience so that they believe they are as intelligent as he is.” That is why it does not matter to the professionals of politics, political careerists of the demagogy that is presented as democracy, to promote manipulable fools, or to make themselves look like idiots in order to attract fools and increase their entourage with fools; and with clever people who pass themselves off as fools.

In addition, there is what Wilfredo Pareto said: in every political order, there is always a political, cultural and economic elite. And since the idiot is also his own best friend—stupidity with political and cultural power—today the media, is very profitable for economic oligarchies, especially if it is coupled with a lack of scruples and emotional appeals to humanitarianism. Well, humanitarianism justifies, for example, that the Herodian rulers and the innumerable idiots that inhabit the earth consider abortion progressive, the greatest, by far, of the genocides—it is usually already the first cause of mortality in many “advanced” countries—and euthanasia, another even more humanitarian genocide underway, which only benefits businessmen.

[Added to abortion as a contraceptive resource is the “need” to exterminate before birth those that Álex Navajas calls, “the climate killers,” because as the population increases, the damage to Mother Earth increases].

Carl Schmitt used to say about humanitarianism: Wer Menscheit sagt, will betrügen, he who appeals to humanity wants to deceive. The decadence of Europe, victim of the humanitarianism described by Robert Hugh Benson in 1907, in the apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, is often compared to that of the Western Roman Empire.

[It is curious that Pope Francis recommends this book from 1907, critical of Comte’s religion of humanity, a religion of sentiment. For example, the hymn of the Masons (“The Lord that dwells in earth and sea”) combines feelings and emotions that exalt humanitarianism, a secularization or politicization of Christian charity].

Various causes are adduced. Philippe Fabry argues, incorporating the interpretation of Mikhail Rostovtzeff to that of Montesquieu, that the main cause was the loss of freedom. Hanlon’s well-known principle or law—”one should not attribute to wickedness what is almost always the consequence of stupidity”—completes the explanation. But there is no shortage of evil idiots.

[Ricardo Moreno Castillo rightly adds that stupidity is more harmful: “Stupidity is more harmful than evil because it is easier to fight against the second (because it acts with a certain logic), than against the first (which lacks it ). You can talk to an evil person and even convince him that he could be much happier becoming a good person. A stupid person, on the other hand, is invulnerable to reasoning. If we could suppress the evil in the world it would be a little better. But if we could suppress stupidity, the world would be so much better” (Introduction, p.18).].

Historical experience teaches that men become stupid when their civilizations decay. Ortega recalled this precisely with regard to the Roman Empire. But it is doubtful whether it was stupidity, mainly that of the ruling oligarchies converted into decadent castes, that caused freedom to decay; or whether, on the contrary, it was the decadence of freedom that caused the intensification of collective stupidity. Probably both. What is certain is that the decadence and disappearance of cultures and civilizations owes much to stupidity.

It is written in Ecclesiastes (1:15): stultorum infinitus est numerus (as to fools, infinite is the number), a disputed translation of the Vulgate of St. Jerome, which coincides, however, with the phrase of the pagan Cicero in the Epistola ad familiares (9. 22. 4): stultorum plena sunt omnia, “all things are full of fools.” Assertions corroborated by Albert Einstein: “there are two infinite things: the Universe and human imbecility, but I doubt the former.” The intensity of politicization, driven by ideologization, unconscious or conscious promoter of stupidity as an interpreter of faith in Koalemos, proves it at this moment. Since religions are the key to cultures—a word related to cult—and civilizations, it is obvious that idiocy is incompatible with them and it is necessary to destroy them so that the god of stupidity may prevail. The religious founders, knowing what Ecclesiastes, Cicero, other sages and common sense said, wanted to improve the human condition. It is not strange that the psychiatrist, a lay substitute for the confessor, has become the family doctor, as faith in the biblical God migrated to the State and the market, as the American theologian William T. Cavanaugh says.

The politicization—”even the personal is political”—which substitutes religion for politics, affects first and foremost the ruling classes. The dumbing down by “the antiquarians of ideology” (G. Morán) and the maternal humanitarianism of feminist bio-ideologies (women are the most oppressed class according to Marxist-Leninist neo-faith) is beginning to be as evident as the influence of propaganda (no less humanitarianist, and, I might add, merciful—”the banalization of compassion,” says Manuel Alejandro Rodríguez de la Peña—”without ceasing to be destructive”) of the fourth estate, the media in the hands of “loquacious illiterates” (Alberto Buela). “Compassion, in this century, is an ideological weapon,” said Gómez Dávila in one of his famous scholia. A weapon easy to handle even by the stupidest, it is used by rulers and businessmen without the slightest scruple to attract and convince the masses they exploit.

Once religion, which provides security compatible with freedom, has been superseded by politicization, which creates uncertainty, one of the problems of “affluent societies” (J. K. Galbraith) consists, in fact, in the alliance between the political, cultural and economic elites against the people, at the time when The Revolt of the Masses (Ortega) and The Revolt of the Elites (Christopher Lasch) coincide. This alliance explains the influence of the manqué individual, who, as Michael Oakeshott observed, began to gain popularity and followers with the development of state capitalism—the only real “capitalism”—coinciding with the formation of the new estate of professional politicians, when the State, a technical apparatus, the artificial form of the Political, was affirmed. Professionalization that also explains the political rise of the eternal estate of the idiots. Against the first, the Jesuit Pedro de Ribadeneyra cried out in his Tratado de la religión y virtudes que debe tener el príncipe cristiano para gobernar y conservar sus Estados. Contra lo que Nicolás Machiavelo y los políticos de este tiempo enseñan [Treatise on Religion and Virtues that the Christian Prince must Have to Govern and Conserve his Realms, and Against what Niccolò Machiavelli and the Politicians of that Time Taught] (1595). Against the second, much more numerous, Richter testified in the essay in which he poses as the spokesman for Stupidity. “The begetters have played a role in our revolutions,” lamented Chateaubriand, incapable of understanding “the right side of history,” as former US President Obama, Nobel laureate for the extraordinary merit of being black, although there are hundreds of millions of blacks, liked to say.

Stupidity, said Voltaire, is “an extraordinary disease” of narcissists incapable of perceiving their own stupidity. Its peculiarity consists in the fact that, since “it is not the sick person who suffers because it, but others,” it becomes socially more dangerous than the dominion of the wicked, because, as Ortega pointed out, “the wicked sometimes rest; the fool never.” Indeed, the fool, a character unmistakable with the insane, the ignorant, the narrow-minded, the short-sighted, the illiterate or the uneducated in the conventional sense, has no limits.

[The famous wise Count of Keyserling liked to talk with the shepherds of Gredos and Baztán, whom he considered among the most cultured men in the world].

Cicero said the same earlier: “any man can make a mistake; only a stupid person keeps on doing the same thing.” And Einstein confirmed it: “the difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.” A scientific statement by whoever makes it, which excludes normal people guided by common sense, becomes the greatest enemy of stupidity—a reason for the stupid to try to extirpate it, when they achieve power. Hence the fifth rule of Cipolla’s little manual, in agreement with Moreno Castillo: “the stupid person is the most dangerous type of person that exists.” A rule applicable with reservations in private life, which multiplies the danger of fools when they act in public life, in which they are more and more numerous. Perhaps also as a consequence of the combination of humanitarian liberalism with democracy, in which everyone can give his opinion, although his opinion generally reproduces that of stupid people who spread the ideas of others among the multitude of fools by nature.

Indeed, in the democratic context, the stupid easily act as wise men. Heine observed during the German Vormärz: “the wise emit new ideas and the fools expand them.” One explanation may be that, according to the great philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, “almost all new ideas have a certain aspect of stupidity (or foolishness) when they are first produced.” The Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa saw it differently: “no intelligent idea can gain general acceptance unless some stupidity is mixed with it.” Both views are reconcilable: the English journalist and historian Paul Johnson realized that the spread of moral relativism owes much to the interpretation and dissemination—obviously by fools—of Einstein’s theory of relativity, one of the origins of “post-truth” and the fact that, as the great statesman Felipe Gonzalez said, “in democracy, the truth is what the citizens believe to be true.”

The growing interference of fools in politics is surely the greatest danger to democracy. Almost two centuries ago, Tocqueville grasped that North America did not get along very well with excellence and meritocracy.

[Tocqueville’s fears have been realized. Tocqueville would not come out of his astonishment if he could see that, by one of those unforeseeable twists of history, America – which Hegel saw as an immature nation and Raymond Aron still said was not a nation – is one of the greatest dangers to freedom, while Russia seems to defend it. See Thomas Molnar. Le modèle défiguré: L’Amérique de Tocqueville à Carter (1978); Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism (2008); R. R. Reno, Return of the Strong Gods: Nationalism, Populism, and the Future of the West (2019); Zbigniew Janowski, Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America (2021)].

And Nietzsche, a critic of mass democracy, warned in 1872 against superficial, popularizing and reductivist pedagogy. But for almost a century now, “the conspiracy of the imbeciles” (the expression is by Jean-Paul Brighelli) has been dedicated to establishing “the predominance of the cretin.” The continuous pedagogical reforms to “democratize” teaching, especially since 1968, when the homo festivus et stupidus appeared on the scene, encourage collective idiocy.

[The pedagogical fashion consists of promoting the emotional and absurd investigations instead of teaching and training students in the fundamentals].

Bureaucratized Universities—bureaucratization, which may be necessary due to technique, idiotizes the administered when it is excessive—cultivate idiocy, which the new media, “the priesthood of the ruling class” (Zbigniew Janowski), spread like a contagious disease. Radio, cinema, television, internet, cell phones, tablets, telephones and the “entertainment industry” multiply infinitely the influence of the press of Heine’s time. Back then, the large number of illiterates protected people from cultural cretinism. Today, “to promote culture is to crown the mediocre,” said a pessimistic Gómez Dávila, who always kept in mind die schrekliche Simplifikateure that Jacob Burckhardt, one of his two “patron saints” (the other was the skeptical Montaigne), feared so much. “Stupidity is always there, one would realize it if one did not always think of oneself,” said Albert Camus, and the simplifiers fascinate fools with a bit of propaganda.

Even Noam Chomsky recognizes that “propaganda is to democracy what a club is to a totalitarian state.”

[Edward Bernays (1891-1995), Freud’s nephew who settled in the USA, is credited with the invention of the technique of public relations, and the origin of propaganda as a method, namely, marketing, to channel and “manufacture thought.” Bernays successfully organized a campaign to make women equal to men by encouraging them to smoke. See Bernays’ Crystallizing Public Opinion (1923), Propaganda (1928), Public Relations (1945), The Engineering of Consent (1955), and Philippe Darantière, Le techno-nihilisme. Idéologie du changement de civilization].

Pius XII warned in his Christmas radio message of 1944: “Propaganda models all souls after the same pattern, taking away their peculiarities and almost their very life. Even the differences in psychology and attitude between the sexes tend to diminish as much as possible. For all this, the people, which is essentially a great family of diverse but harmonious souls, gathered around what is common to them, disappears. And the mass emerges, with its great empty, collective, enslaved soul.” A mass composed of subjects—at least in Europe there are no other citizens than the politicians who rule in the parties—who live in a more or less virtual unreality, what has been called “metaverse” or metauniverse, the universe beyond. It is happening with the new generations, more and more infantilized. For the new media not only creates what Heimito von Doderer christened die zweite Realität, the second reality inhabited by “the digital idiot,” but it has exponentially increased the possibility of propagating theories and doctrines whose idiocy knows no bounds, while instilling fear of reality as the only truth.

Although violent totalitarian States or Governments still exist (today we must say patriarchal, masculine or sexist—Machiavelli, for example, is a “sexist” in the feminist new-speak) most, if not all the European States and Governments and those of the exsanguinated Christianity, are Sovietizers (Vladimir Bukowsky). Robert Spaemann marked them as totalitarian “liberals.” Rod Dreher calls “soft” totalitarianism, in Live Not by Lies, that which is being imposed in the United States, encouraged by the government of the left-wing cretins presided over by Biden, whose last resounding feat has been to provoke Russia led by Putin, the “satanic enemy” of the progressivism of the stupid.

[One difference between the USA and Europe and other countries is that, there, “the wicked,” led by former President Trump, another anti-progressive “Satan,” are enemies of the stupid].

Self-proclaimed liberal democrats states and governments promote—and finance—stupidity (not always intentionally but for stupidity’s sake) in education, in the media and through the infinite and increasingly maternal Legislation, which conditions behavior by idiotizing the way of acting and even speech, which, among other things, must be automatically emotive and inclusive.

Peter Sloterdijk does not believe that the capacity to think is being lost. What is happening is that life today does not invite us to think: we live in such a hurry that news is rushed through without giving us time to digest it. He is quite right.

[Karl Steinbuch published, in 1966, Die informierte Gesellschaft. Geschichte und Zukunft der Nachrichtentechnik (The Informed Society. History and Future of News Technology), on the need for society to be sufficiently informed. In 1989, he published Die desinformierte Gesellschaft: Für eine zweite Aufklärung (The Disinformed Society: For a Second Enlightenment), warning that the abundance of news was destroying education, whose disaster he predicted, and bewildering public opinion. In 1992, he published Kollektive Dummheit: Streitschrift gegen den Zeitgeist (Collective Stupidity: Polemic against the Zeitgeist)].

But it is a fact that, due in part to technological advances and sentimental humanitarian pedagogy (unfortunately without poetry, “the voice of the ineffable,” as Juan Ramón Jiménez used to say) collective stupidity is becoming widespread, encouraged and guided by governments which, aided and encouraged by the new technologies, are all practically totalitarian today—states in which, as experience shows, there is an abundance of functional illiterates and idiots in positions of command. But the stupid revolutionaries are generous. Bent on the noblest task of equalizing everyone, they impose educational laws to bring the new generations up to their level.

There are still subjects or administrators who think and complain that their governments treat them as imbeciles. But they do not realize how imbecilic are the supportive rulers, who want them to be equal to them. The skeptics who remain (and seem to be more and more in number because of the authoritarian if not tyrannical measures because of the coronavirus and the increase in taxes to defeat “sinister” climate change) fear that, if the rulers are incriminated for their wastefulness, kickbacks, bribes, vote-buying through subsidies, threats, excesses or other corruptions—defense lawyers could allege, as a mitigating or exonerating circumstance, that they are poor fools.

It is worth clarifying that collective stupidity or dumbing down is a very different phenomenon from the “weak thinking” described by Vattimo. It has been frequently observed since Robert Musil wrote that “freedom and reason… have not been in good health since the middle of the 19th century or a little later.” This was the time when, according to Whitehead, began the destruction of common sense, thanks to which stupidity was bearable. The manipulation of political language by Soviet agit-prop contributed effectively to its destruction. One of the first to notice a great regression in the intellectual level was precisely the Soviet dissident Aleksander Zinoviev (1922-2006), reconverted to communism when the USSR imploded, perhaps shocked by the superior stupidity of the supposedly liberal democracies.

[Cf. Michele Federico Sciacca, L’oscuramento dell’intelligenza; Alain Finkielkraut, The Defeat of the Mind; C. Castoriades, La Montée de l’insignifiance (The Rise of Insignificance). André Glucksmann held postmodernism responsible in La Bêtise (Stupidity), and Giancarlo Livraghi, The Power of Stupidity. On the relationship of postmodernism with the turn of socialism towards modal ideologies, typical of cretinocracy, see Stephen R. C. Hicks, Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault. The postmodern appears, Ernst Jünger mocked, when a woman puts on a new hat. Fashion, which is frequently a falsification of customs, is also often the cradle of stupidity, for fashionable stupidity is preferred to old-fashioned wisdom].

The propagandistic use of (pseudo)political language as common language, the “inclusive” language—”so a word out of the thought of the heart of man” (Sirach 27:7)—already makes it possible to legally punish the inconvenient or incorrect judgment with the very new and unlawful “hate crimes;” Orwell’s “thought crimes” in 1984. “The corruption of language reveals that of man,” said A. García-Trevijano; and the totalitarian powers want to coercively impose the language of stupidity as a common language, so that its corrupt nature is not noticed.

The rise of revolutionary cretinocracy is not attributable, however, only to the bureaucratization of politics by the ideological mode of thought—whose spirit is totalitarian—typical of the protective States of maternal tendency that treat their subjects as children. “Ideologies render to those who lack ideas the same service as wigs do to bald men” (Ricardo Castillo) and create sectarians and one-sided people who “have only certainties” (Bertrand Russell), while normal intelligent people are full of doubts. Mark Twain advised not to argue with the stupid so as not to be put on their level.

Bureaucracy—”the government of nobody” (H. Arendt)—is consubstantial to the State, a technical apparatus whose ratio, the status ratio, contributes powerfully to impose the quantitative culture of rationalism over the qualitative, aided by the social sciences, which confuse quantity with importance, as if in real politics everything had been decided in advance.

[See, René Guénon, The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times. The ratio status, inherently interventionist, turned into l’ordre publique (public policy) of the Napoleonic État de Droit (rule of law), uses governance, a business technique adopted by the technocracy of the liberal Totalitarian State].

Bureaucracy is the form in which the State is personified by governments eager to “protect people from themselves” as Gunnar Myrdal recommended to his government, perhaps inspired by the biblical saying that the number of fools is infinite, even if they are Swedes, to establish the “Empire of Good” described by Phillipe Muray. Unbelieving, Sloterdijk ironizes: “so many civil servants allow the State not to be seen.”

“The fool is greedy, envious, petty,” said Unamuno. And Voltaire and Ortega failed to add that, if the stupid have power, they easily become, without realizing it, scoundrels. To achieve the noble goal of equalizing everyone in idiocy, the bureaucracy commanded by the stupid is concerned about culture and civilization, which reflect the identity of a people with itself. Hence, its direction is entrusted to direct and indirect nomenklaturas in which swarm more or less fatuous fools, madmen [perhaps because there is no shortage of insane people, Alain de Benoist generalizes and considers the stupid to be insane], organic intellectuals and non-venal intellectuals who still believe, no longer in the goodness of socialism, but in that of communism, promoted in part by the UN, and by “experts,” advisors, specialists, convinced of, or feigning, their moral superiority—careerists and crooks, rogues, knaves, criminals and international financial mafias, who exploit emotions. Fools instinctively corrupt culture to assert themselves in power, as is happening at the moment, when children are perverted, for example, with the Bolshevik argument that “children do not belong to their parents.” [Are they res nullius or state property? If they belong to the State, does the State copulate?]

According to Cipolla’s third rule, “a stupid person is a person who causes harm to another person without at the same time obtaining a benefit for himself, or even obtaining a harm.” And since stupidity is now a contagious pathology so widespread that it can be called a pandemic, we are beginning to talk about the urgency of a movement to survive what can be considered the pathological religion of stupidity. Rémi Brague blames the phenomenon on the failure of the modern project, describable as the planning of the future in imitation of Creation, implicit in the Pelagian “New Christianity” of the Count of Saint-Simon, “the father of planners” (Wilhelm Röpke), creditor of Marx, Lenin, Hitler, Mao and other progressive atheists. The renewing principle of techno-scientific Christianity reads: “Religion must direct society towards the great goal, which consists in obtaining as rapidly as possible an improvement in the lot of the poorest class.” As this religion tends to equalize, this explains its success among the supporters of social justice, despite the fact that there are also degrees of stupidity among equals.

Brague, who suffers from the reactionary disease of preserving common sense, wonders if there is any sense in the existence of human beings in the context of the culture planned by what skeptics call the “international of stupidity,” very well represented by the virtuous tyranny of the stupid “counterculture” of woke bio-ideology. The progressivism of the fools who exploit the clever, which politically functions as the Maoist wing of the “robolution,” as they say in Cuba. Robolutionism that aspires to destroy culture—the key is the “sexual revolution”—by imposing its particular nihilistic, rather than Marxist, conception of morality and culture. Thomas Sowell published in 1999 the very current Barbarians inside the Gates.

Morality, the ethos, depends on the religious beliefs that concretize and fix, in a certain way, the customs and uses, that is to say, the Law, the aesthetics, etc. But the invading morality of our days is not the same as the one we knew, warns Alain de Benoist in Les Démons Du Bien (The Demons of the Good). From the new moral order to gender ideology.

It is possible to synthesize the new morality of the new culture imposed by the stupid ungovernments in that of the aforementioned woke fashion. Spread from California as a “counter-sexuality” to free the human being from sexuality (we must be idiots, agree the reactionaries and libertines), replacing it with other pleasures, such as the love of trees and plants. The devaluation of the body thrives in the environment of the “age of digital dementia,” observes Juan Manuel de Prada.

[The idea of contrasexuality, which already has many followers in the world of idiots, seems to have been suggested by Michel Foucault, who was homosexual].

The new morality of the imbeciles is a mutation of the “anti-fascist” puritanism of the pathological political correctness prevailing in the immature “Imperial Republic” (R. Aron) to which one could apply Dostoyevsky’s phrase “tolerance will reach such a level that intelligent people will be forbidden to think in order not to offend the imbeciles.”

Saul David Alinsky, Tolstoy according to Thomas Mann and other influences adapted Marxism-Leninism to the United States, which is today the champion of “cultural Marxism,” Neo-Marxism that has little of Marx. Marx, who was not an idiot, said he was not a Marxist (je ne suis pas marxiste); and to be a Marxist today is a symptom of incurable idiocy. “The poor,” recognizes the French Marxist Thomas Piketty, “no longer vote for the left,” which is usually the preferred choice of idiots fascinated by the myth of social justice that legitimizes the robolutionaries. But the American mercantile spirit, just as it once led democratic anti-Bolshevism, now exports profitable pathological nonsense, also democratic, such as equating the foolish with the clever through Calvinist political correctness, and revives supposedly Marxist movements such as Black Lives Matter, but in the Nazi version, which substitutes class for race. An amusing trick of Fortuna with the permission of Clio, so that Hitler retrospectively defeats Stalin and the communists clinging to the dogma of the class struggle.

Racist identity movements are subsidized—as before in the USSR of the class struggle—by big businessmen, financiers and multinationals, generally from the US, attracted by the profitable, fashionable stupidity (secular and political ideologies and religions are today fashions) of the “woke culture,” which cultivates the ego of idiots by increasing their self-esteem, and by “cancel culture” of the hyper-individualism of “woke capitalism”—another way to ruin the hated middle classes to control the economy and establish the messianic New World Order of the rich. For, as Cavanaugh says, “the ‘one world’ ideology only really benefits those who own capital, which can move freely across borders.” The stupidity of the fashionable counterculture can be very profitable. On the occasion of the coronavirus pandemic—skeptics call it, Plandemic—there is talk of a political-media-pharmaceutical conspiracy to make multi-million dollar deals by taking advantage of global stolidity.

[The New World Order of globalism seems like a whim of greedy, conceited, stupid or bored billionaires—four things not incompatible—mainly North Americans, grouped around or led by the Zionist George Soros. One of his dangerous diversions is the harassment of Putin, a supporter of the traditional order].

It is worth commenting on the case of Spain, before concluding these notes. It is an unbeatable example of the first fundamental law of human stupidity enunciated by Carlo Cipolla: “each one of us always and inevitably underestimates the number of stupid individuals circulating in the world.” Ungoverned by the successive governments of the Monarchy of Parties, increasingly stupid, Spain constitutes an excellent example of the capacity of political stupidity to move mountains.

[“When the dictatorship disappeared in Spain due to the death of its incumbent, the different species of fools became evident,” writes Moreno. As the stupid are not indifferent to money, encouraged by Mr. Solchaga, minister of Mr. Felipe Gonzalez, a lawyer practicing as a statesman, they began to throw cash around to control the economy and get rich].

Indeed, the Kingdom of Koalemos’ Stupidity managed to establish itself in Spain perhaps more solidly than in other countries, taking advantage of the third reinstatement of the Bourbon Dynasty, by skillfully using the Preamble of the 1978 Carta Otorgada (Charter of Grant), certainly not the Constitution, since, prudently, political freedom was not returned to the people, and replaced by the right to vote ritually for the parties. Renan said that human stupidity is the only thing that gives an idea of infinity. And the Preamble suggests, precisely as a guideline, to establish an “advanced” democracy in order to progress infinitely.

[Reinstatement is not the same as restoration. The first modern Reinstatement was that of Fernando VII, the second that of Alfonso XII and the third that of Juan Carlos. In fact, there was a fourth fleeting Reinstatement, that of Amadeo de Saboya, which implied a change of dynasty. Some believe that the awarding of the Order of Charles III to the podemite Pablo Iglesias and other politicians loyal to Sanchismo by Felipe VI, has dealt the coup de grace to the Crown].

Influential monarchists foolishly recommended the convenience of a “pass to the left”—for which the naive and the foolish instinctively voted—in order to consolidate the Monarchy. [For the third time in less than 175 years and, in fact, at the expense of the Zeitgeist, republican and democratic].

In fact, an oligarchic consensus was instituted, like the social-democratic one existing in Europe, with a modernizing left wing around the Socialist Party, undoubtedly the one preferred by the King, “engine of change,” which included resuscitated separatists and communists, and a contemporizing right wing, of the “center”—judging by the facts, a branch of the socialist party to fix the economic flaws and control the dissenters. The Monarchy of Parties chopped up the Nation in the Charter of Grant according to the principle divide et impera, the “modernization” fostered collective stupidity and reduced politics to a razzle-dazzle between the consensual parties, in fact, a uni-party. Finally, the most idiotic people of the Kingdom have come to power, who surpass in totality the undeveloped stupidity of Dr. Zapatero and his entourage—the incapable Dr. Sanchez and his stupid females and stupid males.

[See, Y. Couceiro, “La superioridad moral de los necios,” La tribuna del pais vasco (13. IX. 2018). The moral superiority of the socialist religion lies in the fact that it conceives politics as a civil war to definitively redeem humanity—a bloodless war, by means of legal revolution in pacifist socialisms, or a bloody war, as necessary, in its most radical varieties, the communist and the anarchist, also with different variants. Mr. Zapatero resumed the Spanish Civil War by inventing the law of Historical Memory and other legislation. Dr. Sanchez aspires to win this civil war definitively, without knowing how far he is willing to go. The precedent that opened the way was the politicization of the judiciary by Mr. Gonzalez, Charlemagne Prize winner in 1985, deservedly praised by Hispanic and many non-Hispanic idiots].

The problem of Spain, which began in 1711 with the Bourbon establishment and worsened since the Spanish War of Independence (the Peninsular War), consists in the fact that, as the stupid men and women in power only know how to play at destroying, in the first place, culture and, with it, the State that supports them, the Nation is finally in a position of religious, moral, aesthetic, political, social, economic, sexual, demographic crisis. And as a Nation about to be extinguished.

[Thanks to the power of the sacralized State—and the complacent failure of the Church—they can declare a sin against Stupidity a crime in civil terms for whatever they can think of. For example, hate crimes or opposition to abortion].

The current misgovernment is “100% integrated by a cast of intellectually disabled people” (F. Jiménez Losantos dixit), practically all of them confessed republicans in a State that is formally monarchic. In order to celebrate them as they deserve in the elephantine, corrupt and absurd State of the Autonomous Communities, new ministries, general directorates, institutions, etc. have been invented. The final objective seems to be to restore Hispanic-American unity by integrating into the 21st century socialism bloc, nostalgic of the much-missed Soviet Union, and as a victim of satanic capitalism, apparently an enemy of Koalemos.

[Cf. Royal Decree 1150/2021 of December 28 (B.O.E. 31. XII. 2021) by which the Sanchez government authorizes itself—just like the famous Ermächtigung Gesetz of March 24, 1933, which granted Hitler full powers—to dictate the measures it deems appropriate to guarantee National Security].

The citizens suppressed for more security by the socialist party’s decree of a civil war nature, like all socialisms, the definitive death of Montesquieu and The Spirit of the Laws [since the division of powers is fictitious, Montesquieu’s fundamental rule is also violated, as in all liberal totalitarianisms: “The tax on goods is the tax of freedom. The tax on persons is the tax of servitude.” A tax against the family, one of the limits that Bodin—the theoretician—placed on state sovereignty, and concentrated in the Marxist social-democratic tax on income]—the objective of the successive monarchical governments seems to be, at least from a certain moment, the Kulturkampf necessary to put the Nation at the forefront of the age, led by progressive ideologies, such as bio-ideologies, enemies of the antiquity of common sense and the ratio status. The main ones are: the misandric or gender one, which, stricto sensu, is limited to defending the legitimate human right of women to be idiots, even if Putin says it is “a perfect phantasmagoria,” and in a broader sense defends, for example, legally regulating the menstrual cycle; the ecologist, defender of the Earth against human perversity that chokes it with CO2-impregnated fumes; the hygienist, health or sanitary (greatly strengthened by the support of the churches—vaccination is “an act of love,” they say in the Vatican) favoring dictatorship (assuming vaccination is necessary) to tyranny (if it is unnecessary) to combat the coronavirus flu.

[Cardinal Jean-Claude Hollerich, Archbishop of Luxembourg and President of the Commission of the Bishops’ Conferences of the European Community (COMECE) has asked for a Covid passport to be required for access to religious services. Where is the Church “on the move” headed? National Socialism invented the “public health policy”—the function of the WHO—which suppresses the natural right or freedom of the individual to decide about his body and the way to heal himself].

These three ideologies are mothers of the LGTB and all the other letters, of the “counter-sexualist”—there is a ministry in charge of an energetic sexual commissar, who sings the truths to the dawn star—the animalist—there is a general direction for everything related to animals (it is not clear if it includes or excludes “politicians,” perhaps because the director has not heard of Aristotle), “ecosexualism” (love to/and with trees and plants), climate change (a branch of ecologism)—the fight against fumes including cow flatus, as well as Pachamamalogy, which enjoys a certain appreciation in ecclesiastical environments, etc. They have the undeniable merit of creating numerous bureaucratic jobs that remedy structural unemployment, which remains fixed as the highest in Europe (at this moment double the European average) since the “transition” began.

Everything points to making Spain the universal example of how collective stupidity can triumph, undoubtedly, the ideal way to advance democracy in order to establish die wahre Demokratie, the true democracy—something like the Kingdom of God in the land of the Puritans of the Fifth Monarchy—dreamt of by Karl Marx as the goal of all socialisms, the desire-mandate to which the Law of the [anti]historical Memory, popularly known as the “Law of the Hysterical Revenge,” points to—the Law that the socialist misgovernment of Dr. Sanchez (of course, a democrat, since the democracy of the stupid can only be socialist or communist) calls with more precision of “Democratic Memory.” Typical laws, with which, as Richter says, “the idiot forbids reason to go beyond memory,” in order to channel peacefully in the correct march of history towards universal stupidity, those who are not yet idiots as they should be and the new generations—if there are any, given the fall in the birth rate, encouraged, with the help of propaganda, by the high taxes that punish families so that they become idiotic and do not procreate.

The nature of the political consensus among the oligarchies is obviously very different from that of Cicero’s consensus omnium, the social consensus determined by the ethos that unifies the peoples. It has ensured that, even if the Nation is not totally idiotized, it is at least in the hands of so many fools, childish people, even for their age, as it has never been before. Without lacking the resentful, delinquent, wicked and everlasting careerists, who always come to the honeycomb of rich honey that are Budgets. O tempora, o mores! The time of stupid apprentices of the customs of Ali Baba and his gang, in “a country,” laments a reactionary journalist, “inert, anesthetized, stupefied, dumbfounded and something like a fool.”

The politics of the transition (“transaction” Jesús Fueyo specified) to the Monarchy in which the Church “became mute,” as Tocqueville said of the French in The Ancien Régime and the Revolution, is, for the reactionaries entrenched in common sense, a mess characterized by the disputes between the traditionally anti-national or anti-Hispanic left—converted, again Koalemos gratias, to Latin Americanism, an expression more stupid and, therefore, more correct than Hispano-Americanism—and the social-democratic left that acts as a centrist “right.” Democracy—”the sovereignty of a people over its destiny” (J. Fueyo)—identified with outdated anti-Francoism, awaits its turn. In the meantime, democracy, Yeah!

The secret of the consensus between the left and the fetish of the center is that, as Nicolás Gómez Dávila (1913-1994) perceived, the right and left “have signed against the reactionary [in the sense of the one who reacts] a secret pact of perpetual aggression.” Consensual Hispanics do, in fact, reasonably brand people, groups or parties that are not in tune—those that do not accept, for example, the decomposition of the oldest nation in Europe, or oppose the culture of death—as being extreme right-wing. This is a very logical curse-argument, since the “right” is the right wing of the oligarchic consensus. They are also labeled as Francoists or “faças.” The apothegm, says Amando de Miguel, of historical fascism, “well, there is no other,” “everything within the State; nothing outside the State.” An apothegm from which the anti-politics of the misgovernment (which perhaps borders on criminality, as long as the penal code is not duly modified to adjust it to the ethos of the kingdom of Koalemos) of the rulers, acolytes and plugged-in members of the PSOE Sanchista, standard-bearer of Stupidity, benefits from.

“If there are no completely intelligent men, there are completely stupid ones,” writes Moreno Castillo. Most of the completely stupid have integrated into the new socialism—socialisms attract fools—and the reactionaries, who are not even stupid, since they live in a world apart—perhaps they do not even vote—say that politics has turned Spain into a dunghill. Some scornfully equate the progressive Kingdom of Spain to the solidly established Kingdom of Peronia, laus Koalemos, in Argentina, from where it radiates imperially to the whole world, together with its Venezuelan partner and the Cuban luminary.

Having practically finalized these flash-notes, the leadership of the right wing of the socialist party, led by characters so infantile and stupid that they have committed political suicide, imploded. In principle, it was not a mere incident in the race to advanced democracy. As Dr. Sanchez also imploded the socialist party, not to improve it, which is certainly impossible, but to re-found it as PSOE and Co. [Probably following Peter Drucker’s advice when a business enterprise is going badly, Sanchez has a doctorate in economics]—the disappearance of the monopoly of consensus by the two original dynastic parties leaves the Monarchy of Parties out in the open. The historian Pedro González Cuevas writes in his recent book: “Felipe VI and his descendants have the future against them. And the fact is that, unlike his father, they have nothing to offer either to the left or to the nationalists.” The reaction of the subjects to the crisis of the self-styled popular party, which for many has become unpopular, reveals a certain weariness with the concentration of stupid people in the political class. However, judging by the symptoms, the popular party will continue to be the unpopular coryphaeus of the socialist party and its associates.

Finally, everything is unknown in the struggle between stupidity and common sense. Will neuroscience and the fashionable artificial intelligence intensify the permanent revolution that is leading the West to dumbness and servitude, and will they obtain the universal remedy so that everybody will definitely be an incurable idiot? The traditional magister vitae, history, would cease to be a work of art (Ranke); the new history would finally be the story of the vicissitudes of Stupidity and those still capable of thinking, residing in the paradises of the stupid, would have to console themselves by imagining, like Blaise Pascal, the joy of living in an intelligent hell.

[With corrections to the version published in Razón española, no. 232 (July-August 2022), and with thanks to Arnaud Imatz].


Dalmacio Negro Pavón (Madrid, 1931) has been professor of History of Ideas and Political Forms in the Faculty of Political Science and Sociology at the Complutense University of Madrid and is currently professor emeritus of Political Science at the CEU San Pablo University. He is also a full member of Real Academia de Ciencias Morales y Políticas (the Royal Academy of Moral and Political Sciences). He has translated and edited several classic works of German, English and French political thought. His many books include El fin de la normalidad y otros ensayos (The End of Normality and Other Essays), La ley de hierro de la oligarquía (The Iron Law of Oligarchy), Lo que Europa debe al Cristianismo (What Europe Owes to Christianity), Il Dio Mortale. Il Mito dello Stato tra Crisi Europea e Crisi delle Politica (The Mortal God: The Myth of the State amidst the European Crisis and Crisis of Politics), and La tradición de la libertad (The Tradition of Liberty).


Featured: “An Allegory of Folly,” by Quinten Massys; painted ca. early 16th century.

Virtue as an Intensive Quantity in Aristotle

In much of my recent research, I have criticized modern philosophy for being un-philosophical, at least if, by the term “philosophy,” we mean the practice in which the Ancient Greeks engaged [See my Wisdom’s Odyssey from Philosophy to Transcendental Sophistry, Cartesian Nightmare: An Introduction to Transcendental Sophistry, and Masquerade of the Dream Walkers: Prophetic Theology from the Cartesians to Hegel]. At least two features essentially characterize ancient philosophy: (1) realism and (2) the problem of the one and the many. Much of my recent work has involved contrasting the essentially realist stance of the Ancient Greeks to the subjective idealist stance of modern thinkers. In this paper, I turn to a second mark of Ancient philosophy: the problem of the one and the many.

Many contemporary philosophers treat the problem of the one and the many as an isolated issue within Ancient Greek philosophy, as a puzzle that confounded early Greek physicists. In so doing, they display a severe misunderstanding of philosophy as the Ancient Greeks practiced it. This paper’s purpose is twofold: (1) to examine the way, in the Golden Age of Ancient Greek philosophy, Aristotle practiced philosophy in terms of relating a one to a many, and (2) to use this examination to throw light on Aristotle’s understanding of virtue.

While some contemporary thinkers might find my thesis shocking, glaring examples of the predominance of the notions of unity and multiplicity in the Ancient Greek mind fill the works of Plato and Aristotle. Consider, for example, how, in Plato’s Crito, Socrates disdains Criton’s suggestion that he consider what the “many” might think about whether or not he should leave prison. Socrates says his concern is not, and never has been, about the opinions of the many, but “of the wise, …of the one qualified person” (47B). Again, in the Meno, Socrates criticizes Menon for constantly giving him “many different” virtues in response to Socrates’ continued request that Menon tell him the “one” virtue that is in every act of virtue that makes a virtue a virtue [Meno, 72B-C, 74A-B, 79A-C]. In the Republic, Socrates criticizes Thrasymachos’ notion of power precisely because the supposedly powerful person that Thrasymachos describes lacks unity of mind, and is, in Socrates’ estimation, therefore, weak [Republic, Bk. I, 35IA-352B].

According to Socrates, single-mindedness makes an individual and a city strong [Bk. 2, 374B-D]. Hence, the healthy city for which he searches as the archetype in which to find justice is, as he says, one in which one man has one work because, he states, “it is impossible for one man to do the work of many arts well” [Republic, Bk. 4, 42lE-422E]. Socrates also tells us in the Republic that the healthy city, the only one of which we can “properly use the name,” is one city, not many. He adds, we must apply “a greater predication …to the others. For they are each one of them many cities, not a city” [Republic, 42lE-422E]. Finally, in the Gorgias, Socrates chastises Callicles, the sophistic politician, for loving the Athenian demos more than he loves the one universal human love to possess unity of soul. He states: “I think it better my good friend that my lyre should be discordant and out of tune, and any chorus I might train, and that the majority of mankind should disagree with and oppose me, rather than that I, who am but one man, should be out of tune with and contradict myself” [48lD-482C].

The case with Aristotle is the same. Aristotle considers philosophy to be identical with science. For him science consists of certain knowledge demonstrated through causes [Posterior Analytics, Bk. l, I, 7Ib8-30]. Science, or philosophy, studies a multitude of beings, a many, a genus, and seeks to demonstrate essential properties of the genus by reasoning according to necessary principles universal, or one, to the genus. For him causes are principles, and principles are starting points of being, becoming, or knowing [Bk. l, 41, 87a3I-bI7; Metaphysics, Bk. 5, I, IOI2b34.1013a23]. Aristotle, in turn, considers points to be ones, unities, or indivisibles. A point is a one or indivisible with position, principally spatial position or position in a continuum. A principle is, then, in some way, a one [Metaphysics, Bk. 3,4, IOOlbl-I002blO, Bk. 5,6, IOI6b18-32].

Aristotle further maintains that being and unity are convertible notions. In reality being and unity are identical. They differ only conceptually. We derive our concept of unity by adding to the concept of being the notion of indivisibility, just as we derive our notion of number from division of unity, of a continuum [Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 1,I003b22-34, Bk. 10, I, 1052aI5-1053b8, and 1053b23-24].

This Ancient Greek philosophical tendency to convert the notions of being and unity is crucial for understanding the nature of the Ancient Greek conception of philosophy and virtue. To recognize how crucial it is, we need only consider the extent to which Aristotle devoted attention to the notion of unity in his Metaphysics. Next to examining the notion of being, he devotes much of the latter part of his treatise to the notion of unity and its properties [Metaphysics, Bk. 10].

The crucial importance of the notions of unity and plurality in Aristotle’s philosophy also appears in his criticism of Plato’s notion of Forms and mathematical beings as “ones outside the many” that St. Thomas Aquinas says Plato used to protect the relation of demonstration to “eternal things.” In his Commentary on the Posterior Analytics of Aristotle, Aquinas maintains that Aristotle understood demonstration to require that a one exist “in many and about many.” For Aristotle and Aquinas demonstration requires a middle term, a one that is the same in many, or a universal unequivocally predicable of a many. If no one something exists the same in a multitude, no universal exists unequivocally predicable of many beings. This makes demonstration, and philosophy, impossible [Commentary on the Posterior Analytics of Aristotle, Bk. I, I. 19; Posterior Analytics, Bk. I, II, 77a5-9].

Aristotle’s division of the speculative sciences further supports my claim that we cannot understand his philosophy or Ancient Greek philosophy unless we understand all Ancient Greek philosophy as an extended reflection on the problem of the one and the many. Aristotle’s division of speculative philosophy is threefold: physics, mathematics, and metaphysics. Why? Aristotle was no Christian. He had no special affinity to a trinity. Why not seven speculative sciences, like the classical seven liberal arts? Or twelve? Or one hundred?

The answer lies in the fact that, for Aristotle, we take demonstrative principles from their subject, to which necessary, or per se, principles essentially belong. Aristotle maintains that science requires per se. predication. Per se principles consist of the principles of proximate substance and its essential accidents, accidents that have their cause in a proximate subject and necessarily and always inhere in the subject [Posterior Analytics, Bk. I, II, 75aI8-37. See Commentary on the Posterior Analytics of Aristotle, Bk. 1, I. 14].

Because science, or philosophy, studies the many different ways many things relate to one proximate subject, it studies the way many things, more or less, share in the unity of a primary subject. Every science, not just metaphysics, chiefly and analogously studies the principles and causes of substances to understand the properties of the many species of which we predicate a genus [Metaphysics, Bk. 12, I, I069aI8-1069b32, Posterior Analytics, Bk. 2, 2, 90bI4-16]. Aristotle, in fact, tells us that ”there are as many parts of philosophy as there are kinds of substance” [Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 2, I004a2-3]. As Aquinas notes, “demonstration is concerned with things which are per se in something” [Commentary on the Posterior Analytics of Aristotle, Bk. 2, I. 2].

For Aristotle, science chiefly studies the principles and causes of its proximate substance and its per se accidents, not just any substance and any accidents [Posterior Analytics, Bk. 2, 2, 90bI4-16]. Through these principles we come to know the proper accidents, or properties, of all the species that belong to the genus. For this reason, Aristotle maintains that no science investigates accidents as such. Take, for example, the art of home building. A completed house can have an infinite number of accidents related to it. It can be pleasant to some people, painful to others, helpful to some, harmful to others, and so on. The builder’s art bears only on those accidents that are essential properties of a house, such as its intrinsic shape and size [Metaphysics, Bk. 6, I, I026bl-25]. Hence, for Aristotle, the definition of a per se accident, like odd or even, mentions in its definition its specific subject, for example, number, which is essentially odd or even, while a non-per se accident, like the color white, makes no mention of an animal because animals are not essentially color specific [Posterior Analytics, Bk. 1,6, 75aI8-37].

Aristotle conceives the speculative sciences to be three in number precisely because only substance and its two intrinsic accidents, quantity and quality, can operate as per se principles. Quantity and quality actually inhere in substance and remain with a substance for the duration of its existence. All other accidents relate to substance through their relation to a substance’s quantity or quality. Hence, in some way, both these intrinsic accidents account for different ways in which a substance can be actually and intrinsically one, the different ways we can know substance to be per se, and, apart from substance, can know the different proximate subjects of science.

For Aristotle, then, in some way, the whole of philosophy and every science involves coming to know how a multiplicity is essentially one. As Aquinas notes, every science studies many things referred to one primary thing, a substance, with which it is chiefly concerned. It considers this thing analogously, that is, according to the same formal aspect and, also, according to different relationships, ‘just,” as he says, “it is clear that one science, medicine, considers all health-giving things” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 1, n. 544. See Annand A. Maurer (ed.), Commentary on the de Trinitate of Boethius, Questions V and VI. St. Thomas Aquinas: The Division and Methods of the Sciences, q. 6, a. 3, c., footnote 15].

Aristotle maintains as many species of being exist as species of unity exist, and that one science, metaphysics, has the job to study these species of unity, namely, ”the same and the similar and the other concepts of this sort” [Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 3, I003b36-37, Bk. 10, I, 1053b23-I04aI9]. Just as being is analogously predicable of all genera, since being and unity are convertible notions, Aristotle considers unity to be analogously predicable of all the different genera. Hence, he states that we may refer almost all contraries to unity as to their starting point [Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 3, I003b36-37, Bk. 10, I, 1053b23-I04aI9]. Aquinas explains Aristotle’s position in this way:

since being and unity signify the same thing …there must be as many species of being as there are species of unity, and they must correspond to each other. For just as the parts of being are substance, quantity, quality, and so on, in a similar way the parts of unity are sameness, equality and likeness. For things are the same when they are one in substance, equal when they are one in quantity, and like when they are one in quality. And the other parts of unity could be taken from the other parts of being, if they were given names. And just as it is the office of one science [first] philosophy to consider all the parts of being, in a similar way it is the office of this same science to consider all the parts of unity, i.e., sameness, likeness, and so forth [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 2, n. 56 I].

No science considers just any parts of being, however. Nor does it consider them in just any way. It considers a genus, an order of species. And it considers the genus relative to contrary opposites that compose it and to a first proximate substance to which, in different, relatively close and distant, ways, analogous ways, the members of the genus relate. Each science chiefly studies this substance.

Aristotle maintains that a genus is a kind of whole, one which, for philosophy, or science, primarily refers to the immediate, proximate, first, or proper subject of different per se accidents, or unities, within the genus [Metaphysics, Bk. 5,24, I023a26-32, and 26, I024a29-1024b4]. Aquinas explains that this sense of genus is different from the sense of genus as signifying the essence of a species. He says:

This sense of genus is not the one that signifies the essence of a species, as animal is the genus of man, but the one that is the proper subject in the species of different accidents. For surface is the subject of all plane figures. And it bears some likeness to a genus, because the proper subject is given in the definition of an accident just as a genus is given in the definition of its species. Hence the proper subject of an accident is predicated like a genus [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 22, n. 1121].

Surface is the immediate subject of all colors and plane figures. As such, it is the referential source of intelligibility of all surface bodies. All such figures are subjectified in substance by being proximately subjectified, and quantitatively unified, in a surface. Hence, when geometricians predicate surface of different plane (surface) figures they predicate surface analogously. In so doing, analogously they resemble logicians. When both geometricians and logicians predicate a genus, they include the genus in the species’ definition. Hence, geometricians also predicate in a way analogous to the way logicians predicate the genus that signifies the essence of a species. In both cases the definition of the species refers to its subject genus, its substance, for its intelligibility. But the substance of the geometrician is a surface body, not the essential definition of the logician.

Aristotle further maintains that one proximate subject cannot be reducible to another. Those things are generically diverse “whose proximate substratum is different, and which are not analyzed the one into the other nor both into the same thing (e. g., form and matter are different in genus)” [Metaphysics, Bk. 5,28, 1024bIO-I3]. Aquinas explains Aristotle’s meaning by referring the notion of proximate subject to subjectifying, or common, matters. Thus, he states: “[A] solid is in a sense reducible to surfaces, and therefore solid figures and plane figures do not belong to diverse genera, … but celestial bodies and lower bodies are diverse in genus inasmuch as they do not have a common matter” [Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 22, n. 1125]. He adds, “In another sense those things are said to be diverse in genus which are predicated ‘according to a different figure of the category of being,’ i.e., of the predication of being [Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 22, n. 1126]. He immediately notes, however, that the natural scientist and metaphysician consider a genus as the first subject of accidents, not as what is said of different categories of being, which is the way a logician considers generic diversity:

Now it is clear, from what has been said, that some things are contained under one category and are in one genus in this second sense, although they are diverse in genus in the first sense. Examples of these are the celestial bodies, and colors and flavors. The first way in which things are diverse in genus is considered rather by the natural scientist and also by the philosopher [that is, the metaphysician], because it is more real. But the second way in which things are diverse in a genus is considered by the logician, because it is conceptual [Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 22, n. 1127. Bracketed material is my addition].

Within a different context, Armand A. Maurer explains Aquinas’s distinction between the way logicians conceive of a genus and the way natural philosophers and metaphysicians do:

From the point of view of the logician, material and immaterial things can be brought under the same genus (for example, substance), because he considers them only as concepts in the mind. From the point of view of the natural philosopher or metaphysician they do not come under the same genus because these philosophers consider the natures of things as they actually exist in reality, and in actual existence the substance of material things is not the same as that of immaterial things. Hence from a logical point of view, the genus of substance is predicated univocally of all substances; but from the point of view of the natural philosopher and the . metaphysician it is predicated analogically [Commentary on the de Trinitate ofBoethius, Questions Vand VI. St. Thomas Aquinas: The Division and Methods of the Sciences, q.6, a. 3, C., footnote 15].

Inasmuch as philosophy studies real being, or substance, as the proximate cause of per se accidents within a multiplicity of beings, or a genus, Aristotle maintains that every science studies opposites and first principles. That every science studies opposites is evident. Medicine, for example, studies disease and health. Grammar studies disagreement and agreement. Politics studies war and peace. Every science studies opposites because every science studies a multiplicity of differences according to a principle of unity.

Every science concerns itself with opposition, negation, completeness, and privation precisely because it studies substances through a principle: unity, and because opposition, negation, completeness, and privation are essentially connected to the concept of unity, or of being one. What is one is undivided, is not possessed of, is deprived of, division, and is the opposite of division or plurality. As Aquinas notes, we derive the concept of unity from the notion “of order or lack of division’ [Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 2, n. 553]: The concept of unity entails, depends on, negation and privation, both of which are species of opposition. What is one is undivided, deprived of, and opposed to, division, or plurality. Our concept of “unity,” he tells us, includes an implied privation, “a negation in a subject,” like blindness in a human being [Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 3, no. 564-566].

Some people might disagree with Aristotle and Aquinas, and maintain that we derive our awareness of plurality from a positive concept of unity. Aristotle himself claims that the one is the principle by which we know number [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 9, 10, 1052bI9-22]. Still, Aristotle replies to such an objection that the starting point of all of our knowledge, even our knowledge of notions like unity, cause, and principle, is our senses [Aristotle, Physics, Bk. I, I, 184aI7-2 I]. Our first perception is of composite things, a many, confusedly grasped as a one. Hence, we derive our concepts, definitions, and first awarenesses of first principles by negations of the way we sensibly perceive them as composite beings. Unity is the most primary privation, consisting of negation in a subject. Plurality stems from unity, and causes diversity, difference, and contrariety. Hence, we know first principles negatively in reference to the way we perceive their contraries [Aristotle, Physics, Bk. I, I, 184aI7-2 I. See also Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 2, n. 553].

Indeed, Aristotle maintains that “all things are contraries or composed of contraries, and unity and plurality are the starting points of all contraries” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 2, 1005a3-5]. The reason for this is that contraries are differences, extreme differences that exist within a genus that relate as most complete and most deprived possession of a form. As such, contrariety is a kind of plurality, because difference is a pluralization of unity, and an opposition between possession and privation. Contrariety thus consists in the greatest distance of difference between extremes of species within a genus. The crucial points to note are that contraries are differences, that what is different is what is not the same, or not one, is multiple, and that differences involve opposition between possession and privation [Aristotle, Metaphysics, I004b27-1 005a13b, Bk. 10,3, 1055a32-39. See also Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 4, no. 582-587].

For Aristotle, then, all otherness derives from pluralizing, unequalizing, unity. Unity, or what is undivided, in tum, is the ground of all sameness, equality, and similarity. Indeed, Aristotle thinks that sameness, equality, and similarity are analogous extensions and the proper accidents of unity. As such, they are the ground of all plurality, which, in tum, is the ground of all difference. For Aristotle, difference is plurality of unity, and the opposite of unity. The analogous extensions and properties of unity, however, are unities. To be the same, equal, or similar, therefore, is, analogously, to be one [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 4, I, I004a34-1 005a18. See also Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 4, no. 582-587].

This means that to be different, unequal, or dissimilar is to be many, to be a plurality of unity. But the one and the many are opposed, are, indeed, together with being and privated being, the ground of all opposition and contrariety and are the primary contraries into we reduce all other contraries [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10,3, 1055a33-1055b39. See also Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. Bk. 10, I. 6, n. 2058].

This being so, the principles of sameness, equality, and similarity and their opposites and contraries (difference, inequality, and dissimilarity) are the ground of all per se accidents and of the relative first principles of all the sciences. This must be so because they are the most fundamental oppositions between unity and plurality, the opposition which grounds all other oppositions and into which all others are reduced. And science studies the principles of opposition within a genus [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10,3, I054a20-1 055b39. See also Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 4, no. I998-2022, 2035].

A main reason, then, that Aristotle divides the speculative sciences into three classes is because he maintains that three pairs of specifically distinct kinds of unity, plurality, and opposition exist (sameness/difference, equality/inequality, and similarity/dissimilarity) that serve as the ground of per se accidents and of principles of contrariety for understanding the proximate subjects of science, these proximate subjects being constituted by distinctive kinds of common matter.

Aristotle tells us that two of these common matters are sensible. The third is “immovable and imperceptible” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 12, I, I069a30-I069b3]. The two classes of sensible substance consist of perishable substances like animals and plants, and imperishable substances, like the movers of the celestial bodies, which physics investigates. The third class consists of objects with intelligible matter, that is, the objects of mathematics, and separate substances, that is, beings that can, do, or can be considered to exist apart from any and all matter [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 12, I. 2, nn. 2425-2426]. Hence, Aquinas maintains that “as many parts of philosophy” exist “as there are parts of substance, of which being and unity are predicated and of which it is the principle intention or aim of this science to treat” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 4, I. 2, n. 563].

What makes these common matters proper subjects of science is more than the fact that they are common to a multiplicity: they comprise the matter of a proximate subject containing a specific principle of unity that grounds the per se differences and principles of opposition and contrariety within the limits of a proximate-subject genus.

Hence, as Aquinas says, “geometry speculates about a triangle being a figure having ‘two right angles,’ i.e., having its three angles equal to two right angles; but it does not speculate about anything else, such as wood or something of the sort because these things pertain to a triangle accidentally.” The reason geometry speculates about its subject genus in this way, through the principle of equality, and does not speculate about other sorts of likenesses or differences is because, as Aquinas adds, “science studies those things which are beings in a real sense, …and each thing is a being insofar as it is one” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 6, I. 2, n. 1176]. That is, the proximate subject of geometry, its common matter, is not material substance, but quantified material substance, is not body, but surface body. This body makes a substantial body to be a geometrical body. And equality is the quantitative principle of unity by which we grasp all the samenesses and differences that relate to a body as a continuum body, such as having three angles quantitatively the same as two right angles. In short, due to the relation they have to different common matters, sameness, equality, and similarity are the formal objects through which we conceive all the different sciences.

To put all this in another way, an assumption about proximate material substance underlies Aristotle’s notion of philosophy, and an assumption about unity underlies his philosophy of proximate substance. Beings that belong to the same genus share a common matter and a common unit measure through which we know them to be one [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, 4, I055a4-1 055a32. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 5, no. 2024-2026]. Indeed, Aristotle holds that, like the properties of sameness, equality. and similarity, ”to be a measure” is a property of unity [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5, 6, 1016b4-32. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 8, n. 432].

Aristotle maintains, further, that unity is the measure of all things [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, I052bI5-19]. Aquinas comments that the reason Aristotle makes this claim is because unity terminates division. That which is undivided brings division to an end, is that beyond which no further division exists [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, n. 195 I]. Aristotle explains that we know those principles that constitute each thing’s substance by dividing or resolving a whole into its component parts, whether these parts are quantitative or specific (like matter, form, or elements of compounds). He says: “Thus, then, the one is the measure of all things, because we come to know the elements in the substance by dividing the things either in respect of quantity or in respect of kind” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, 1053a24-27].

Analogously, we can call knowledge and perception “measures” of things. Aristotle maintains that we can speak this way because we know something by knowledge and perception. “[A]s a matter of fact,” he claims, “they are measured rather than measure other things.” And he immediately adds that thinkers like Protagoras “say nothing… while they appear to say something remarkable, when they say “‘man is the measure of all things” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, I053a32-I053b3].

According to Aristotle, a measure is the means by which we know a thing’s quantity. That is, a measure is a unit, number, or limit [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, I052b20-27]. He adds that we first derive the notion of measure from the genus of quantity. From this we analogously transfer this notion to other genera. Hence, in a way, unity and quantity are the means by which we even know substance, knowledge, and quality. Hence, he states:

Evidently, then, unity in the strictest sense, if we define it according to the meaning of the word, is a measure, and most properly of quantity, and secondly of quality. And some things will be one if they are indivisible in quantity, and others if they are indivisible in quality; and so that which is one is indivisible, either absolutely or qua one [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, I053b4-9].

Aquinas comments that we find indivisibility in things in different, not the same, ways. Some things, like the natural unit which is the principle of number, or the natural length which is the principle of measured length, are definite and totally indivisible. Other things, like an artificial and arbitrary measure, “are not altogether indivisible but only to the senses, according to the authority of those who instituted such a measure wished to consider something as a measure” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, n. 1953].

For Aristotle a natural body has per se unifying principles that differentiate it from a quantified body, and a quantified body has per se differentiating principles, per se formal objects, that differentiate it from a qualified body. Each of these bodies differs from the other according to a distinctive kind of unity that grounds distinctive kinds of contrariety and opposition based upon a distinctive kind of common matter.

The unity of a natural body is one composed of opposites, of matter and form that constitute a natural body as a material nature and as a substantial nature in the genus of substance. This body is not the same as a quantum body, the body which is in the genus of quantity, or as a qualified body. The natural body acts as the subject of the quantum body just as the quantum body acts as the subject of the qualified body.

Three properties of unity allow us to conceive of a natural body in this way: sameness, equality, and likeness (or similarity). These properties, in tum, give us a threefold division of speculative philosophy, based upon unity’s properties. Hence, Aquinas says that we distinguish the parts of philosophy “in reference to the parts of being and unity.” He maintains that, according to Aristotle, “there are as many parts of philosophy as there are parts of substance, of which being and unity chiefly are predicated, and of which it is the principle intention or aim of this science [that is, metaphysics] to treat.” According to Aquinas, “the parts of being are substance, quantity, quality, and so on.” In a similar way, he adds:

The parts of unity are sameness, equality and likeness. For things are the same when they are one in substance, equal when they are one in quantity, and like when they are one in quality. And the other parts of unity could be taken from the other parts of being, if they were given names.

That is, we divide philosophy according to the order of proximate natural subjects and the property of unity that constitute the necessary and sufficient condition for a proximate subject’s ability to be.

For example, Aristotle thinks that a substantial body emanates in three magnitudinal directions from its matter as a natural body. These dimensions are extensions, divisions, and arrangements of the natural body within terminal parts in different directions in place. They divide the natural body into parts that have a positional relation to each other and to bodies around them because position is contained within the notion of quantity [Aquinas, Commentary on the de Trinitate of Boethius, Questions V and Vi. St. Thomas Aquinas: The Division and Methods of the Sciences, q. 5, a. 3]. These emanations quantify a natural body as a magnitudinal, extended, quantum, or continuum body. “This extension occurs both intrinsically to a body inasmuch as it places limits upon it within terminal parts internal to its substantial matter and externally inasmuch as it places limits upon the substantial body in the way it relates to its surrounding place.” [Redpath, “Prescript,” in Crowley, Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy of Measure and the International System of Units (SI), p. xiii].

When a material substance extends in one direction it becomes a magnitudinal body terminated by a point, that is, a linear body reaching from one point to another point. When the substance extends in two directions, that is from one point to another and one line to another, the substantial body becomes a surface, or wide, body stretching from one line to another. When the substantial body stretches from one surface to another surface, it becomes a solid, or deep, body and has depth. In this way, a quantum bodily substance has three natural intrinsic unit measures and termini (a point, line, and surface) that constitute it as a quantum subject, a substance with a quantum, the extended spatial unity of which we call a quantum “equal.”

As Aquinas notes, three kinds of magnitude exist:

if magnitude is divisible into continuous part in one dimension only, it will be length; if into two, width; and if into three, depth. Again, when plurality or multitude is limited, it is called number. And a limited length is called a line; a limited width, surface; and a limited depth, body. For if multitude were unlimited, number would not exist, because what is unlimited cannot be numbered. Similarly, if length were unlimited, a line would not exist, because a line is a measurable length (and this is why it is stated in the definition of a line that its extremities are two points). The same things hold true of surface and of body [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. IS, n. 978].

Aristotle maintains that we derive our notion of measure from sensation, primarily from our sense awareness of number which arises from cutting a continuum. By cutting a continuum body, we divide it into a plurality of units. The unit that terminates the division is the limit of the division, an indivisible. Hence, it formally constitutes the division as a one and a number, an ordered plurality. A number is a limited plurality, a one, and a measure. Indeed, it is a measure precisely because it is a one, and therefore; is an indivisible and a limit. Hence Aristotle says, ”the one is the measure of all things” [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, 1052b32-1053a23].

Since a measure is a one, just as unity is an analogous notion with accidental properties, which include being a measure, so, too, are continuous and discrete quantity. Aristotle contends that the common properties of continuous quantity are large, or big, and small. Of number, they are much, many, and large and little, few, small, and less. Of magnitude, they are, of length, or of a long body, long and short. Of a surface, or wide body, they are narrow and wide. Of a solid, or deep, body, they are high or deep, and low or shallow. Of quality, heavy and light, hot and cold. All these are relative unit measures, ways by which we comprehend an extended or qualified substance to be limited and one, and hence knowable [Bk. 5,12, 1020aI8-1020bI2. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5,1. I5, n. 981, and 1.16, n. 998].

Of all the accidents, Aquinas maintains that “quantity is the closest to substance” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. I5, n. 982]. Hence, of all the accidents, it is most per se. Quantity is a per se accident of a material body because it inheres in and emanates from the body’s natural matter. A quantum body can thus be the proper subject of philosophical speculation for the geometrician as a proximate subject of accidents proper to a point, line, and surface.

All the above points being true, someone might wonder what all this has to do with Aristotle’s notion of virtue? Its connection is simple. In a similar fashion to the way in which dimensive quantity causes a material body to emanate extensively through its matter to natural intrinsic unit measures and limits, Aristotle thinks that a body emanates intensively through its form to natural intensive magnitudinal unit measures and limits of ability, positionally related to each other. In this way, form constitutes a natural body as a qualified body, or a body with qualities, with limited and ordered abilities to act with more or less perfection, the proximate subject about which the Ancient physicist, metaphysician, and ethician can speculate, depending upon whether the matter in question is corruptible or incorruptible, or human possessed of the faculty of free choice.

Aquinas, following Aristotle, maintains that we can understand the term “perfect” in several senses. In one sense, a thing is internally perfect when it “lacks no part of the dimensive quantity which it is naturally determined to have.” In a second sense, we can understand the term internally to refer to ”the fact that a thing lacks no part of the quantity of power which it is naturally determined to have.” In still another sense, we can use the term teleologically to refer to external perfection, as, for example, when we say that ”those things are said to be perfect ‘which have attained their end, but only if the end is ‘worth seeking’ or good” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, L.18, nn. 1038-1039. See Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5,16, 10212bI2-1022a3].

Aquinas explains that we can say a thing is perfect in relation to this or that particular ability because:

[E]ach thing is perfect when no part of the natural magnitude which belongs to it according to the form of its proper ability is missing. Moreover, just as each natural being has a definite measure of natural magnitude in continuous quantity, as is stated in Book II of The Soul, so too each thing has a definite amount of its own natural ability. For example, a horse has by nature a definite dimensive quantity, within certain limits; for there is both a maximum quantity and minimum quantity beyond which no horse can go in size. And in a similar way the quantity of active power in a horse which is not in fact surpassed in any horse; and similarly there is some minimum which never fails to be attained [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 18, n. 1037].

Hence, we can analogously transpose all the concepts of measure that we derive from our awareness of being as dimensively quantified and one to measure and comprehend quality and other accidents as well, such as place and time [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, 1020315-33. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. I5, n. 984]. For example, we can speak of a color’s magnitude because of the intensity of its brightness, the magnitude of a sin because of the greatness of its offense to God, the quantity of perfection of an animal’s ability to see, hear, or run, or the extent of perfection of a person’s happiness, or one animal being higher or lower in its genus or species.

To grasp Aristotle’s view of philosophy more completely and to grasp how it more specifically applies to virtue and ethics, we need to recognize a basic distinction he makes metaphysically between two types of quantity. Many philosophers are familiar with Aristotle’s distinction between continuous and discrete quantity, continuous quantity being the proper subject of the geometrician and discrete quantity being the proper subject of the arithmetician. Metaphysically, he makes a more basic distinction between dimensive (molis) quantity and virtual (virtutis) quantity.

Continuous and discrete quantity are species of dimensive, or bulk, quantity. They result in a substantial body from the emanation of a natural substance’s matter to become a body divisible in one, two, or three magnitudinal limits or directions: length, width, or depth. Virtual quantity is a species of quantity that emanates from a natural substance’s form, not its matter. It emanates intensively, not extensively. And the accidental form “quality,” not dimensive “quantity,” produces it. Aquinas describes the distinction between these two forms of quantity as follows: “Quantity is twofold. One is called bulk (molis) quantity or dimensive (dimensiva) quantity, which is the only kind of quantity in bodily things…. The other is virtual (virtutis) quantity, which occurs according to the perfection of some nature or form.” He adds that this sort of quantity is also called “spiritual greatness just as heat is called great because of its intensity and perfection [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, q. 1, a. 42, ad 1. See also, Iallae, q. 52, a. I, c. For a more extensive treatment of the notion of virtual quantity in Aristotle and Aquinas, see Crowley, Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy of Measure and the International System of Units (SI), pp. 25-47, 249-260].

For Aristotle, in other words, forms and qualities have their own kind of quantity and magnitudinal limit, one that consists in the greater or less intrinsic perfection, completeness, or quantity of form, not in the extension of matter throughout parts within a spatial continuum. This quantum property of form enables the existence within a subject and a genus of the opposition between privation and possession that grounds all contrariety. Privation requires the disposition to have a form and the absence, in a definite subject at a definite time, of the form to which one is disposed [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 14 nn. 962-965]. The basis of contrariety is the opposition between privation and possession [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, 14 1055a33-1055bI8]. Hence, quality, or intensive quantity, as the foundation of all opposition and contrariety is, in a way, the ground of all science.

Furthermore, for Aristotle, virtues are qualities and qualities are of basically two kinds: (1) essential difference and (2) differences, or alterations, of bodies capable of motion, like hot and cold, heavy and light, black and white. This second sense refers to the way we generally use the term “quality” “of virtue and vice, and, in general, of evil and good [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5, 14 I020a33-1020b25. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 16, nn. 987-999]. Aristotle considers quality in this sense to be an accident related to motion, an intensive quantitative modification of something moved inasmuch as it is moved. Hence, regarding virtue and vice, he says:

Virtue and vice fall among these modifications; for they indicate differentiae of the movement or activity, according to which the things in motion act or are acted upon well or badly; for that which can be moved or act in one way is good and that which can do so in another (the contrary) way is vicious. Good and evil indicate quality especially in living things, and among these especially in those which have purpose [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5, 14 1020bI8-25].

Aquinas comments upon Aristotle’s reference to virtues and vices enabling us to move well or badly that the terms “well” and “badly” chiefly relate to living things and “especially” to those possessed of “choice. ” The reason Aquinas gives for this is that living things particularly act for an end and “rational beings, in whom alone choice exists know both the end and the proportion of the means to the end” [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 16, n. 998].

Part of Aquinas’s point in the above passage is that quality modifies a motion or action in the sense that it places it within bounds and, in a way, gives it order and proportion, especially in connection to acting for an end. This point is crucial to understand in connection to the study of ethics as a science because, as a science, ethics must study a genus in relation to opposition between contrary members of a species, an opposition, like all oppositions, grounded in possession, privation, and limits.

Recall that Aristotle thinks that science studies one thing chiefly, a primary thing to which it analogously relates other things according to different relationships, that is, unequal relationships of possession and privation. Hence, the medical scientist chiefly studies health and its contrary opposite, disease, plus other things differently related, by greater and less distance, to health and disease, like diet, exercise, operating procedures, medical instruments, and so on. Analogous study of anything involves relating things using a common concept, or meaning, predicated according to greater and less distance to a common term, or numerically one nature, that is, according to more and less, excess and defect (all of which, in some way, are not equal, and, hence not one) to some one definite thing. No science, then, can proceed without considering the proportionate and unequal relationship of possession and privation that a multiplicity has to a chief proximate subject, to the maximum in a species, to a one to which other things are related as numerically one end [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 4, 1, I003b 11-19. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 5, I. 1, nn. 534- 544].

One reason this last claim is true is that Aristotle tells us substance is part of the subject of every science, not just of metaphysics. He also tells us that quantity is that by which we know substance, that a measure is that by which we know a thing’s quantity, that we first find unity as a measure in the discrete quantity, which is number, and that, from this category, we transfer the notion of a measure to other categories, like quality, time, place, and so on [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, 1052b 19-1053b8. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, no. 1937-1960].

In the case of quality, Aristotle maintains that we first perceive the notion of measure by comparing one thing to another and by noticing that one thing exceeds another in a specific quality, by noticing larger and smaller or more and less, which are inequalities and, as such, pluralities of unity. For example, we notice that one thing exceeds another in weight or heat [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10, I, 1052b 19-1053b8. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, no. 1937-1960]. For Aristotle, however, equality and inequality are first and foremost divisions of numeral proportions [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5, 14, I020b26-1 021 al 4. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, n. 1008]. Inequality is of two kinds: larger and smaller (or excessive and defective) and more and less. As inequalities, we cannot understand excessive and defective, larger and smaller, and more and less apart from reference to equality. Equality, however, is the measure of inequality, the means by which we know inequality [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 5, 14, I020b26-1 021 al 4. Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, n. 1008].

Furthermore, in the case of quality, Aquinas maintains that we are incapable of directly comparing any two qualities. Quality as quality only directly relates to the subject in which exists. Its being is a referential being to its subject. We can only relate it to another quality (I) by referring one quality to the other as an active or passive potency of the other, as being a principle or source of acting or being acted upon (like heating and being heated) or (2) by referring one quality to another through reference to quantity or something related quantity, as, for example, when we say that one thing is hotter than another because its quality of heat is more intense [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 2, n. 1008].

Aristotle’s teaching on contraries throws light on how we can compare two qualities quantitatively. For Aristotle contrariety is. a kind of opposition, one of the four kinds of opposition: (1) contradiction, (2) contrariety, (3) privation, and (4) relation [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10,4, 10555a33-1055b3]. Contraries are forms, extreme differences, or specific extremes or limits, within the same genus between which a mean, middle, or intermediary can exist. This mean or middle relates to both extremes as a one, intermediate, or midpoint between possession and privation. It is neither extreme, relates to both, and is opposed to both by an opposition of privative negation, not of contrariety, just as, for example, the midpoint between the extremely hot and extremely cold is neither hot nor cold but can become both or a morally neutral person is neither morally good nor bad but can become both [Aristotle, Metaphysics, Bk. 10,4, 1056a10-30].

Furthermore, passage from one extreme to another involves an order of change, a necessary passage through the midpoint, which stands in a condition of equality in relation to both extremes, just as passage from the great to the small and the fast to the slow must be through what is equidistant from both. Hence, because the equal stands as a mean or midpoint between extremes of possession and deprivation of a form within a genus, we can use the equal as a measure for knowing both extremes [Aquinas, Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle, Bk. 10, I. 7, nn. 2059-2074. For extensive analysis of the way contemporary physical scientists use the equal as a measure, see Crowley, Aristotelian-Thomistic Philosophy of Measure and the International System of Units (SI)].

In relationship to the equal, which is a one, two opposites exist, comprising the unequal (in this case, excess and defect of some form). Analogously speaking, these inequalities are multiplicities or pluralities. This means that we can measure qualitative differences, or difference of intensity in possession of a quality, by comparing excessive and deprived possession to possession of equal intensity. We can compare one quality to another by relating both the qualities we wish to compare to a third quality that stands midway between them in intensity, much like we can compare the heaviness of two different bodies through use of a balance scale that compares their weight relative to a state of equilibrium. This qualitative state becomes the measure of the other two and the principle by which we know them.

In the case of Aristotle’s teaching about virtue and ethics we can easily see how Aristotle applies his teaching about the one and the many. Like all sciences ethics studies a genus of being grounded on a specific kind of matter: moral matter. Moral matter is qualified matter, matter modified by active and passive potencies. Specifically, it consists of opposing habits of human choice. Ethics studies a many, the many possible opposing acts open to human choice, to try to comprehend the qualitative potentialities and properties that constitute human choice, to comprehend the powers of the soul as motive principles that can act well or badly. This science seeks to understand what is human choice to comprehend choice as the principle and cause of the many free acts that human beings perform and to enable the person of moral experience to act better. To engage in this study the ethician must examine a multiplicity of human acts because we can only comprehend power and potentiality in relation to actuality.

According to Aristotle, all science seeks to understand its subject matter in terms of its principles and causes. He also says that the first, or maximum, in any genus is the cause and measure of all that is in the genus. This means that every genus contains a species that has a form existing in its most complete state. In this species we find the form most glaringly present, present in its maximum of intensive quantity. Hence, all science seeks to find this species of its genus to use our understanding of its powers and properties as a means for knowing the powers and properties of its more deprived members.

In the case of moral science, the maximum in the genus, the starting point of moral reasoning, lies in the habits of the prudent person and in reason’s general certainty that a greatest intensive quantity of qualified act exists for beings that possess the human form. The prudent person is the rule or measure of all moral science. As the contrary opposite of the imprudent person, the prudent person is the maximum in the genus of moral choice that we have to use to comprehend goodness about human action. As the privative opposite of the extremes of moral excess within the same genus, the prudent person is the intermediate, the equal, in the same genus, who acts Iike a balance scale to compare and contrast moral viciousness [Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, in The Basic Works of Aristotle, Bk. 2,5, II06b36-1 10731, Bk. 3, 4, 1113a31-33. See, also, Joseph Owens, “The Grounds of Ethical Universality in Aristotle,” in Aristotle: The Collected Papers of Joseph Owens, pp. 148-164, and Richard P. Geraghty, The Object of Moral Philosophy According to St. Thomas Aquinas, pp. 56-61]. In this person we find (I) the quality of active human powers exercised with their maximum of intensive quantity, or completeness of form, human goodness, and (2) the balance, or equal state, between extremes of too much and too little intensive quantity of chosen action. For Aristotle, in short, moral science starts from the evidently accepted principle that all human beings by nature have a greatest or maximum human desire: to live well and a multiplicity of contrary and opposing habits of actions that moral science studies to find the principles for living well, the maximum of which we find achieved in the actions and habits of the prudent person.

“Virtue,” Aristotle tells us, “is a state of character concerned with choice, lying in a mean, i.e. the mean relative to us, this being determined by a rational principle, and by that principle by which the man of practical wisdom would determine it.” As a mean between two vices, virtue is an intermediate, equal, or right state, or state of intermediary intensive quantity, standing between, and opposed by an opposition of privative negation, not of contrariety, to two contrary vicious opposites of excess and defect of right measure in action and being acted upon [Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 2, 6, 1107al-8].

Hence, the courageous person is the intermediate between the reckless person and the timid. And a person who seeks to hit the mean between contrary vices must proceed toward the mean, toward the right measure, which is a specific intensive quantity of action that equals the best state of exercising our faculty of choice in the here and now [Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 2,8, 11109al-36]. Habituation of the good person determines the right answer in moral choice, the answer equal to the situation and an agent’s natural and habituated powers, precisely because this person has experience of virtue, of the equal in matters open to inequality, or plurality, of action [Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics, Bk. 1,2, 1095al-12, Bk. 1,8, 1099a13-24, Bk. 2, 6, 1106b36-1107a2].

This is not to say that moral science only studies the behavior of the prudent person. As Aquinas notes, Aristotle holds that every science chiefly studies one subject present, with different degrees of intensive quantity, in a multiplicity of different, opposite, and contrary beings. Secondarily and analogously it studies a multiplicity of other things that relate in varying degrees to this one subject. In the case of moral science, the one subject is human action as we find this extremely opposed in virtue and vice. But Aristotle thinks that the moral philosopher must also take into account and evaluate moral education and culture:

Paideia, meaning education and culture, is what equips the individual to make the right choice in each case and to grasp the ethical principles in a way that will allow them to function as premises from which conclusions may be drawn in the manner of an authentic science. Hence the importance of correct habituation from earliest childhood on [Owens, “The Grounds of Ethical Universality in Aristotle,” pp. 156-157].

In so doing, however, the ethician can never lose sight of the fact that (1) the chief object of moral science is a proper subject whose per se principles this science seeks to grasp, and (2) we can grasp no per se principle without reference to the notion of unity and intensive quantity.

In a similar fashion, without an understanding of the notion of intensive quantity, none of us can adequately grasp Aristotle’s notion of virtue and of philosophy, or the notion of virtue held by Socrates or Plato for that matter. If we modern thinkers wish abandon our tendency to confound philosophy with logic or with one or another brand of sophistry, if we wish to return to the practice of doing philosophy that the Ancient Greeks passed on to posterity, a practice we have largely, if not entirely, lost, we, too, will have to return to the Ancient Greek habit of thinking about the beings around us in terms of the problem of the one and the many and recover a better understanding of the role intensive quantity plays in comprehending the nature of this most perplexing puzzle.


Peter Redpath was Professor of Philosophy at St. John’s University. He is the author/editor of 17 philosophical books and dozens of articles and book reviews. He has given over 200 invited guest lectures nationally and internationally, and headed many prestigious organizations. He is the only non-Polish scholar to hold the Laudatio Achievement Award for attainment of intellectual and organizational wisdom, from the Department of Philosophy, Culture, and Art at the John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, in Poland. More information is found at his website. [Portions of this essay were originally published in the International Journal of World Peace, Vol, 18. No. 1 (March 2001).


Featured: “Seven Virtues and Seven Liberal Arts,” by Francesco Pesellino; painted ca. 1450.

The Debt to Beauty

It is the undoubted attraction, the beauty of women that leads men to become entangled in the combats of the eternal war of the sexes, never finished, never won.

There are those who have defined woman as a sphinx without mystery, without enigma, whose fascination is enclosed in appearance. Mystery or no mystery, it is her unquestionable attraction, her beauty, that leads men to become entangled in the combats of the eternal war of the sexes, never finished, never won, full of battles of attrition, of a few triumphant blows of the hand and of many months and years of trenches, barbed wire and constant, monotonogamous, stultifying bombardments. So much wastage and abundance of hendecasyllables, so many flaming and sublimated madrigals to always end up in a barren and soured bedlam: Dulcinea is always Aldonza and not vice versa. Such is the force and seduction of a simple, imaginary and unrealizable promesse de bonheur [promise of happiness], as the divine Stendhal would write. The beloved is a screen on which the lover projects his dreams, that is the quixotic misunderstanding essential to the whole love struggle, where animal impulses mingle with the fantasies of the spirit: the centaur in search of his Pallas.

For the other side—that of the sphinxes—which is the one with the strategic superiority and the most practical design, this war was resolved in a prosaic and binding objective, but very necessary for society: the family, the house, the polis, the market. That they lived happily ever after culminates all the narratives of the West, and it covers with illusion the inexorable need to reproduce the social body, to give continuity to something that is much more important than the vain and impossible happiness of individuals. Or, at least, this had been so until some members of the high castes decided to change the rules of the game and pervert the natural inclinations of human livestock with the spread of a poison that acts as a solvent of societies and civilizations: the search for an impossible abolition of reality so that even the most delirious fantasies, almost all of them purely corporeal and erotic, become real, something that, of course, cannot happen, but that makes the sphinxes stop thinking about their essential objective and replace it with a phantasm that only produces neurosis for them and great profits for those who invoke it. And when one of the sides—the strongest—is upset, the other is disoriented; the subtle balance is broken. This, fundamentally, is what El deber de lo bello [The Debt to Beauty], the recent novel by Javier R. Portella, is about.

Since the last century we knew that absurdity was the essential note of existence. But it is in this century that it has gone from being a simple intellectual or historical reference to become everyday life—the usual scenario of an increasingly ugly, puritanical, hysterical and imbecilic existence, a product imported from America but with European roots, especially Anglo-Saxon.

The protagonist of the novel, Hector, is overwhelmed (and how!) by the plagues of our time: political correctness, gender superstition and delirious feminism. Hector is the fulminated man, whose true love life was annihilated by Cristina, his former partner, and who seeks in extraordinary adventures the meaning of an existence that moves in a field of shadows where he longs for the light, but has the mania of looking for it inside all the tunnels. His erotic epiphany comes at the hand of Angelica, a prototype of the feminine ideal of our time, liberated but seductive, whose name comes in handy if we take into account that demons are also angels. Fantasy becomes reality for Hector, but it only brings him mild joys and constant ashes. Wounded by beauty and hopelessly addicted to its affairs, our postmodern Werther becomes entangled in a skein of sensual labyrinths that torment him. This comes to an extreme when he encounters a sophisticated sphinx, Margot, with echoes of Faust and Bulgakov, who leads him to his inevitable Walpurgis Night.

All of this is told with humor and with a tone that is more French than Spanish, for it is not a traditional thing to describe with elegance the deviations of the flesh, to untie with care such tender ties. Portella draws a humorous but deep portrait of an empty and full society, satisfied to the point of stupidity, a portrait that takes us from the classrooms of the pathetic Santiago Carrillo High School or from a sordid back room of the Ministry of Equality to the mansions of the European oligarchy; Hector goes through all the circles of the amorous hell of our time, of this unbridled chaos, of the glorified vulgarity that can only be redeemed by the cult of beauty, something that the protagonist misses throughout the novel and that only shines in a few moments—as that which they call “happiness.”


Sertorio lives, writes and thinks in Spain. this review comes through the kind courtesy of El Manifesto.

Ad multos annos Pat Buchanan

It must have been in the Summer of 2005. On a warm southern Ontario evening my brother and I made the trip to the cinema complex at Mississauga’s Square One Plaza [Canada]. However, as we had done several times before seeing a movie, we made the traditional intellectual pit stop at the nearby Chapters [bookstore].

While my brother, ever the aviation fanatic, looked over the latest publications pertaining to his field of interest, I made my way over to the history and political science sections. At one point I came across a title that sounded very catchy, i.e., Where the Right Went Wrong. It happened to be last one on the shelf. I also noticed that the author’s name rang a bell: Patrick J. Buchanan. Having read the summary and the recommendations I had no doubt this was the book I wanted to spend the rest of Summer 2005 with. By that time my political views were solidly grounded, nurtured by the excellent ethics and philosophy lectures at my alma mater, the Catholic University of Lublin.

I set out to find why the United States since 9/11 acted the way it did. The conventional Amerika-type explanations were simply unsatisfactory. Here finally was a tour de force of the malaise. I must admit that before reading Where the Right Went Wrong I could have asked the same question that apparently George W. Bush once posed to his late father: “What’s a neocon?”

Buchanan laid it all out: the ideological creed of that unsavory band of warmongers called neoconservatives, the emphasis on the unparalleled hubris of the Bush II administration attempting to “rid the world of evil,” all combined into a historical, political, and sociological analysis of a country that was on the road to perdition. A conservative takedown of a conservative-in-name-only administration. And all this from a former adviser to American presidents, three-time presidential candidate, public intellectual, tv personality and, what struck me most, a Latin Mass attending Catholic. Finally, a book I could truly call “foundational.”

As the years went by, I would become a certified Pat Buchanan fan of sorts. Back in my native Poland, I quickly devoured the local translation of The Death of the West. Names like “Gramsci” and terms like “Frankfurt School” would become essential parts of my vocabulary in heated political discussions. Buchanan was an influencer of sorts, who with precision and whit would hammer away in intellectual shock and awe fashion at all our common enemies: globalism, the European Union, the heresy of Modernism in the Catholic Church, the neocons, the multicultural Left. Reading Pat’s books and columns simply became an intellectual necessity—and remains so to this day.

The crucial (to some paradoxical) lesson of Pat Buchanan’s long career in politics and journalism is this: loyalty and taking a principled stand go hand in hand. To see why, I recommend reading his last two-volume memoir of his days with Richard Nixon, before and during the presidency. Only Buchanan can combine stories of how he bummed cigarettes from Pat Nixon with timeless political insight and historical reference. The esteemed Ronald Reagan biographer Craig Shirley wrote in 2015, “like Moses, Buchanan wasn’t allowed to go to the Promised Land, but over the years he has been vindicated on many, many issues.”

There is no need here to elaborate on the obvious and well-documented, by both friendly and hostile authors, ideological affinity between the man who coined the term “Silent Majority” and Donald J. Trump. Suffice to say that Buchanan is the only public persona that I know of to whom Trump offered apologies after having engaged in some very nasty name calling in the heated race for Reform Party presidential nominee in 2000.

It can be argued that if it were not for “pitchfork Pat,” who planted the seeds of populist nationalism during his insurgent presidential campaigns, Jerry Goldsmith’s epic theme from Air Force One might have preceded someone else’s remarks during election night 2016.

As one of the founders of The American Conservative, Buchanan would give American patriots and “conservatives of the heart”, disgusted with the trajectory of their beloved country, a platform from which to intellectually strike at the enemies of “the Old Republic” and whose influence cannot be underestimated. We have come a long way since those heady days of neoconservative supremacy when anathemas against “unpatriotic conservatives” really made a difference.

I can also testify that Pat Buchanan has become a global symbol of what true American conservatism stands for. It would be hard to find anyone in my circle of political and journalistic colleagues who is not familiar with Buchanan’s works. Pat is an icon of an older, better America. American readers know exactly what I mean when I refer to America’s better days; still, I would submit that Timothy Stanley captured it well when he wrote in his biography of the man: “Buchanan’s America—a world of religious mystery, Joe McCarthy, obedient wives, patriotic teamsters, Latin Masses, Saturday Night at the Movies, Buck Rogers, apple pie, stink bombs and Sputniks—was long gone. Even Georgetown was now a plush shopping district, more Ralph Lauren than Roman Catholic. When country-and-western singer Johnny Cash died in 2003, Pat said in an interview ‘Johnny Cash is gone and it is fitting, because the America we grew up in is gone, too. We grew up in another country. Johnny Cash wrote and sang our songs’.”

“Another country” indeed.

On the other hand, if it were not for the “fire in the hearts of men” that this American legend lit in so many of his fellow countrymen, setting the stage for any eventual populist counterrevolution part deux—an imperfect one having already occurred in 2016—in the United States would be a lot harder. After all it was none other than David Brooks who just a few days after Trump’s election described Buchanan as “the most influential public intellectual in America today.”

In honor of this great American on his 83rd birthday, I encourage all to settle down with a Pat Buchanan book, listen to one of his many interviews given over the years (the ones about adventures with Nixon are a historic treasure) or even re-live the humor accompanying the 1996 presidential campaign. It’s always a good time to seek inspiration and insight from this intellectual and political titan. To paraphrase the campaign slogan of his former boss, Richard Nixon, “Pat Buchanan now more than ever!”

Mr. Buchanan, from all of us here in Poland, sto lat!


Michał Krupa is a Polish historian and commentator. He has published in various Polish and American media outlets, including The American ConservativeConsortium NewsChronicles Magazine and the Imaginative Conservative. His Twitter handle is: @MGKrupa.


Are You Aware?

And are you aware of your unawareness?

The general public is being reduced to a state where people not only are unable to find about the truth but also become unable to search for the truth because they are satisfied with deception and trickery that have determined their convictions, satisfied with a fictitious reality created by design through the abuse of language (Josef Pieper).

Vision will blind. Severance ties. Median am I. True are all lies (Meshuggah).

There is a broad spectrum, as broad as the distance between heaven and hell, describing the level of awareness of people as to what is truly happening now in the world today, and why. The awareness abyss between those who know the truth and those who don’t is a result of many things, including bad education and formation, a culture of lies, and the effect of the innumerable choices for or against reality people have made in their lives, from the moment they became responsible for their choices, at the dawning of the age of reason, to the present moment. But the main reason for where people stand today vis-à-vis reality is the state of their souls vis-à-vis God. If I know and love God as a saint does, I will be aware of reality as it is; if I know and love God as a demon does, I will not be.

Let me try to describe the awareness of someone on the lower side of the spectrum. There are myriad varieties of these people, depending on accidents of education, culture, socio-economic status, belief system, and political leanings, but at core the lack of awareness and alienation from reality is the same for all of them, and for the same reasons. I will begin from the most specific and superficial, in terms of geopolitical awareness, and end with the most general and profound, in terms of spiritual awareness. I don’t pretend to be at the highest level of awareness, but as Plato teaches us, it is true that when we leave one cave, we do know that we’ve left it, even if there are many more to discover and escape from.

The low-level-awareness persons think that there actually was a global pandemic, and that it is, for all intents and purposes, over, as Biden has told them, thanks to the Vaccine, the wise leadership of people like Tedros and Biden and Fauci and Gates, the heroic efforts of the best and brightest scientists and doctors, and the sacrifices and cooperation of the many good, responsible, loving citizens throughout the world—and it would have been over a long time ago if it weren’t for Trump and the small number of his selfish, irresponsible, and disobedient followers, who, like spoiled children, wouldn’t lockdown and mask-up and get the shot, and who believed in and promoted conspiracy theories that endangered public health and led to many deaths that could have been avoided. Biden said that they are an imminent and grave threat to our democracy, and he told the truth.

These low-level-awareness persons think that in Ukraine the entire world is defending freedom from Russia that is led by an insane new Hitler, and who is being opposed by a courageous hero and new leader of the free world. Such persons think that Ukraine is winning and will win, thanks to American assistance, just like in World War II when America rescued the Jews and the entire world from Hitler. These persons think that once Ukraine is liberated and Russia justly punished and chastised into submission (like Germany was), we can get back to the real and most formidable evil the world is facing, climate change. Such persons are ready for all the sacrifices our leaders will ask us to do in order to bring about the final unification of the world under a global government, which will come about when divisive, racist, and outdated nations disappear; and just like with the pandemic, we will vanquish this great evil of nationhood that our unenlightened predecessors bequeathed to us, which is the final obstacle preventing us from establishing a new world order of peace and prosperity and happiness for all. Oh, and the high gas and food prices? Those will go away soon, these persons assure us, just as soon as the MAGA people are eradicated, Putin is assassinated, and everyone gets their eighth booster. Sit tight and be patient and get used to less white privilege. Eating bugs isn’t that bad. Less calories.

Such persons see the recent overturning of Roe vs. Wade as only a temporary setback in the ongoing and inexorable struggle for individual freedom, whose victory is assured and imminent, as witnessed by the exponential increase in freedom over the last decade, with the right to gender-reassignment surgery for children being only the latest triumph among many more to come. These persons await eagerly the new technological advances that will, like contraception and abortion pills, mRNA vaccines, and the Metaverse, enable humans to further evolve into full adulthood and take control over that evolution, so that the last vestiges of our imprisoning givenness can be sloughed off and we can finally become the kind of beings that we for way too long have projected onto gods and God due to the ignorance, self-hatred, and cowardice of our religious forebears. These persons like what they sees in Pope Francis, and especially the German Synod, because he is taking the Catholic Church in the right direction, although it has a lot of catching up to do.

Why these views? For the answer, we have to move from a description of these persons’ low-level, reality-averse awareness of what is happening socially, culturally, and politically to their even lower-level awareness of historical, metaphysical, and moral reality from which they derive their asinine opinions. The following is one version of their historical narrative, translated into the highfalutin English of the typical idiotic academic:

Only in secular modernity did man finally achieve his liberation from oppression and ignorance, from superstition, magic, tyranny, and priestcraft, from the dark forces of religious power, fanatical belief, and sectarianism. Man achieved this liberation primarily through the secularization of reason, morality and society, which included the separation of religion from the political order, the church from the state. Ever-increasing religious and ideological pluralism ensued as soon as men of good will were permitted to exercise freely their reason and act on their consciences. It is certainly the case that when Christendom was finally broken up in the wake of the Reformation, religiously intolerant, confessional, monarchical states emerged, but these evolved quite quickly, historically speaking, into the secular, tolerant, pluralistic, democratic states we have today. The rise of secular society after the sixteenth and seventeenth-century wars of religion was rendered possible only by the removal of religion from all positions of political significance and power. Good-willed, reasonable people were ready and willing to accept the desacralization of the state after decades of incessant bloodshed over religion. Sequestered, depoliticized, and privatized, religion and the sacred would now no longer cause war, divisiveness, and oppression, and the newly liberated, autonomous, politically secular individual could finally thrive. In the religiously tolerant, secular, pluralistic liberal democracy governed by the rights of men, not God, the sacred would still have a place and a capacity to exert influence over politics, but now it would have to coexist with the many competing sacreds residing in the same city, proliferating and dwelling together in peace precisely because none are permitted to obtain societal, cultural, and political power, let alone a monopoly on power.

In short, secular modernity was born when the archaic, violence-inducing sacred lost its public, political hegemony and influence, being relegated to the sub-political, private sphere of men’s fancies and hearts. What took its place in the public square is what should have always been there in the first place, the right of individuals to self-determination, to freedom of thought, action, speech, and religion. In modernity man had the courage and intelligence to attempt, for the first time in human history, to construct a political order not based upon the religious, the sacred. While not denying the right of every citizen to believe in a sacred, superhuman, cosmic, divine, transcendent power as the true ground of man’s existence, both personal and social, the theoreticians of the modern paradigm, people such as Machiavelli, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Kant, and Madison, decided that secular values and rights, codified in a social contract, would replace any supposed power or will higher than man. And we are so thankful they did.

Such are these persons core metaphysical beliefs: Mindless Matter is all there is, well, except for my Mind, which is free and limitless, though determined by economics—but I’m free. I am a free spirit. And truth is the opinion of the powerful, which is oppressive and untrue, unless I’m in power; or perhaps it’s the opinion of the marginalized. And all opinions are equal, except those that aren’t, like Science and Critical Race Theory.

And as for morality—it’s relative, period. Except for racism and sexism and homophobia, which are absolute evils. And MAGA is evil. But good and evil are the labels of the intolerant, or the rationalizations of class consciousness, but vaccines are absolutely good and people should be forced to get them, and Putin is evil. And we today in the 21st century are morally superior to everyone who lived before us, except that we’re all equal. And abortion is good, so it should be imposed on everyone, but morality is relative. Freedom is the Good, and the Good is Freedom—except for the freedom to try to make something other than freedom the Good, which must be stopped, by force if need be.

Spiritually, these persons believe in love, or power, or both, or nothing. The diversity of religions is willed by God, except those religions that claim to be the true religion, which God, who probably doesn’t exist because we are God, hates. Jesus was a nice man and a good moral teacher, but some of his disciples were antisemitic, such as St. John and St. Paul. Crusades. Inquisition. Nazism. Trump. We know this now, and have sought or demanded forgiveness and groveling, and that’s why we love Pope Francis. The universal religion of love is sweeping across the planet, as we await its definitive spokesperson. It is already showing itself, as evidenced by divinely inspired masterpieces of art like this one:

The lockdowns were the first fruits of the New Spirit, bringing us all together in sacrificial love and Science. And the Vaccine is our new sacrament:

The moral, metaphysical, and spiritual beliefs of the low-level awareness people are, in a word, incoherent, a mishmash of relativism, absolutism, particularism, universalism, self-righteousness and self-deprecation, individualism and collectivism, nihilism and crusaderism, materialism and idealism, atheism and idolatry. They indicate the lowest level possible of spiritual awareness because, in spite of the illusion of diversity, they all reject the law of non-contradiction, which is the first principle without which truth-knowing and truth-telling are impossible. It would evince a higher level of metaphysical awareness to be a full-fledged materialist or atheist or nihilist, for at least there would be an implicit recognition of the possibility of truth, even if the truth claim itself is self-contradictory and false. But this eclectic spirituality, rooted in a chaotic moral and metaphysical soup, is the very nadir of human consciousness and is the perfect breeding ground for global totalitarianism and the Antichrist who will soon embody it, literally.

Why would someone holding this set of moral, metaphysical, and spiritual attitudes or moods—let us not dignify them with the word beliefs—endorse the forced covering of one’s face and injections into one’s body, the placing of the entire world under house arrest, the censoring of all speech not in line with arbitrary “expert” claims, the requiring of papers to merely exist in society, the greatest wealth transfer in history to the richest elites on the planet, and a NATO war of aggression against a nuclear power, on the one hand, and the genital mutilation and sexualization of children, the goodness of murdering babies, sodomy, and cannibalism (coming soon), and the replacement of popular entertainment with satanic occult rituals, on the other? It is because the upshot of those “beliefs” is the promise of power to their adherents, for they are all predicted on the rejection of any authority above man’s will, either his individual or collective will. And since the collective will always trumps the individual one due to the dynamic of sheer power, which is all that is left when there is nothing above the human will; since the most powerful and ruthless elites always dominate the collective will; and since Satan always dominates the most powerful and ruthless, the will of Satan will be done on earth as it is in Hell when the conditions are ripest for his enthronement, and those conditions exist perfectly among the lowest-level awareness people, and to only a slightly lesser extent among those of higher-level awareness, which, apart from the very highest, is still very, very low. It is only those with the very highest-level awareness who stand in the way of the Antichrist at this time.

What are the geopolitical, moral, metaphysical, and spiritual beliefs of those with this highest level of awareness? Well, I wish I knew them, and to say that I do is to arrogantly imply that I am among these. I daresay that I try to follow those institutions, traditions, and personages that have proven their exquisite level of awareness by their works and fruits, their holiness, integrity, courage, charity, and prophetic witness. Suffice it to say, I try to know, love, and obey reality, a sign of a high-level awareness in an Age of Unreality. What is this reality according to these authorities?

For geopolitical reality, if it is true that we are in a state of full-fledged global totalitarianism, and to see this one must already have a high level of awareness, then those institutions and people telling the full truth would be infallibly detected by the vehemence of the attacks against them by the Global Regime of Lies. The highest level of awareness, then, can be described accurately and simply by compiling the claims of these.

There is no institution that is attacked more frequently, ferociously, and insidiously than the Catholic Church, both from without and within, both by intimidation and persecution, seduction and infiltration. Therefore, just read the Catechism of the Catholic Church for an infallible description of the highest level of awareness in terms of moral, metaphysical, and spiritual truth. For a more detailed account of metaphysical awareness in terms of the history of philosophy, I would recommend E. Michael Jones’ Logos Rising: A History of Ultimate Reality:

In terms of historical narrative, the highest level of awareness can thus be found by rejecting any political history that denigrates the Catholic Church and rejects its true reality as the Mystical Body of Christ, and that doesn’t see the Incarnation as the center of human history. For example, awareness knows that The City of God is founded on a love of God that leads its citizens to contempt for themselves, counting all earthly things as worthless…. Augustine argues that the temporal ought to be ordered to the eternal (Civ. Dei XIX,17), but that this ordering will never be achieved entirely harmoniously till the second coming of the Lord. For, there is a second city here on earth in addition to the city of God— the civitas terrena, the earthly city. This city is founded on a love of self to the contempt of God (Civ. Dei XIV,28). And these two cities are in conflict… The earthly city is always opposed to true religion…. Justice consists in giving each his own, thus no society is just that does not give God the worship due to Him.

The following narrative of liberal democracy and the so-called Enlightenment is the high-awareness counterpoint to the low-awareness narrative described above, based upon the fact that anyone holding anything like this narrative would be immediately fired from any mainstream academic or government position:

Since his creation, man has attempted to flee the ubiquitous reality of God through creative abstraction from the natural things of His creation and the supernatural plan of His redemption. Fallen man has always been offended at the “scandal of particularity,” always seeking to live in a universe of his own devising, always abstracting from the concrete, contingent, particular, fleshy, historical realities in which he, as a creature of matter and spirit, finds himself, and through which God has chosen to communicate Himself to him.

All was well in the Garden until Adam and Eve began abstracting: “It can’t be this particular fruit on this particular tree that could be so significant to God and to our happiness!” For the ancient Greek philosophers, God’s existence was knowable; for the Jews, He was a living presence. But that he would limit Himself to a backwater village in the Middle East, or become anything less than a divine conqueror, was foolishness to the former and a stumbling block to the latter. Martin Luther accepted the truth that the universal became particular in the Incarnation, but denied that this Incarnation should be seen as continuing mystically in a particular, historical, visible institution demanding man’s obedience. Enlightenment man accepted the existence of God and absolute truth, but demanded that these be universally accessible solely through man’s reason. “Enlightenment” would be the result of abstracting from one’s particular and contingent cultural and religious “superstitions” to attain the universal truth transcending them. But such a position was tantamount to abstracting the Incarnation out of reality, to rejecting the entire supernatural order made manifest in and through Our Lord, and denying the necessity of His grace and teachings for an accurate understanding and practice of even natural truth and virtue. Postmodern man appeared to have overcome this error, rightly rejecting Enlightenment man’s facile claim to have discovered self-evident absolute truths in abstraction from particularist commitments. He discovered that the historical, the cultural, the societal, that is, the particular, cannot be so easily cut out of the picture. “Self-evident”—to whom? A fair question, that. Yet by denying the possibility of attaining universal truth through and in its particular embodiments, the atheist-oriented postmodernists rejected the reality of transcendence for the abstraction of pure immanence. In short, every error of man throughout history has been the result of missing the balance between immanence and transcendence, the human and the divine, the particular and the universal, by abstracting out some particular realm of natural or supernatural reality.

The diabolically fomented World Wars of our past century, the plandemic, and the WWIII we are now in, sapped the life out of the religious and cultural tradition of the West, with the anti-traditional abstractions of communism, fascism, Nazism, neo-liberalism, and the Great Reset serving as demonic parodies of the Catholic Church. But Lucifer’s coup de grâce would be saved for our century. To his dismay, his all-out destructive assault on tradition in the first half of the twentieth century had provoked a robust counterattack by men of goodwill in the second half. Lucifer learned his lesson: men cannot exist without some sort of tradition. Thus, instead of attempting again the direct destruction of the Western Christian tradition (rendered rather vestigial, decrepit, and paltry, it must be admitted, from his first assault), this time he pursued a subtler but more effective method. Realizing that any authentic tradition, even a barely-breathing one, is a receiver and transmitter of the divine, his stroke of genius was to inspire the construction and establishment of an abstract anti-tradition that would receive and transmit nothing. Although similar in its unreality to the abstractions of communism, fascism, Nazism, and globalism, it would bear such a striking resemblance to the Christian tradition that it would escape detection. Implemented surreptitiously and cloaking itself in the form of its host, it would serve as the tradition to end all tradition. Not only would there be no counterattack this time, men of good will would have no idea what hit them—or even that they had been hit.

Secular liberal democracy is the cave, liberalism the shadows on its walls, and “conservative,” “liberal,” and “radical” shadows of various shapes and sizes. For those in the cave, reality is contacted by comparing and choosing among the shadows; certain shadows appear “true,” while other shadows seem “false.” But since shadows are all they know, it cannot be said that they really know any of these shadows at all. They do not know the shadows as shadows. They may use the word “shadow” in their many echoey, cave discussions, but they do not know of what the shadows are. Indeed, if they ever recognized the shadows as shadows, they would escape the cave.

Liberalism is just such a cave. People in the modern West may use the term “liberalism,” and identify “other” points of view in contrast to it, but because they are inside liberalism and do not know it, they do not recognize the liberalism of liberalism. They do not see it as an alien, artificial ideology projected upon the walls of their minds by the elitist puppeteers of academia, religion, bureaucracy, and media, but simply as “just the way things are.” They are like fish that never recognize their immersion in water because they know of nothing else.

Liberalism claims to provide a religiously neutral social framework within which individuals can autonomously determine their own vision of the world in perfect freedom. But we must reject liberalism’s official public claim that it lacks any particular conception of the good and any restrictions on others’ conceptions of the good. Since liberal culture is founded upon a particular conception of the good and a particular doctrine of truth—namely, the good of the privatization of all claims to truth, and the truth of the irreducible plurality of conceptions of the good—and since the publicly authoritative rhetoric of liberal culture denies having any substantive conceptions of its own, what liberalism amounts to is an established and intolerant belief system—a religion—that indoctrinates citizens into disbelieving in its very existence. Just as the puppeteers must ensure that the shadows are never recognized as shadows, lest the cave be identified as a cave and the prisoners break their chains; liberalism must never be exposed as liberalism, that is, as a historically contingent, non-necessary, manmade ideology. It must at all costs be identified with “the facts,” “the way things are,” as the inexorable social reality. In short, as the great Nietzschean ironist Stanley Fish, a cave-puppeteer with a genius for exposing his fellow puppeteers to the light, has confessed: “liberalism doesn’t exist.”

The problem, however, is that it does, and its existence is no longer limited to an abstract idea or a revolutionary experiment—it is now a well-established social reality. The liberal incubus has found a willing consort in the decrepit culture of the secularized West, and unfortunately, we citizens of the modern liberal democracies of the West are its traditionalists. Cavanaugh’s name for liberalism is the “worship of the empty shrine”:

“The public shrine has been emptied of any one particular God or creed, so that the government can never claim divine sanction and each person may be free to worship as she sees fit…. There is no single visible idol, no golden calf, to make the idolatry obvious . . . officially the shrine remains empty…. The empty shrine, however, threatens to make a deity not out of God but out of our freedom to worship God. Our freedom comes to occupy the empty shrine. Worship becomes worship of our collective self, and civil religion tends to marginalize the worship of the true God. Our freedom, finally, becomes the one thing we will die and kill for.”

And the priests of the empty shrine have become quite zealous of late to evangelize, both through preaching in a variety of media (McDonalds, MTV, pornography, gender-reassignment surgery, poison “vaccines”…) and, especially since 2003, through inquisition—democracy and freedom at the end of a gun, a white phosphorous bomb, or an electric shock to the genitals. The god of the liberal state is a jealous god, commanding its devotees to kill for it. As Cavanaugh writes: “You may confess on your lips any god you like, provided you are willing to kill” for the State—and to be killed for it. As MacIntyre wryly put it: “It is like being asked to die for the telephone company.”

With a track record of human sacrifice, how has the empty shrine of liberal nothing-worship (to conflate names for a moment) managed to escape our detection? The short answer is that it has removed our eyes. Authentic traditions, both natural and supernatural, embody and transmit the ultimate realities of man’s existence, the transcendent origin, end, and meaning of things that cannot be grasped by the isolated individual, and cannot be fully rationalized or defined.

Ultimate reality must be experienced through and in its incarnation in tradition. It is in this sense that tradition is the eye that allows men to see the spiritual, eternal, and transcendent meanings hidden in the physical, temporal, and mundane facts of everyday existence. Participants in the anti-tradition of liberalism, however, are prevented from ever seeing themselves as participants in a tradition, even though they are its slaves. They are blinded to their God-given identity as members of a common good higher than themselves, even as they serve as mere cogs in the liberal machine. The freedom cult includes all others, even the cult of the Eucharist, and so it is more universal, more “catholic,” and therefore more divine than the Eucharist. By not prescribing any particular object of public devotion, the State’s empty shrine appears to allow all devotions to exist and thrive more successfully than if there were an exclusivist, established cult, such as Catholicism. However, all of this is a grand illusion. As David Schindler points out: “The state cannot finally avoid affirming, in the matter of religion, a priority of either ‘freedom from’ or ‘freedom for’—both of these imply a theology.”

As for the geopolitical reality described by high-level awareness, if you look at what those whom the Regime of Unreality hate the most are saying, it amounts to something like this:

The incredible evil we have witnessed and suffered over the past two years amounts to the greatest crime against humanity ever committed. The plandemic was an all-out assault on every human being on the planet. Though its most obvious effects were economic and political, at its core it was a spiritual and psychological-terror operation knowingly and deliberately orchestrated by a small global elite of unspeakably evil and psychopathic people. It was executed by a larger group of lower-tier cooperators ignorant of the master plan but vicious enough to use their power and influence to inflict untold harm on those in their charge. And it was enabled by the masses of idolatrous, fearful, alienated, rootless, selfish, and cowardly men, the rotten fruit of a godless and decadent liberalism, a liberalism that encourages children to mutilate their bodies, allows mothers to murder their babies, and celebrates when men penetrate the rectums of other men.

In the end, we are each responsible for our level of awareness, and God created us to aspire to the highest level possible, the intimate awareness of Him. We can only become aware of our unawareness by His grace, and we need His minute-by-minute help to ascend to higher and higher levels, lest we fall backwards into our own darkness and blindness. Let us practice the presence of God always so that we become more and more aware of His indescribable love for us and share this awareness with all whom we meet.


Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski is former Associate Professor of Philosophy and Humanities at Wyoming Catholic College and Academic Dean. He teaches Political Philosophy at John Adams Academy and Great Books for Angelicum Academy. He is also a tutor for the Catherine Project. His latest books are Modernity as Apocalypse: Sacred Nihilism and the Counterfeits of Logos, and Words, Concepts, Reality: Aristotelian Logic for Teenagers.


Featured: “Allegory of Human Folly,” by Cornelis Saftleven; painted in 1629.

Concerning Consciousness, with Reference to Franz Brentano

With modernity a Copernican turn occurs in philosophy, as Kant observes, and the metaphysics that until then started from the question of the entity as entity, now starts from the subject. It is thus transformed into a metaphysics of subjectivity, as Heidegger rightly noted.

This metaphysics that is born from Descartes’ ego cogito has a second stage that is inaugurated with the detailed analysis of consciousness. And the first to study it in itself and in detail was Franz Brentano from 1860-1870, until he finally published his The Classification of Mental Phenomena (Von der Klassifikation der psychischen Phänomene) in 1911.

Let us begin with Brentano, a German philosopher of Italian origin who taught in Vienna. José Gaos, a Spaniard living in Mexico, who was Brentano’s first translator of Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint (1874), affirmed that Brentano was a heteroclite philosopher; that is, he departed from the ordinary rules of what a philosopher should do or say. Thus, Brentano had as disciples and students important figures, such as Edmund Husserl, Sigmund Freud, Christian von Ehrenfels, Alexius Meinong, Carl Stumpf, Kazimierz Twardowski, Anton Marty and many others—who excelled in phenomenology, psychoanalysis, Gestalt theory, object theory, language theory, logical positivism, symbolic logic, value theory, etc. Moreover, behind the Vienna Circle and the great contemporary studies on Aristotle (Jaeger, Ross, Owens, Zürcher, Aubenque) is the figure of the philosopher Marienberg.

But then why has Brentano not been studied in the universities as his contemporaries have, such as Stuart Mill, Nietzsche, Frege, Dilthey? Because Brentano subjected Kant to a merciless and severe criticism. He called Kant prejudiced by his a priori. He called him ignorant of the history of philosophy and mathematics. And this was not forgiven by the German universities and thereafter by the rest of the universities. Thus, it was that the Catholic universities, where scholastic philosophy is taught, ignored him thoroughly, even though Brentano was an excellent connoisseur of Thomas Aquinas whom he quoted assiduously and knew to perfection. [Without delving further, on the subject of conscience, he often resorts to Aquinas whom he cites in his support. It is a subject that has not been studied, the use of Thomas Aquinas in Brentano. It would be good if someone would do it]. All this explains why Brentano has never been studied. And if he is mentioned in the faculties of philosophy, it is only in relation to the intentionality of consciousness when Husserl and phenomenology are taught.

Let us now turn to the subject at hand.

There are at least two terms to speak of consciousness: consciousness and conscience. The first is closer to its Latin roots and indicates the capacity of the human being to know and perceive reality. And the second, which is in common use, indicates rather a knowledge of what is right or wrong. The former translates the German word Bewussbeit, which alludes to our capacity to have psychic phenomena and to realize that we have them and which refers to that special capacity we human beings have—often manifested in the form of an inner voice—to know what we should do and what we should not do.

Both terms are limited to the phenomena of knowledge in such a way that they do not contribute much to the study of consciousness itself or whatever its meaning may be. Brentano makes his contribution: “I prefer to use the word consciousness as equivalent to psychic phenomenon or psychic act.” Thus, psychic phenomena are those to which something is inherent. Consciousness is always “consciousness of.” As the great Spanish philosopher Xavier Zubiri maintained in his thesis on Husserl in 1921: “Brentano discovered that things are something independent of experience but consciousness is not something empty.”

The experience of psychic phenomena that are the constitutive of human consciousness and of which the rest of reality is the object or intentional correlate are lived as immediate and original evidence.
And these phenomena are true in themselves: “as they appear to be, so they are in reality; a fact attested by the experience through which they are perceived.” That is to say that each psychic act is lived as such before any conceptualization. This way of living the psychic is the true way of experiencing the real. And consciousness lives and experiences it at the same time, representatively, judicatively and affectively. Internal perception is infallible and there can never exist in us a psychic phenomenon of which we have no representation.

Thus, consciousness as a psychic act is composed of three fundamental kinds of psychic activities: representation, judgment and emotion, interest or love. If psychology, psychoanalysis and psychiatry are clear about this Brentanian liminal distinction, which he traces back to Descartes and J.S. Mill, they will advance on a sure step, otherwise they will get lost in a thousand confusing and sterile subtleties. Or worse, be harmful.

[In his Metaphysical Meditations III, Descartes calls “representations” ideae, “judgments” judicia, and “emotions” voluntates sive affectus. Aristotle calls the latter ορεζις, “desires,” and all the medieval philosophers “representations” and “judgments”].

In representing, something always appears to us. Thus, when we see something, a color appears to us; when we hear something, we represent a sound; when we imagine something, a product of the imagination, and so on. The purpose of names is to arouse representations: “We understand by representation not what is represented but the representing. This representing constitutes not only the foundation of judging, but also of craving and willing.”

Those representations, when we accept them as true or reject them as false, bring abouit the judging. And although representing and judging are phenomena of thinking, judgment cannot be reduced to simple representations or combinations of these. If I say “mountain of gold,” I express a representation; and as long as I do no more than that, I express no judgment.

As for the emotions or phenomena of love or interest, they comprise the phenomena that affect our appetite or will. And so, every judgment takes an object to be true or false, every emotion takes an object to be good or bad.

Basically, all three are different modes of reference of the consciousness to the object. The difference between them is that the intentional mode in judgment is to admit if it is true, or reject if it is false, while the intentional mode of reference in the emotions is to like or dislike.

Whereas in representing (the term best expresses the psychic act of representation) there can be no analogy, for I can represent to myself black or white, but I cannot represent to myself, for example, black or white in two opposite ways.

The internal experience of consciousness immediately shows the difference in the content of the three primary psychic activities.

It should be clarified that every psychic act is conscious because it gives itself a consciousness of itself; but at the same time it has a consciousness according to three modes: the representation of it, the knowledge of it and the feeling towards it. “Every psychic act, even the simplest, has a fourfold aspect from which it can be considered.” Thus, we can distinguish, even though the psychic phenomenon is unitary, a primary object (e.g., sound, the act in which we hear), and a secondary object (the phenomenon in which the sound is heard). The object of consciousness is only represented in the first place; knowledge constitutes a second moment, the same as feeling or interest because “representations are also the foundation of craving and feeling.”

Just as the content of a judgment insofar as it is true is admissible and as false rejectable, in the same way, in the case of feeling and liking, of sentiment and will, the good is pleasant and the bad unpleasant: “It is about the value or disvalue of an object.”

All these representations arise from the internal experience of these phenomena. This third kind of activity of the consciousness is not a judgment “this is to be loved or that is to be hated;” but it is simply a loving or hating that the internal perception shows us in an evident way.

At this point, Brentano argued that there is no fundamental distinction between feeling and will as proposed by Hamilton, Lotze, Kant and Wolff, among others, because the term appetite (apetitioI) is not adequate “to cover all psychic phenomena other than thinking,” so that the acts of joy and sadness cannot be considered appetitive acts.

[Brentano states in note 27 of Psychology from An Empirical Standpoint: “Only occasionally do we see signs of an emancipation from this tradition – of designating with the term appetite the psychic phenomena of feeling and will – for example, in Thomas Aquinas (cf. Summa theologicae I, q.37, a.1 and elsewhere) uses the term amare as the more universal name of the class].

To this also contributed the ignorance of the relation between representation and judgment that led to confusion about the relation between feeling and will. And he reproaches Kant for limiting the feeling of pleasure and displeasure “unilaterally to the judgment of aesthetic taste.”

If representation and judgment are psychic phenomena of a different class, and feeling and will are phenomena of the same class when the ideas of the true, the good and the beautiful are applied to them, they will correspond in this way: “The supreme perfection of the representative activity resides in the contemplation of the beautiful, whether through the influence of the object or independently of it”… The supreme activity of the judicative activity resides in the knowledge of truth, naturally and above all, in the knowledge of truths that reveal to us a rich fullness of being more than others… Finally, the supreme perfection of loving activity lies in the free elevation to the higher good.”

The ideal of ideals consists in unity of all that is true, good and beautiful whose representation shows infinite beauty, infinite truth and infinite goodness. “The triad of ideals (of the beautiful, the true and the good) can very well be explained by the system of psychic phenomena.”

We see once again, as it happened with other great philosophers of the twentieth century (Heidegger, Eugen Fink), how the classical theory of the transcendentals of the entity appears, although in a different form from that formulated formerly. In this case through the system of psychic phenomena of representation, judgment and emotional phenomena.

Moral Conscience—it is understood as the instance that deals with our own moral experience. Modern philosophy established it as the main mode of moral knowledge, as opposed to the “prudence” of classical antiquity and medieval prudentia. In introspection it allows us to delve into both our personal life and the life of the historical world. That is why when we speak of ethical questions, we speak at the same time of ourselves, of our experience, especially the older we get.

Moral conscience exists above all as an “inner voice” that guides us in our actions, but we cannot base ethics on moral conscience as Kant and the neo-Kantians tried to do, who, in order to understand ethics, started from the analysis of moral conscience. But this is not possible because we cannot free ourselves from the quantum of subjectivity of our conscience. And science cannot be built on subjectivity.

The philosopher does not draw the norms from himself but finds them in his vital situation; he finds them in that which governs the tasks of an epoch, as the most intimate conscience of this epoch. Of course, he can dissent and propose others, but this is only for a great philosopher who can leap over his time, thus contradicting Hegel’s saying that no one can leap over his time.

If we would like to use moral conscience as a norm, we must necessarily complete it with historical objectivity, with the great cultural systems; that is to say, great effective and affective nexuses that unite men to carry out historical achievements, in order not to keep reinventing the wheel. This explains the tremendous effort made by Hegel, the greatest philosopher of the metaphysics of subjectivity in his Phenomenology of Spirit, as a science of the experience of consciousness (1807), in order to justify the experience of moral and political consciousness.

Moral consciousness emerged as a process of emancipation from theology carried out by the Enlightenment in order to achieve with it an internal subjection of the modern subject. This was known by the term of the “principle of autonomy,” which began from the certainty of internal experience, and ended with the exaltation of the individual over the community, in an exaggerated liberalism: “I look after Number One”—in a society of exorbitant consumption and in a man transformed into a homunculus.

Moral conscience is there, present, it exists and we make daily use of it; but that does not mean that we can transform it into a norm, nor as a principle of freedom, for as Nicolai Hatmann, a former member of the Marburg School, observes very well in his magnificent Ethics: “One cannot make a conclusive argument for the freedom of the will from the phenomenon of the consciousness of freedom. Therefore, neither from the consciousness of self-determination, a more reduced consciousness, but qualitatively equivalent to it.”

And still less to raise it as a paradigm of universal history, as Hegel pretended in that enormous “sulfur factory” in which German idealism ended.


Alberto Buela is an Argentinian philosopher and professor at National Technological University and the University of Barcelona. He is the author of many books and articles.


Featured: “Man repels the Appeal of Conscience,” by Frederic james Shields; painted in 1910.

Derrida the Negator

There are posthumous editions that are only of secondary interest in relation to the work already known by their author. Such is not the case with this work, written by Derrida in 1960. It cannot be reduced to its sole pedagogical aim, which was to provide the learned correction of a dissertation subject given to his philosophy students at the Sorbonne, on a subject that is none other than a sentence written by Alain: “To think is to say no.” Indeed, in his Preface, Brieuc Gérard stresses that Derrida, then an assistant in “general philosophy and logic” at the university of the Sorbonne, enjoyed for four years “a complete autonomy as to the subject-matter of his courses and the organization of his directed works,” which ceased in 1964 when he was forced to follow the program of the agrégation of philosophy at the École normale supérieure of Paris. In virtue of this autonomy, proper to any enterprise of “general philosophy,” Derrida thus professed his own thought through those he taught. By the mediation of the philosophers that he summoned and discussed, according to a well determined direction leading to his master Heidegger, Derrida who became one of the greatest thinkers of “French Theory” gives us to read and to think the most important premises of his philosophy of deconstruction.

Deconstruction

The title given by Derrida to his four-session essay thwarts the reader’s expectations—instead of representing an apology of negation, in the logical sense of the term, it first follows faithfully Alain’s original proposal to lead to a thought of “neither yes nor no,” where the implications and presuppositions that organize the two affirmative and negative modalities of thought are deconstructed, that is to say, unpacked, and not eliminated. The opposition that Alain makes between thought and affirmation begins in fact, at first, by being translated in the terms of an opposition between thought and belief—for him, Derrida tells us, “the idea of proof as a technical instrument of truth is to be refused, because as soon as one says yes, one ceases to think and one begins to believe.” In this sense, Alain, more Cartesian than Descartes, would adopt an “ultraradicalism of doubt” which consisted in not using it to reach a certainty under the aegis of a veracious God, but on the contrary in remaining at “the hypothesis of the deceitful God and even of the Evil Genius to save thought and the initiation of thought… which has no initiation except in the “no,” hostile to any proof, to any definitive destination in the true.

Even before opposing the ready-to-think provided against it by “the world, the tyrant and the preacher,” the thought is thus constituted by a movement of negation: on the one hand, negation of appearance, insofar as to think, that is to say, to examine objects and to reflect on them, is to refuse to stick to what one perceives; on the other hand and above all, negation of what one holds oneself to be apparent, since “in order to see something, necessitates [already] a whole implicit work of selections, criticisms, questions;” that is to say, of negation of what one excludes in our perceptual sorting: “to believe everything, therefore to say yes to everything, is to choose to see nothing,” Derrida comments. To say yes, one must say no.

In fact, this raises an objection to Derrida, in that this total affirmation, instead of being only a total deprivation of the visible, can be, on the contrary, under different conditions of the rational or discursive thought, the way of access to the invisible itself. Doesn’t the naive “yes to everything” deserve to be measured and rethought by the “I choose everything” of Saint Therese of Lisieux?

Notwithstanding what the saint may object to in the dialectician, Derrida pursues Alain’s reasoning, whose antithesis does not fail to put classical skepticism out of the game: if belief signifies a halt in the movement of thought, its being put to sleep, it is only as “credulous thought.” On the contrary, faith, in its broad sense of an act of trust, is not naive credulity, but the inevitable presupposition of all awakened thought, of all thought that says no: “without a kind of primitive axiological adherence to the legitimacy of truth, it would not even be possible to challenge opinion in general… as a de facto breach of the truth.” In other words, to be able to deny, one has to feel that one has to do so: to say no, one has to have confidence in truth as an ideal against which an opinion can be refuted because it is wrong: “to say no, to doubt, to refuse, one has to want to, to decide to. It is a necessary fiat or a be that is a yes to the will to say no.” The actuality of doubt is based, if not on the ideal certainty in the truth, at least on a confidence in it. To say no, one must say yes.

By showing that thought says neither yes nor no, Derrida leads to the deconstruction of affirmation and negation. This in a double sense: by revealing, on the one hand, the negation supposed by affirmation (in the form of a sorting, a selection) as well as the affirmation supposed by negation (in the form of a confidence in one’s own project), he denies—on the other hand, the pretension of both to represent two modalities of thought, each one provided with its own and definite meaning. In so doing, Derrida challenges classical logic and ontology, which respectively make non-being and negation the symmetrical opposites of being and affirmation, in order to disseminate the meaning of these two opposites in the variety of their mutual implications.

Dissemination

While following Bergson, Derrida notes that negation in classical logic is not a negation; it is only a “modalization” of affirmation, since it consists in refusing an affirmation in the name of another implicit affirmation. For example, to say that such and such a table is not white is to affirm in disguise that the table is of another color. This is why, in the same way, the nothingness in the classical ontology is not a nothingness either, because if it is a nothingness; it is nothing at all; we don’t have to talk about it; it is thus, on the contrary, under the mode of “the haunting” that it means something: “it is necessary that the nothingness haunts being so that negation is possible.” The negation, logical or ontological, must therefore be rethought. By ending his course on Heideggerian phenomenology, Derrida announces what his philosophy will be based on: a renewed thought of negation. For a negation to be really such, in fact, it is necessary, while remaining discursive (without which there is no judgment), that it is the affirmation of nothing. For there to be negation, it must not be a contrary affirmation, but the contrary of any affirmation; consequently, not the determination or definition of any meaning, but the dissemination of meaning.

Derrida has indeed a neantizing conception of freedom. He repeats in his course that humanity experiences its freedom only through its power of “neantization” of the world, of negation of everything: “for my affirmative judgment to have a value of truth,” he says, commenting on Bergson, “it is necessary that I be free to choose for the truth and that I be able to say something other than what I say;” that is to say, to negate the truth. It is thus “by the negation or the thought of nothingness that the spirit authenticates itself as freedom,” he concludes. However, it was Bergson’s mistake, as well as Husserl’s and finally Sartre’s after him, to think negation incompletely: if, indeed, consciousness that denies all existence does not deny itself as existence (or as “being”), its negation is not complete. To affirm its freedom, the subject must be able to deny itself also, to include itself in the hyperbolic negation: “The most comprehensive phenomenological reduction, the most extended, the deepest anguish [will be able] to negate the totality of the world, the totality of the states, the totality of the regions of the being [only by negating also] the man, the for-itself, the consciousness included. It is thus necessary to exceed this opposition consciousness-world.

This is what Heidegger finally understood when, abandoning his theme of anguish, he refused to affirm the power of neantisation “from to be [or] from being,” and to think it on the contrary from “the difference between to be and being,” by which “to be shows itself by hiding itself in being.” Indeed, for Heidegger, nothingness haunts everything, since everything appears and disappears on a purely undetermined background—the fact that any phenomenon can appear and disappear indicates to us that any phenomenon always rests on an empty place; that nothingness is not the opposite of existence but its condition of appearance, as a blackboard allows any form to be drawn on it. But as long as we remain in the order of logically measurable language, this Heideggerian theory of “ontological difference” is an error, since logically speaking, “there is only difference within a genus, [and] being is not a genus.” To assume the ontological difference, it is thus necessary, for Derrida, to make language incommensurable, to subtract it from any possibility of logical measurement, by thwarting any attempt to fix meaning, to define it. Such was the Derridean enterprise of the “dissemination”—once deconstructed the sense of the words, necessarily, instead of recomposing what has been deconstructed, leave the elements of sense scattered, without a coherence definitively assignable to a system or to a given interpretation; it is necessary to let the elements show themselves scattered in an irremediable multiplicity and without substance. Derrida thus saveed the coherence of the Heideggerian phenomenology by exceeding it in a more radical theory—that of the meontological “differentiation,” true contrary thought of to be.

Unbinding

The “differentiation” that Derrida theorized consisted in substantiating the insubstantivable—not the fact of differentiating one thing from another, but the fact of deferring in time the meaning of a concept by its inscription, in a chain of other concepts. Against the traditional principle of identity which, at the foundation of the other principles (of contradiction and of the third-excluded), stipulates that “every thing is what it is,” “A is A,” the course “Thinking” is saying no; it intends to show that the two fundamental elements of language, the yes and the no, have no determined meaning—the yes is not a yes, the no is not a no, since their meaning is always deferred, awaiting donation through the diversity of their uses and their mutual implications. We thus understand why Derrida concluded his course by saying that Heidegger’s “ontico-ontological difference” “would allow us to really hear Alain when he says that ‘to think is to say no'”: this thought indeed opens a breach in the possibility of thinking a negation that is really one, by preventing any determination, any assignment of any meaning whatsoever to a given sign by disseminating it, by always ceaselessly deferring the sign from itself.

The Deconstruction inaugurated by Derrida is thus much more subtle, and therefore more pernicious, than what many contemporaries understand it to be by associating it, wrongly, with an enterprise of pure and simple destruction. Derrida does not destroy anything—he deconstructs to disseminate, to untie. He exhibits the constructions of thought and language, without suppressing them nor recomposing them, by leaving them “disseminated” out of any possibility of stable recomposition. To the antipodes of the philosopher Albert Leclère who, in 1901, defended in his Essai critique sur le droit d’affirmer (Critical Essay on the Right to Affirm) that “the thinking subject cannot consider thought without immediately noticing that it poses the existence of some reality,” concluding that “the reality of being, of metaphysical being, is a necessary affirmation of thought.” On the contrary, Derrida wrote, sixty years later, a succession of essays to show the necessity, for thought, of denying. All of Derrida’s originality is to see to it that this negation is a true negation; that is to say, not a contrary affirmation, but the contrary of any affirmation—this is why he considered that “to criticize a philosopher is a lamentable gesture” and, refusing all criticism, does not seek to refute but to dissolve the problems by taking care to never completely satisfy the need for comprehension, by thwarting all attempts at definition.

Derrida thus represents the most coherent attempt to dissolve the traditional philosophical “realism” of a Saint Thomas Aquinas, by denying to signs not only their connection to things, to which they refer (as the nominalists were content to do), but also their capacity to coincide with their own meaning. If, from this course, the sense is untied from the real (“the noem is nothing real since it is a sense,” he infers about Husserl), the sense announces itself similarly to be untied from itself in the justification of the thought as “saying no.” Thus, it is not excluded to think that Derrida completed, in the 20th century, the whole process of desubstantialization of language inaugurated by nominalism from the 14th century, completing the modernization of thought in an enterprise of final dissolution of meaning.


Paul Ducay, Professor of philosophy with a medievalist background. Heir to the metaphysics of Nicolas de Cues and the faith of Xavier Grall. Gascon by race and French by reason. “The devout infuriate the world; the pious edify it.” Marivaux. [This article comes through the kind courtesy of PHILITT].


Featured: “Via Dolorosa,” by Sybil Andrews; linocut print, 1935.

Mount Wonder: An Excerpt

This is a selection from the recently published novel, Mount Wonder, by Scott J. Bloch, based on the radical experiment in liberal arts education at the University of Kansas in the 1970s, the Integrated Humanities Program, taught by noted Catholic educator and writer, John Senior, and his colleagues, Dennis Quinn and Frank Nelick. They took radicals from the 1960s and early 1970s and exposed them to delight in education, in poetry, star gazing, and the ideas in the great books, as if truth were possible. They focused on drawing out students’ innate sense of wonder and awe. The narrator is an agnostic student who encounters these three controversial professors who challenge his understanding of the purposes of education and his own life.

Mr. Bloch grew up in Woodland Hills, California, and his parents were active in Hollywood. His grandfather was Albert Bloch, who was a member of Der Blaue Reiter (the Blue Rider) association of German expressionist artists. Mr. Bloch wrote and produced a documentary film about his grandfather, AB. He is also the author of The Essential Belloc: A Prophet for Our Times.

Mount Wonder is a wonderfully engaging novel, and we strongly encourage our readers to buy a copy and support Mr. Bloch’s excellent talent.

Metaphysical Streaking

“Is the Good being able to do whatever you please, whenever you please?” asked Courtney. “Rousseau says that men were born free, but ‘everywhere I see them in chains.’ He thinks that the Good is returning to a state of being where laws are made to fit our pursuit of nature, of the savage pursuit of happiness. Certainly, that is what Lucretius saw. But what does Plato say about that?”

We were intently participating in the conversation even though we said nothing, silent acolytes to the sacrament of pure reason.

“Why is it you are unhappy, when you spend so much time pursuing happiness?” asked Marin. I leaned forward. “Is it because of civilization and its discontents? Are you simply Freudian fruits, destined to be unhappy? Or is it your way of looking at happiness that sows your discontent? Instead of looking inward for the good of your own navel, how about the common good? What ever became of virtue? Ordering yourself to what is good. Or have you forgotten about that? There was a time when it was a betrayal of your country to protest in favor of your country’s enemy.”

“O, Fred, don’t attack their war protests,” said Whelan. “They’re primed for betrayal of the West. They have already determined that Judas was just a guy who needed therapy. Just a higher dose of Thorazine.”

Marin stood, bellicose, ready to pounce: “Is there anything . . . or anyone . . . you atomists would not betray?” Courtney came back in, rescued us, and drew us back to Plato.

“Plato has a rhetoric. It is the pursuit of Truth through the appeal to knowledge, empathy, and emotions. This is an order of Truth, you see. So Plato’s answer is to ask about the common good. What is justice?”

“Well, what is it?” asked Marin. He turned to Courtney and sneered, “They didn’t read the text, did they? All of you are little Thrasymachuses from the Republic. Socrates tells you, mind your own business. That’s justice. Every person doing his own business. Know thyself, all you Greeks. Are you minding your own business, or are you poking in the business of others?”

I was supposed to be pursuing business all right, but it wasn’t my business. It was the Floor King’s business, and the university wanted to make my business the business of everyone else.

“We’re asking you to take Plato and Western civilization seriously,” said Whelan. “We’re asking you to do something your generation does not like to do. It does not like to look at the past and ask, What did these people think? and take what they say on their own terms.”

“To think presupposes that there is a form for thought,” interjected a quiet Courtney, rescuing us from Marin’s diatribe, “that there is a human nature to think about. That is, you are constantly under a barrage of democratic talk, such as ‘That’s all a matter of opinion.’ ‘One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.’ And while these things have some application to our emotions and the way in which we choose houses and clothes, they have no real application to reality and the ethical choices we make in our lives.”

Courtney stopped and stared at the ground, just warming up.

“That is,” he resumed with greater excitement, “when we make these choices, we act as if there is Truth. When you leave this lecture hall, you’re going to open the door—aren’t you?—and walk through it.”

“You’re all either agnostics or Gnostics,” said Marin. “Chester, I don’t think they understand the words.” He smiled sarcastically and looked at the class. “You think it’s all in your head—reality—don’t you? You’re all a bunch of damn angels. But when you drive your car, all of you follow Newton’s laws to a tee. You don’t jump off buildings, do you?” Marin spat the words out contemptuously.

“You see,” said Whelan, “either this is a room or it is not. It is not both true for me and untrue for you that I am speaking right now. And when you say ‘There is no Truth’ you have uttered Truth, a categorical imperative.”

“The square of the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares of the other side,” said Courtney.

“You could not get up in the morning if you questioned that,” Marin said. “You think Pythagoras is math? It’s Beauty. only Euclid has looked on Beauty bare. They’re blushing, Paul.”

“Plato wants us to examine Beauty,” said Courtney, “and he shows us Aphrodite, the goddess of love, both of spiritual and physical beauty.”

Aphrodite was the Greek name for Venus.

“Consider what Plato said, that the unexamined life is not worth living.” Courtney was looking out at us now, not looking down in his usual detached way. “You read in Herodotus about Croesus. He is you. You look out on your life and wonder, ‘How will I live my life? will I be successful, rich, liked by people? Will I marry, will I be a good husband or wife, a good parent?’ Does leading a life dedicated to the pursuit of wealth bring happiness? Herodotus asked that question. Croesus had it all. But was he happy? Remember what Herodotus said: until a man is dead, reserve the question of whether he is happy.”

“Socrates says that all philosophy is a meditation on death,” said Whelan. “And that meditation is about life and happiness in light of the end of man. We dare to ask these questions. We have not given up on the examined life or on the pursuit of the Good—of real happiness, contentment, and even something the Greek and Roman culture saw as transcendent. Here’s the real question: Is the West worth preserving?”

Then the whistle screeched on campus, upsetting a lacuna of silence.

“At least go to the world of poetry,” said Marin. “Don’t you know, your love really is like a red, red rose, and her enduring young charms are fairy-gifts fading away? Wake up, damn it, youth’s a stuff ‘twill not endure.”

Not a body moved.

“What does Plato say about Beauty?” asked Courtney. He pulled out his Plato and read to us: “‘When a man has been thus far tutored in the love of love, passing from view to view of beautiful things, in the right and regular ascent, suddenly he will have revealed to him, as he draws to the close of his dealings with love, a wondrous vision, beautiful in its nature.’” Courtney looked up: “What is he talking about? Isn’t it the state of wonder, awe? And when in that state, you will begin to see beyond passion or emotion—to something more beautiful and delightful—you begin to see the Truth.”

“Oh, Paul . . . you shouldn’t say that word—Truth—without qualifiers.” Whelan had a mocking, sarcastic tone. “I mean, it’s not right—no parenthesis, no quote marks, just naked Truth. My God, it’s metaphysical streaking.”

The class erupted at the mention of what so typified this generation. The emperor may have had no clothes, but now, neither did his pupils.

“It catches up with you,” said Courtney. “You will want the Good even as you realize you lack the virtue to achieve the Good. And then your life will really start. After you really read Plato, you will never be the same again.”


On the Beautiful and Beauty

To speak of the beautiful and of beauty, we must first briefly provide a little history. The first to deal with the subject in depth was Plato, especially in two of his dialogues, Symposium and Hippias Major, where he states that “beautiful things are difficult” [khalepà tà kalá] (Hippias Major, 304e).

Since, then down to now, many attempts, experimental and practical, have been made to solve this problem, Plato instead places beauty in the hyperuranios topos, in the place of heaven of absolute realities and links it with the idea of good. Beauty is related to being and is founded in it. In the Hippias beauty springs from the splendor of form, and in the Symposium it springs from love, which is also the means to reach it. The beautiful is grasped through successive intuitions that begin with the sensible and rise to the true reality of the world of Ideas or Forms.

Aristotle gave birth to the philosophy of art, an activity that man carries out through intuitive reason, whose function is poetic and penetrating. Thus, for him, art imitates nature, which is where beauty has its seat. He establishes the canon of the philosophy of art with the ideas of clarity, harmony and proportion. Four centuries later came Plotinus (203-270 AD), who in the Enneads continues Plato’s thesis and affirms: “beauty is diffused by entering into matter.”

Then Christian philosophy, with St. Augustine (354-430 AD) in the Early Middle Ages, affirmed that “the infinite beauty and light and life [is] God Himself,” thus following Plato. This continued with Dionysius Areopagite who lived between the 5th and 6th centuries, and who in his much-commented-upon treatise On the Divine Names, in chapter 4 analyzes the beautiful in itself and in its relations with the good, affirming that in itself it has its origin in subsistent Beauty (God). And in its relations, it is a quality that lies in the form and manifests itself as the splendor of the same. Thus, Dionysius follows Plato’s version of beauty as splendor veri = splendor of truth.

It was not until the late Middle Ages that theologians and philosophers recovered the metaphysical treatment of the beautiful with their original theory of the transcendentals. But not all of them. For example, Thomas Aquinas does not take it into account when he enunciates it. Others do, such as, Alexander of Halles, St. Bonaventure, Robert Grosseteste, Vincent of Beauvais, Hugo of St. Victor.

With modern philosophy, the transcendent sense of the entity disappears and becomes subjective. With the appearance of romanticism, and the Sturm und Drang movement with the exaltation of the subjective, the direction in search of the beautiful was oriented neither in the form nor in the idea nor in the entity but in feeling.

Thus, the beautiful in Kant’s Critique of Judgment of 1790 is reduced to the judgment of taste—that which pleases without concept. And the sublime as the beautiful great.

A few years earlier, Baumgarten (1714-1762) had inaugurated aesthetics, a discipline later founded by Kant, and validated at the same time by Benedetto Croce (1866-1952) in his Breviary of Aesthetics (1912), thus reducing the beautiful to the fine arts.

Finally, contemporary philosophy reacted, and in its attempt to reconquer the real, especially from Hartmann and Heidegger, it sought the insertion of the beautiful in being. Thus, the Magician of Freiburg, in “The Origin of the Work of Art” (1952) affirmed: “Beauty is the “shining forth” for the “self-concealing being” in the work [as an increase of being]. Beauty is one way in which truth occurs.”

This analysis of the work of art leads us to ask ourselves how do we discern the beautiful. In the first place, we know that reality is reached on the basis of existence which is enveloped in the light of evidence; and as we know that evidence is that which is admitted without appeal, the beautiful in its singular existence is oriented to the one who is able to apprehend it and take pleasure in it. The sensible apprehension of the beautiful consists in a certain intuition of the internal senses that reflects pleasure as an indicator of beauty. Pleasure, Brentano affirms, is always of something and not in something. This affirmation carries in its essence the transcendence of the purely subjective. This intimate link, between pleasure and apprehension, becomes the detector of the beautiful. Thus, in the perception of the beautiful there is something of knowledge and something of pleasure. Thereby, things please because they are beautiful and not, as in subjectivism, that they are beautiful because they please. “Unlike technical objects,” the Latvian Nicolai Hartmann argues, “the aesthetic object has depth.”

We see how throughout this brief historical sketch the possession of beauty is disputed by three disciplines—aesthetics, philosophy of art and metaphysics. Let us continue with the latter approach.

The beautiful, τὸ καλόν = pulchrum, is the entity itself insofar as it is delectable and this is shown in simple contemplation without more. Thus, a rose is beautiful by itself and that is enough. [The ostensible and manifest concealment of the transcendentals from the consciousness of the great masters of current philosophy can be seen in Hans Georg Gadamer, knowledgeable as the best of classical metaphysics, who in a beautiful book The Relevance of the Beautiful (1987) makes no mention of the subject.] To look for a cause for it is to hide its pristine sense—the entity considered in itself, which pleases the sight and the senses. It pleases the apprehension, while the good delights our affection. There is the beautiful by nature which is independent of subjectivity and the art of the beautiful where the attempt is made to embody beauty. The ratio of the beautiful is clarity: splendor, as Plato said—splendor veri. The dialectical relationship in the work between opus (object) and labor (artist or observer) is the core of aesthetics.

The consequences are that these transcendental properties of the entity, so called because they go beyond any category, form a unity with it, are convertible with the entity. And when I say entity, I say essence, existence, one, true, good and beautiful. But how, if there are things that are ugly, others bad, false, broken or split, non-existent and imaginary? All this is explained by the lack of entity-ness of the entity to which they apply. A fundamental role is played here by the theory of sterēsis, the deprivation of being, according to which the ugly, the bad, the false and the broken are so because they lack being, they do not possess being in fullness.

But the being itself, the το ον η ον, it is a (unum) thing (res) that exists (aliquid), being true, good and beautiful. And this is the proposition that the metaphysics of today has to deal with. Here is our proposal.

The entity in itself is not a genus and therefore cannot receive determinations, but it has manifestations or aspects that become with it (ens et unum, verum, etc., convertuntur) and that allow us to study it, making it more evident.

This can be achieved not by making more scholastic distinctions, which have already been made and well made, but by shedding new light on these old wineskins. For example, how is the one different from the “one world?” Trust from the post-truth? The beautiful from the validation of the ugly? The other from the aliquid? The good from philanthropy? These are questions that the genuine metaphysician must answer. And if he does not, he is not a metaphysician.

Another example is that of existential philosophy (Existentiell in the sense of Heidegger) which aims to arrive at a metaphysics (and not Existentiell in the way of Jasper or Sartre), which wants to start from the singular, existing and concrete reality, through the awareness of each of one’s reality, one’s life, one’s actions and one’s world. And in this reality, one must distinguish between value of being and ways of being. Value = good is one such reality, while the modes are multiple. Entities, being such, are a subsistent whole and not parts of being; but they all participate in the value of being. And so each realizes the value of being according to its particular way. The ontological order is an order of participation.

To explore and exploit these dimensions of being is the task that future metaphysics owes itself and that great philosophers, such as those named above, have sketched but not fully explored. Metaphysics remains a discipline open to investigation, “a science yet sought”—επιστήμη ζητούμενη (episteme zetoumene), as good-old Aristotle asserted 2500 years ago.


Alberto Buela is an Argentinian philosopher and professor at National Technological University and the University of Barcelona. He is the author of many books and articles.


Featured: “Zeuxis Choosing the Models for his Painting of Helen from among the Maidens of Croton,” by François-André Vincent; painted ca. 1791.

The Idea of the “Person” in the Middle Ages

The Middle Ages still have a lot to teach us. This is the lesson that the historian Jérôme Baschet delivers to us in Corps et âmes. Une histoire de la personne au Moyen Âge (Bodies and souls. A History of the Person in the Middle Ages). Contrary to appearances, medieval Christianity was not dualistic. The body and the soul drew the contours of the human person—an “I” against a background of interpersonal relationships, far, far from Cartesian dualism. A lesson for our time!

The body and the soul are opposed, according to monotheisms. Even more so with the Gnostics, with what has been called the “demonization of the cosmos.” A demonization that included man, who is part of it—impure body; soul that tends towards purity. The scheme was comfortable. It outlined however a fatal spiral: the radical dissociation between the felt and the desirable. Between the sensible and the Good. Between what is and what must be.

Of course, the soul can improve itself, and the body too, but certainly not one against the other. This is the problem—we have pitted one against the other too much. The soul against the body, or the soul without the body—which is the same thing. And that’s how it has been since the Middle Ages, we are told. But what if it was the opposite? What if things have been like this since the end of the Middle Ages? And what if the body/soul dualism was established especially since, and with, modernity? What if it was since the mutation of Christianity into a religion more and more external to the life of society, more and more doctrinal, less and less popular, that the duality between body and soul had taken on pathological forms? That this duality had become dualism?

Medieval Personalism

It is the purpose of Jérôme Baschet to clarify this question. He is a historian, but not only. He also takes a philosophical look at this period of our European history. The breadth of his views and interests allows him to put Europe in perspective, in relation to other civilizations. Jérôme Baschet has two or three things to tell us. One is that the Christian Middle Ages saw a duality between the body and the soul, but that this duality is not a dualism. There are not two separate principles. What prohibits dualism is the idea of the human person. It is in this same perspective that we will see later that the communitarian personalism of the 1930s to 1950s is neither the rule of the masses nor individualism.

The second thing that Jérôme Baschet has to tell us is that the Middle Ages, which lasted a thousand years, are not static. And what we see is that they evolved in the following way: they were less and less dualistic. As Christianity permeated society, it made more and more room for the body. The more Christianity became a civilization instead of a religious doctrine, the more room it made for the body. It is the shift from the idea of God to the Incarnation that makes Christianity less dualistic. Perhaps also less Christian and less Judaic. More Europeanized. Now it is the opposite, Christianity, with Bergoglio, has become decivilized (Renaud Camus). It has returned to its origins.

Against dualism, the Middle Ages thought of the person. Persona. The etymology refers to “wearer of a mask.” It goes back to the Etruscans, and at least to Boethius, in the sixth century AD. True or false, this etymology means that we have a role to play. A mask is a role. And it’s not necessarily concealment. But this role does not exhaust our whole identity. The etymology of “person” also refers to “that which resonates.” And all for that, it came down to this—the body is what manifests itself, what makes a sounding board of our moods, our pains, our joys. It is therefore both physical and psychic.

This is what our ancestors of the Middle Ages understood. A person—is the capacity to say “I.” To be a person is to possess the sense of one’s individuality, “spiritual and body at the same time” (Marcel Mauss). “I am, I exist”, says Descartes. But the person was not waiting around for Descartes in order to exist. It is not precisely the Cartesian cogito. Descartes says: “I will now close my eyes, I will close my ears, I will turn away all my senses; I will even erase from my mind all images of corporeal things, or at least try, as this can hardly be done; I will consider them as vain and as false; and thus, speaking only to myself, and considering my interior, I will try to make myself, little by little. better known and more familiar to myself” (Meditations on First Philosophy, III). This is a bedtime story. A mental burp trying to be a philosophical “find.” It is the grail without the Arthurian poetry. Nobody serious can actually believe in this Cartesian man who would separate his self from the world. Who can possess an interior without exterior? The Middle Ages tell us something else. They tell us that the person is the center of a cluster of relations, and that these relations pre-exist the person. The person is what exists before the individual, who is an impoverished version of it. The individual is only a modern, rationalized derivation of the person. A step backwards towards the return to a body/soul dualism.

The “I” is a “We

The idea of the person is this: it is not the “I” that builds his relationships. It is the relationships that build the “I.” A person is thus a fraction of a cluster of relations. A sequence in a relational flow; and for all that, it is not an arbitrary division. The person really exists. It is not a simple convenience of description. But a person only exists in relation to others. It is undoubtedly the meaning of the formula of Aragon: “One does not die, because there are the others.” In others, with whom we are and have been in relationship, there remains a little of us. All life is, as Aragon said, a “narrative carnival;” and a carnival is a community movement.

There is thus a singularity of the European Middle Ages. It is this invention of the person—or this rediscovery of the person in a Christian context. The twelfth and thirteenth centuries are thus the least dualistic period in the history of the West, Baschet tells us. It is the golden age of the person. To this period of beautiful balance is opposed modernity—the a-relational conception of the person. Modernity is a self-founded conception of the person, and such a one is no longer the simple individual. Modernity rests thus on “a self-referential conception of the person,” writes Jérôme Baschet, a conception quite different from the medieval conception which it succeeds. We have to speak of naturalism when it comes to this post-medieval conception of the person as isolated monad. Naturalism (in the philosophical sense) means—all that exists has natural causes. Nature is thus decoupled into a system of causalities. Into mechanism. By this, it loses its enchanted character. It is no longer the focus of energy that Vedic India called aditi. It is the beginning of the disenchantment of the world. From the 1600s (the Discourse of Method is from 1637 and Meditations on First Philosophy is from 1641, for the Latin version), and in a process that will lead to the French Revolution, the relational character of the person is erased. And with him, the dimension of collective transmission, which was attached to the constitution of the person, disappears little by little.

Putting an End to Guilt

In the end, it is Rabaut Saint-Étienne’s famous formula that triumphs: “History is not our code” (Considérations sur le Tiers-état). Poor Rabaut! His formula was intended to be nuanced, explaining that it is not enough for a law to be old for it to have value—but his formula was quickly interpreted as legitimizing the clean slate in the name of the “goddess of reason.” We see it nowadays—our code is the refusal of historical legacies, except in the form of repentance. In the latter case, forgetting about forgetting is the rule. Let us forget everything, except our “crimes.” A dolorous and incapacitating hypermnesia. Is this not the goal? Let’s be ashamed of slavery, of Vichy, of our nuclear power plants, and even of Fabien Roussel and François Ruffin, who are too attached to the defense of the way of life of the working classes! And let’s get rid of the “affluent society,” except for migratory abundance, which is non-negotiable.

The individual of the modern world is then hypertrophied, in a mixture of “all to the ego”—the “dictatorship of the ego” of which Mathias Roux speaks in his eponymous book—and of over-responsibility in the manner of Levinas (the latter taking up Dostoyevsky’s words: ” each of us is undoubtedly guilty on behalf of all and for all on earth, not only because of the common guilt of the world, but personally, each one of us, for all people and for each person on this earth”). Hypertrophy of the “responsible” self, which comes down to the following—to be responsible for everything is ultimately to be responsible for nothing. Who wants to embrace too much embraces nothing. “Man, being condemned to be free, carries the weight of the whole world on his shoulders,” said Sartre (Being and Nothingness). In the end, every man for himself triumphs, accompanied by great ideals too abstract to commit to anything. Some are in favor of welcoming “climate refugees,” who do not exist, but some will not make a detour to bring a bunch of leeks to one’s old invalid neighbor. “Contemporary narcissism would like to think of the individual as an autonomous entity that detaches itself from any belonging and wants to ignore the society in which it lives,” writes Marcel Gauchet.

In contrast to the modern individual, the Middle Ages saw the person as the product of relations between oneself and others, and the product of a shared horizon. The person, in this perspective, is never the beginning of a story. He is a moment in it. “All human life begins… in the middle of the action which has already begun”, notes Irène Théry (La distinction de sexe). It is with this continuistic conception of the person that modernity broke. It established a triple separation of which Jérôme Baschet gives an account—separation of man from nature and the living, of the body from the soul, of the person from what preceded him and what surrounds him. It is now necessary to stitch together what has been disjointed. The Middle Ages have things to tell us. Let us hear!


Pierre Le Vigan is an urban planner who has also has taught at the universities of Paris XI-Orsay, Paris XII-Créteil, and at the IUP Ville et Santé in Bobigny. He has also worked in adult education. This article appears through the courtesy of the revue Éléments.


Featured: “Vision 4: Cosmos, Body, and Soul,” Book of Divine Works, Part I; painted by Hildegard von Bingen in 1230.