The Invisible College

Nick Capaldi and Nadia Nedzel have inaugurated a new organization, Invisible College.

The organization seeks to promote live conversations about important books and topics through Zoom and other media, as well as in person. In addition to its own scheduled “conversations,” it will help others organize their own.

In the following conversation, Nick Capaldi and Marsha Enright discuss the meaning, origins, methodology and purpose of the conversations.



Featured image: Treatises On Natural Science, Philosophy, And Mathematics, ca. 1300.

The University Is A European Christian Institution Par Excellence

The existing consensus among historians is that the “university” was invented in medieval Chrisitian Europe. The first university was Bologna, founded in 1088, followed by Oxford in 1096. By the end of the fourteenth century, in 1400, there were about 34 universities across Europe; and in 1500 there were 66, and none outside (Verger, pp. 57, 62-65). In 1789, the year of the French Revolution, there were about 143 universities in Europe, with only one university outside in Turkey. The original Latin word universitas designated any corporation (from the Latin corpus, corporis a body) intentionally created by a group of individuals, be they guilds by craftsmen, associations by merchants, or municipal communes by town residents—to regulate their own affairs and security, independently of customary law, kinship ties, or religious and state authorities. While corporations were invariably self-organized and not originated by the state, the university was said to exist when it was authorized to act as a single entity (“born out of statute”) by an official document or edict from the Pope or a Bull from the Emperor. Corporations were self-governed in that their members participated in specifying the rules that regulated their activities; power was shared and leaders could be held accountable for their actions.

Gradually the word universitas came to be associated with the term studium generale, which referred to any institution (at the beginning of the thirteenth century) that “attracted students from all parts of Europe, not merely those of a particular country or district” (Rashdall, p. 6), and where at least one of the higher faculties of theology, law, or medicine was taught by a plurality of masters. In the course of the fourteenth century, the term “universitas became a mere synonym for studium generale” with numerous communities of students and teachers in charge of higher learning enjoying the privilege to conduct their own affairs, make their own rules for curriculum, and receive students from across Europe.

It is no accident that only Europe saw the rise of corporate bodies. In the rest of the world, outside Europe, kinship groups were in charge of governing the lives of extended family members, providing security, rules of inheritance and marriage, and choice of occupation. Kinship groups were governed by customary norms, by authoritarian chiefs, or by religious authorities. The situation in medieval Christian Europe was radically different. As Joseph Henrich has carefully documented in The Weirdest People of the World: How the West Became Psychologically Peculiar and Particularly Prosperous (2020), the medieval Catholic church sanctioned monogamous marriages against polygamy and concubinage, and it restricted marriages among individuals of the same blood (consanguineous marriages). It also encouraged marriages based on voluntary choice or consent. By the 11th century the nuclear family was predominant in Europe. These changes freed Europeans from kinship ties and norms, leading them to form new voluntary corporations to cooperate economically, solve conflicts, and secure a livelihood with individuals from wider circles of life.

The reconstitution of medieval Europe away from kinship institutions in favor of voluntarily created institutions, such as urban communes, guilds, diocese of bishops, monasteries, and universities, came along with the rise of new systems of law based on universal principles. During the tenth and eleventh centuries, as the Church went about imposing monogamous and nuclear families, Europe underwent a legal revolution that conceded corporate rights for self-government to the Christian church and a variety of associations and groups to make contracts, to enact their own ordinances and statutes, “to own property, to sue and be sued, and to have legal representation before the king’s court” (Huff, 1993). Manors, cities, and merchant associations, among others, enacted whole new systems of law, including manorial law, urban law, canon law, and merchant law.

Such legislative, executive, and juridical powers were not a possibility in Islamic societies where polygamy and cousin marriages remained a powerful means for consolidating the power of kinship groups and where there was no legal separation between the sacred and the secular, no texts and rules to define and limit the jurisdictional powers of the courts, and no legal conception freed from the customary normative world of kinship groups. China never evolved a conception of law that recognized the right of corporate bodies, including cities, capable of composing and promulgating new laws independently of the state or the bonds of kinship.

It is within the context of the Catholic breakdown of kinship groups, the consolidation of nuclear monogamous families, and the legal revolution of the 11th century, that we should apprehend the unique invention of universities in medieval Europe. In conferring legal recognition and liberties to the universities, the kings of France, England, and Spain, and later Portugal, Austria, Bohemia, Poland, and Hungary, as well as dukes and princes, expected their universities to provide them with effectively trained lawyers and Roman legal principles to consolidate their expanding powers against the centrifugal forces of the old feudal landed classes.

Similarly, the popes that endowed associations of teachers and students with the title and privileges of a university did so in awareness that the teaching of theology and Roman law, with its natural law principles, was an effective means of making Catholicism a rationally intelligible and unified doctrine to counter the diverse and mutually contradictory beliefs of heterodox religious orders. Both the papacy and the monarchies of Europe sought to recruit educated persons who could serve as staff for their offices. From the 13th century onward, the majority of popes had attended university and were increasingly surrounded by learned cardinals. Likewise the cities recognized the advantage of having a partnership with universities that brought them prestige, and provided them with trained lawyers who could handle difficult legal problems in the conduct of businesses and the articulation of the newly emerging fields of merchant law, contract law, and maritime law. Municipal authorities recognized the corporate right of students and teachers (many of whom were foreigners in need of rights they did not enjoy in the cities) to conduct their own affairs as members of autonomous universities, as well as certain privileges such as exemption from tolls and taxes and the fixing of maximal rents.

It would be a mistake, however, to view the recognition by monarchs and popes of the corporate status of universities as driven solely by their self-interests. The desire for knowledge, and the ethos of common Christian values transcending national boundaries, were very strong in medieval Europe. This was a time of Christian belief in a world rational order created by God that was accessible to human reason and education. This belief cultivated an interest in scholarly research, going back to the establishment of Christian cathedral schools and monastic schools in the early Middle Ages, in which monks dedicated themselves to the preservation and transmission of Greek-Roman high culture.

At the same time, the Christian understanding of man as a creature fallen into sin, and thus as an imperfect being, encouraged the norms of intellectual criticism and collegial cooperation and the norms of “modesty, reverence and self-criticism” as the image of the ideal scholar (Rüegg, p. 33). As Frederick I Barbarossa said in 1155 in his justification for the granting of academic liberties: “it is by learning that the world is illuminated and the lives of subjects are shaped towards obedience to God.”

The medieval ideal was that the university was a universal community of masters and students, open to everyone interested in the higher faculties of knowledge as well as being at the service of the public interest to the benefit of the whole Christian world, without being hampered by national or regional borders. In the thirteenth century, universitas came to mean the totality of the branches of knowledge, the whole community of learners, in classical Latin. University teachers came to acquire the status of a group which transcended local and disciplinary boundaries in possession of a universally accepted corpus of knowledge. The fact that this one institution spread over the entire world, with the bachelor’s degree, the master’s degree, and the doctorate adopted in the most culturally diverse nations of the world, points to its universality.

European civilization originated this universal institution. No other society conferred the privileges of a corporation to institutions of higher learning wherein reason could find a “neutral space” of free inquiry. Medieval Christian Europe was the first civilization to “institutionalize reason” within self-governing universities which offered a curriculum “overwhelmingly oriented toward analytical subjects” (Grant, 2001). The universities tended to have four faculties (arts, theology, law, and medicine), with the most important being the arts faculty, which had the largest numbers of students, and the theology faculty. The program of the arts consisted of the three verbal disciplines of grammar, rhetoric, and logic (the trivium or threefold way to wisdom) and the four mathematical disciplines of arithmetic, geometry, astronomy and music (the quadrivium). While medieval teachers were prohibited from reaching ultimate truths that were contrary to revealed truth, natural philosophers were free to pursue knowledge about the universe “in a remarkably secular and rationalistic manner with little interference from the Church and its theologians” (Grant, 2001). Indeed, medieval theologians, by applying logical techniques to theological questions, cultivated a religion like none before: a systematized and rationalized Christian faith.

This interpretation of the origins of universities was widely accepted in academia. But the pressures of multiculturalism are leading some academics to argue that Muslims should be given precedent for the origins of universities. They are demanding that the University of al-Qarawiyyin be identified as the “first university”, although this place was designated as a “university” only in 1963, and was originally founded as a mosque in 859 (Esposito, 2003). Other academics are claiming that Al-Azhar University, which was also founded as a mosque in 970-972, should be designated as “the second oldest university in the world”.

They maintain that Islamic centers of learning originated the practice of organizing foreign students into associations, and the idea of universal validity of the qualification for teaching based on the title of the baccalarius. But according to Rüegg, “the term baccalarius could not be an Islamic import of the twelfth century because it was already in use in the ninth century as the Latin designation of a preparatory or auxiliary status in a variety of social careers” (p. 8). Even the Islamicist George Makdisi, despite finding some general affinities between Islamic centers of learning and European universities, has concluded that “the university is a twelfth century product of the West both in its corporate structure and in the privileges it received from Pope and King” (cited in Rüegg, p. 8). Makdisi himself cautions that “in studying an institution which is foreign and remote in point of time, as is the case of the medieval madrasa, one runs the…risk of attributing to it characteristics borrowed from one’s own [Western] institutions…The most unwarranted of these [comparisons] is the one which makes the ‘madrasa’ a ‘university'” (1970). The madrasa was not a high degree-awarding institution, but a “college of Islamic law” lacking corporate status and a rationalistic curriculum, supported by an endowment or charitable trust, that is a waqf, which consisted of a building or plot of land, for Muslim religious or charitable purposes.

It is unfortunate that current university students are unaware of the Christian medieval roots of the institution they will spend a very important part of their lives attending. Offering a lecture on the historical origins of universities to new students would be a far better way to provide them with the spirit of “higher learning” universities were intended to be about, rather than separating students into categories of “privileged” and “oppressed” races.


Ricardo Duchesne has been interviewed in the Postil. He the author of The Uniqueness of Western CivilizationFaustian Man in a Multicultural AgeCanada in Decay: Mass Immigration, Diversity, and the Ethnocide of Euro-Canadians.


Featured image: a lecture, from Bartholomaeus Anglicus (translated by Jean Corbechon), De proprietatibus rerum (Livre des proprietez des choses), France (Paris?), 1st quarter of the 15th century.

How To Reverse The Widespread, Nonsensical Principles Of Utopianism. Part 3.

To combat the mis-educational and anti-cultural, anarchic influence of Marxism, crucial for its opponents to understand is the nature of common sense (especially real common sense) and where, as utopian socialists, Marxist principles must incline Marxists to begin to:

  1. drive out real common sense from the souls of children and replace it with a fictional narrative devoid of real common sense;
  2. promote humanistic atheism, the notion that humanity is God, and, especially, anti-Semitism;
  3. mistake ethnic races for real genera and species;
  4. and deny the evident existence of real natures with internal principles of organization, powers/faculties/capabilities within things in general and human beings especially.

All these effects are pernicious and are driving the contemporary West and the world toward total madness. Once again, the Enlightenment West is turning the Jew into a cultural scapegoat onto which it inclines chiefly to fix all its cultural and individual problems and blame for all its cultural and individual failings. In addition, by denying the reality of real natures, including human nature, no human faculties can exist in which human habits exist, in which unequal virtues and talents can and do exist. As a result, apart from temperance and courage, the cardinal moral virtues of justice (especially distributive justice based upon individual talent can be recognized to exist) and prudence (upon which, together with the other cardinal virtues sound leadership essentially depend), cannot exist at all, much less flourish.

Beyond this, denying the existence of really-existing organizational wholes (real substances), the principles of conceptual and behavioral contradictions and non-contradictions become incomprehensible. Conceptually, contradictory opposites involve the impossibility of some one substance or parts/properties of a substance having essentially opposite differences. If real substances do not, cannot, exist, neither can the principle of conceptual non-contradiction. Worse, neither can behavioral non-contradictions. The concept of really, or naturally, doable or undoable deed becomes intellectually incomprehensible. And if neither conceptual nor behavioral contradictions are comprehensible, neither are common sense, truth, or language.

In addition, because they lack any common sense ability to recognize the reality of unequal talent and justly reward it as a contribution to a community or society, utopian socialists tend to do several things:

  1. reduce the whole of justice to commutative justice, exchanges of equal value of benefit or damage, such as monetary exchanges of equal or unequal goods and services;
  2. explain inequality of distribution of goods, wealth, not to reward for talent, virtue, but to exploitation, taking advantage, of the weaker (victims) by the stronger (victimizers);
  3. reduce what remains of justice to being tolerant/sincere (good-willed), and injustice to being intolerant/insincere (bad-willed);
  4. claim that all human inequality is based upon social victimization of innocent, sincere (good-willed), tolerant, sinless, just victims, by insincere (bad-willed) unjust, sinful victimizers;
  5. always attempt to remedy the disastrous, impoverishing effects that application of this flawed understanding of justice/injustice has on a community/society by periodically reversing within a community/society the roles of victims and victimizers (at one period making the victims one social group or another [such as, black males, females, religion, this or that religion, black males, white males, and so on] and the victimizers the same groups]) and at another time reversing these victims/victimizers roles.

Setting aside the evident absurdities and cultural evils with which Enlightenment utopian socialism and, especially, Marxism has infected the West, evident to readers by now should be that a Western and global return to sanity related to understanding the nature of truth and language essentially depend upon the ability of Western and world leaders to restore real common sense to national cultures. To do so, these leaders must, as precisely and quickly as possible, understand the nature of common sense considered in general, and especially real common sense.

Happily, through the examples and descriptions of it I have given in this essay, and especially through examples of its contrary opposite, a more or less precise definition of common sense appears easy to give. When we first consider the idea of common sense in relationship to examples of people who are more or less psychologically-healthy adults, it appears to be simply what most of us would call common knowledge, or common understanding.

In English, we have an expression we often give to people who say something evidently true, something everyone knows—“That goes without saying.” By this we mean that what a person just said was so evidently true that no need existed to say it. The term common sense expresses this concept. In it, the word sense is synonymous with the word knowledge, or, more precisely, understanding.

In general, a person with common sense is someone possessed of what Aristotle and St. Thomas had identified as the natural and acquired intellectual habit (habitus) and virtue (virtus: virtual, or intensive quantity [quality]), of understanding. Such a person is someone who, in relation to observational (what Aristotle and St. Thomas had called speculative or theoretical) knowledge immediately understands (induces, intuits) some thing or action to be what it is, or be true; or, in relation to practical and productive knowing, through practical or productive experience at living, immediately induces (intuits), understands, what something is or is not, or that it is right or wrong to choose.

Aristotle and Aquinas had maintained that all human beings are born with natural habitus (qualities they imperfectly have). These include all the natural moral and intellectual qualities, virtues of temperance, courage, justice, prudence, art, philosophy/science, understanding, and even wisdom, and their contrary opposites. While not perfectly so, even young children are somewhat (at least naturally inclined to be) courageous or cowardly, hopeful or fearful, sensitive to pleasure/pain, more-or-less artistic, even prudent, wise, possessed of understanding and common sense. The truth of this claim is evident from the fact that, at times children, are more prudent, wiser, than some adults. In addition, some are precocious: masterful musicians, painters, mathematicians, and so on.

To become perfected in such psychological qualities, however, Aristotle and Aquinas were convinced human beings need repeatedly to apply prudence and wisdom (common sense/understanding in its more perfect form) to their increasingly-perfected understanding to add perfecting qualities (virtues) to their naturally-possessed habits. In its most perfect form, common sense is simply the perfected, naturally-possessed habit of understanding (the virtue of understanding) applied to this or that subject in this or that situation that makes the nature of some subject immediately intelligible!

Following St. Augustine, some contemporary Christians, including Pope Francis, have recently started to refer to this quality of common sense in the form of wisdom/prudence in immediate understanding by use of the term discernment. No need exists for a discerning person, someone with common sense in this form, to reason to the conclusion that this something exists, or about: what it is, whether it is true, false, or fake; or whether it is good or bad, right or wrong, to pursue or avoid. The answers to such questions are immediately evident to this person. And so, too, is the adequate self-knowledge of personal nature and abilities immediately to draw this conclusion.

Consequently, especially in relation to productive and practical matters, healthy, adult human beings commonly identify a person with common sense as being someone possessed of the habit of good decision making, a good judge, either in general, or related to some particular subject. A person with common sense is a person possessed of common knowledge, common understanding: what everyone else who knows a subject understands about this subject in general or particular. The example I gave toward the start of this article related to an engineer who claims to be an engineer mistaking the principles of grammar for those of engineering is a fitting, suitable, one to use to help make intelligible, understandable, to an audience what I am chiefly talking about, the chief intellectual point I want to make, related to the nature of common sense.

As opposed to the person possessed of common sense, the person lacking it, the fool, is devoid of knowledge of what everyone else knows, or should know about some subject. In a way, this person lacks knowledge of some principle of measuring, known truth, that comes to people possessed of the virtue of common sense immediately from observation or from common sense-experience at living.

As a result, the person who lacks common sense is often publicly ridiculed, is the butt of jokes. University professors, people who tend “to live in ivory towers,” especially some logicians (those with little practical experience at living), incline to be such individuals. In college, I had a friend like this to whom I used to refer as an “encyclopedia open to the wrong page.” While he was terrific in some forms of academic work, he tended to have no practical skills, or if he did, not know when and/or how to apply them.
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Aristotle actually had a word he used to describe such individuals that came close to, but did not completely capture, the nature of a person lacking common sense: “asinine.” In ancient Greek, this was the person lacking synēsis, someone who had the personal quality of a-synēsis, a species of foolishness (non- synēsis/sense) that caused a person to be a bad imaginer, conceptualizer, judge, estimator, evaluator, especially of what a person should know in this or that situation.

To make intelligible to others more precisely the understanding (which he apparently acquired from Socrates) that wisdom is more or less identical with common sense, in his masterful work in moral psychology, the Nicomachean Ethics, when talking about the nature of prudence and working as a physician of the soul (behavioral psychologist), Aristotle went out of his way to explain that the person possessed of wisdom (of which prudence is a species) combines in his or her nature all the essential elements needed to be an excellent judge.

Recall that in Plato’s dialogues the stone-mason/philosopher Socrates had repeatedly maintained that what, more than anything else, got him into trouble was an ordinary kind of wisdom he possessed, one unlike that of the professional orators and poets of his day. Unlike their wisdom, Socrates claimed that his was the ordinary kind of human wisdom, examples of which, to the chagrin of professional sophists like Thrasymachos, Gorgias, and Callicles, he constantly gave examples in reference to people like cooks, medical doctors, sailors, home builders, shoemakers, and tailors.

Psychologically, Aristotle claimed that this sort of wisdom, which someone like the prudent man Socrates possessed, combines in its nature four different qualities of excellent judging that, when rightly combined with the psychological quality of understanding, give to its possessor a generic, psychological quality of virtuous shrewdness, of which prudence, and apparently wisdom in general (whether practical, productive, or contemplative/speculative/theoretical/metaphysical) are species:

  1. eubulia (excellence in deliberating);
  2. eustochia (being a lucky guesser, somewhat excellent at being able to determine precisely the right thing to do at the saw that moment: a good evaluator/estimator);
  3. synēsis (right judgment about what happens in the majority of cases, what is really doable and not doable); and
  4. gnome (right judgment about what is equitable in this or that situation).

Special difficulty understanding the nature of common sense arises at times from two facts about it:

  1. To some extent, all human being possess some of it, are familiar with it; and
  2. when we talk about it, we generally do so the way we talk about anything real: concretely, in terms of qualitatively unequal relationships to that of which it is said—that is, analogously.

Regarding this first fact, understanding common sense presents a difficulty similar to that which in Book 11 of his Confessions, St. Augustine admitted he had related to the concept of time: When someone does not ask him what it is, he is so familiar with it that he has no trouble knowing what it is; but when someone asks him what it is, he appears not to know. Common sense has a similar nature. When someone does not ask us what it is, we have an implicit knowledge of it as the virtue of understanding applied to this or that subject in this or that situation that makes the nature of some subject immediately intelligible. On the contrary, when someone asks us what is common sense (common synēsis), initially we tend to become tongue-tied, do not know how to reply.

As far as fact 2 is concerned, when we talk about a subject, apply objects of sentences to their subjects to identify them in relation to a subject, we always to so indirectly, according to relational meanings. We never do so directly; and the way logicians and ordinary people, as well as real scientists/philosophers, do this essentially differs. In their everyday, common sense way of talking, philosophers/scientists and ordinary human beings do so by noting qualitative, nuanced (chiefly causal) distinctions, differences in relation that they immediately recognize exist between and among these relational meanings as they say, refer, them to a subject.

For example, in the ordinary course of conversation, two people might note that Mother Theresa was more of a human being (in the sense of being qualitatively more perfect metaphysically and morally [psychologically, in her soul!] than was Joseph Stalin. Such a statement would strike a logician thinking as a logician as nonsensical, likely as an ad hominem attack violating the well-known, common sense logical canon that words, terms, definitions said of subjects must always have one, absolutely-fixed meaning, definition— when put in the technical jargon of a logician, must always be predicated univocally, never predicated equivocally.

For example, if I call Socrates and Plato men, a logician working as a logician naturally inclines to assume I mean that Socrates and Plato are equally men, that whatever the definition of man signifies is equally, not unequally, in one and the other—that Socrates is not more man than is Plato. Both are equally men.

If, on the other hand, a medical doctor says that John is not as healthy as Mary, in some way he is saying that, while John is healthy, the quality, or nature, health is causally related to John as one that exists less in John than it does in Mary, that some cause called health exists more in Mary than it does in John. In addition, if I call bread or exercise healthy, in the first case, generally I mean that, when eaten, bread tends nutritionally to cause, promote retention and increase of bodily health; and in the second case, generally I mean that exercise tends to cause, promote retention and increase of muscular coordination and stamina/strength.

While, to some extent, all human beings tend to have a difficult time understanding the nature of analogy, my experience is that logicians generally have an especially difficult time doing so. Since analogy dominates the language of everyday life, especially productive and practical matters, logicians often have a difficult time understanding the psychological disposition of business people and ordinary people with real, not syllogistic, common sense.

Since logicians tend to think in one fixed way, they also often have a hard time understanding comedy, not understanding jokes. This is especially true of Enlightenment logicians, Marxists in general, and the contemporary Woke crowd of anarchists, who deny the reality of real natures. Since real common sense is chiefly said, referred to subjects analogously, Enlightenment intellectuals in general have a hard time grasping its nature.

Be this as it may, common sense mainly refers to common, evident intellectual understanding or knowledge that some person possesses in general, or related to a specific or individual subject as a natural or supernatural faculty or habit of the human soul. Analogously, people often extend, transfer use of, apply, this term to other human faculties (like will, memory, imagination, hearing, and so on); and even to subjects and circumstances, situations such as time and place in which they do not directly exist, but to which, somehow, they are relationally connected.

For example, adult human beings throughout the world often say that performing this or that action generally, particularly, or individually makes sense or is commonsensical, or is nonsensical, makes no common sense. For instance, someone in the third century B.C. making plans to create a ship to fly to Mars would be planning something that most people today would say makes no common sense for that person; but they might likely agree that it could make common sense for Elon Musk seriously to consider.

St. Thomas Aquinas went so far as to locate moral prudence, and with it all practical and productive prudence partially on the sense level in an internal sense faculty that he analogously identified with the estimative intelligence, instinct, and brute animals. He called his faculty cogitative, or particular, reason. Together with the virtue of intellectual understanding, all the other cardinal and intellectual virtues and moral virtues, the integrated activity of all these faculties and their habits and virtues, plus whatever supernatural grace can add to these, appear to comprise the whole of common sense in its most perfect form: perfect human wisdom.

Crucial to understand today about Marxism, Enlightenment utopian socialism in general, and all the mis-named cultural institutions they have created over the tenure of their existence is that all of these are intentionally (or at least in principle) designed to drive common sense, especially real common sense, out of the human soul, the psychological constitution of individual persons; and to do so at the earliest age and throughout an entire lifetime in every aspect of human life.

A good example of this is mis-educational influence are faculty members and administrators who are miserable human beings living miserable lives. Hating themselves, they tend to hate anyone who is not as miserable as they are. As a result, by intentionally influencing them to adopt the same nonsensical principles they use to direct their choices in life, they intentionally seek to make students as miserable as they are.

Other good examples considered in general of it are contemporary middle-management executives, corporate human resources executives/managers, and college/university administrators, ministers of education, all of whom, having been mis-educated in common sense at Enlightenment mis-educational institutions, tend to think univocally, not analogously; and tend to be sorely lacking in real common sense as I have described it.

While, considered as human beings they might be wonderful, kind people, as administrators, Western colleges and universities and educational institutions that have been influenced by their Enlightenment mindset have pretty much driven out of their administrative psychology any comprehension of prudence, and common sense in general, and justice, especially distributive justice, which (instead of race, sex, political influence, diversity, and so on) is the chief just measure of equitable distribution of rewards for quality of work contribution to an organization).

The net result of the disordered educational psychology inhabiting cultural institutions throughout the contemporary West and world is that pretty much all of these institutions, and especially those of higher education (colleges and universities), have become ships of fools mistakenly thinking of themselves as creating local, national, and global world leaders, while they often tend to do precisely the opposite. Consequently, expecting most contemporary college and university faculty members and administrators to come up with a plan to reverse the current dire cultural situation in the West and globally, including their own, makes no real common sense. Doing so defies their natural and acquired abilities, which, related to such a feat, are largely disabilities, job-application disqualifiers.

For this reason, as colleges and universities increasingly begin to go out of business, collapse, on a global scale, colleagues of mine and I have decided that two institution of higher education)—an introductory Common sense Wisdom Liberal Arts Academy (CWLAA) and an advanced executive leadership Common sense Wisdom Executive Coaching Academy (CWECA) )—which immerse their students from all parts of the Earth in common sense wisdom, must immediately, on a global scale, be created to replace the disordered, mis-educational, intellectual institutions (colleges and universities) that Enlightenment hatred for commons ense has caused to come into being culturally and civilizationally increasingly to wreck the West and the world. Anyone seriously interested in discovering more about this project and perhaps joining, supporting, us in this effort is more than welcome to do so by checking out the nature of CWECA.


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.


The featured image shows a detail of a wise virgin, from Friedrich Wilhelm von Schadow’s “Die klugen und torichten Jungfrauen” (The Wise and Foolish Virgins); painted in 1842.

How To Reverse The Widespread, Nonsensical Principles Of Utopianism. Part 2.

As some Marxists readily admit, Marxism is a religion, or a secularized version of Christianity. As scholars like Eric Voegelin have well documented, Hegelians and Marxists are full-blown, secularized Christian heretics: neo-Gnostic millenarians who conflate in their nature principles of neo-Pelagianism, neo-Catharism, and neo-Albigensianism (the three being pretty much identical). They tend to consider this conflation to be true science (as opposed to the hate-filled, backward thinking rhetoric of those they call, “science-deniers”).

Heavily influenced by the millenarianism of the 12th-century Catholic monk, Joachim of Flora (aka, Joachim of Fiore), the neo-Averroistic dream of 14th-century Italian humanist, Francesco Petrarcha (Petrarch) to unite poetry, philosophy, and theology into a humanistic/historical social science capable of reviving the cultural greatness of Rome in a Christianized form, and then greatly shaped by the neo-Gnostic spiritualism of 18th-century Enlightenment intellectual, Jean-Jacques Rousseau – all Enlightenment thinkers came to divide human history into four ages, one of which they considered to be prehistoric/pre-cultural and pre-social science:

  1. Prehistory (an initially barbaric, pre-socialist age of war of individual human being against individual human being; for Hegel, Humanity’s/Absolute Spirit’s Age before logically-planned, external emergence);
  2. The first age of human history (imperfect social science, under the Old Law, from the time of Adam to Christ), characterized by a heavy influence of external formalism on human consciousness and behavior (Humanity/Absolute Spirit wandering around the Far East, China and the environs for Hegel);
  3. The second age of human history in which human consciousness achieved greater perfection in historical consciousness as social-science (in the sense of being a more universal and deeply emotional love of humanity). Human consciousness, under the New Law, by the entrance of Spirit into human history, within the context of the administrative Catholic Church (the Greek and Latin Age for Hegel); and
  4. The final age of human history, the Age of the Eternal Gospel, of Perfect Social Science, in which the influence of Spirit perfects human behavior so widely, deeply, and intensely that no need any longer exists for a Church administration or organized religion (the Lutheran/Germanic Age and end of history for Hegel during which, for the first time in human history, conscience and all science come into being and humanity becomes aware that it is identical with Perfect Social-science: Perfect Good Will Consciousness/God).

Sometime after his death, Europeans started to refer to followers of millenarianism of Joachim of Flora as “Joachitic enthusiasts” and often called their teaching “Joachitic enthusiasm.” As is evinced in his famous work, Education of the Human Race, 18th-century Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was one of these millenarians. So, too, under his educational influence, were 18th-/19th-century Enlightenment intellectuals, Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel.

After the crumbling of the Berlin Wall (9 November 1989) and dismantling of Soviet communism toward the tail end of the 20th century, the period celebrated by Western liberal elites and popularized by Francis Fukuyama, was supposed to be “the end of history,” in the sense of being the time in which enlightened liberal democracy would finally transcend the transitional period of communist dictatorship and eradicate from the world the influence of backward religious consciousness.

To understand the euphoric, Joachitic enthusiasm, that overtook Western Europe during this time and fully to comprehend the nature of Marxism, Enlightenment-Utopian Socialism in general, and neo-liberal, atheistic democracy (like that of John Dewey), it is crucial to recognize this enthusiasm as neo-Averroism, deeply influenced by the neo-Averroistic, religious, and educational humanism of Petrarch which devolved – through 19th-century neo-Averroistic social science (with its three stages of social evolution: [1] theological, [2] metaphysical, and [3] positive/scientific) proposed by Isidore Marie Auguste François Xavier Comte – into the secular educational humanism of the 20th-and 21st-century West.

During a late Medieval, academic battle about the relationship between philosophy and theology that the great Islamic scholar Averroes (ibn Rushd, 1126-1198) had with a previously-existing Islamic scholar named al Ghazali (who died in 1111 and had considered philosophy to be inferior to theology and fake science), Averroes had countered Ghazali’s reductionist claim that the whole of truth is contained in the Quran, by, knowingly or not, reviving a threefold distinction about the hierarchy of human knowing, first introduced centuries before by Plato, through his famous analogy of a divided-line of learning in which Plato had made a distinction between three lower and higher forms of knowing: the qualitatively-lowest being belief (which Averroes would later identify as a mindset common to poets);
a second, qualitatively higher one, being a kind opinionated imagining (that Averroes would later maintain is proper to theologians); and the highest one being science (which Averroes would later reserve for Aristotelian philosophers).

According to Averroes, while the whole of truth is contained in the Quran, only the Aristotelian philosopher knows how to read and unravel that hidden truth, or the meaning of what the Quran actually says.
Seizing upon this method of Averroes, Petrarch made the mistake of buying into an esoteric interpretation of philosophy/science as a hidden teaching, or body, or scientific system of knowledge, known only to an enlightened group of intellectuals. In so doing, he treated philosophy/science as if it were reducible to a dialectical logic apprehensible only by some spiritually-elect group. While Petrarch hated Averroes (had called him a “mad dog”) and was no fan of Aristotle, in criticizing Averroes, unwittingly he came to adopt the understanding Averroes had promoted that:

  • philosophy is a hidden teaching, or body of knowledge known only to some enlightened individuals,
  • who alone can pass this understanding on to posterity.

Unhappily, to paraphrase a common sense gem of wisdom from Étienne Gilson: We think, and choose, the way we can, not the way we wish.
Outraged by Averroes’s disdain for poetry, because Petrarch made the mistake of doing no more than dialectically turning Averroes’s teaching on its head and not essentially changing it. But, unwittingly, by so doing, in effect he adopted in his own principles a kind of neo-Gnostic understanding of philosophy/science for which he would become a conduit to intellectual posterity. Petrarch assumed, and popularized among humanists of the Italian Renaissance, that philosophy/science is an esoteric metaphysical and moral teaching, or body of knowledge, that was first given by God to Moses.

Subsequently, to protect this teaching from being ridiculed by unenlightened, vulgar, illiterate masses, Petrarch and other Italian Renaissance humanists claimed true philosophy/ science had been intentionally buried in the works of epic poets like Homer, Hesiod, and Virgil and esoterically transmitted to other enlightened poets.

Over the several centuries that comprised the Italian Renaissance, this Petrarchan popularization of philosophy as an esoteric teaching, or body of knowledge (which was to become a general assumption about philosophy maintained by Italian Renaissance humanists) became the popular understanding of philosophy that entered into Western Europe around the time of the Father of Modern Philosophy – René Descartes. Disliking the poetic nature of the Jesuit education he had received, and much favoring logic over poetry as the only sort of knowing worthy of being called philosophy/science, Descartes maintained that the whole of truth is a body of knowledge buried, hidden, in some train of obscure thought of wandering images seeking to become a clear and distinct idea which he called a “mind,” or human consciousness.

Descartes claimed, further, that this hidden teaching was apprehensible not by poets, but only by a person of exceptionally strong logically-regulated will-power who alone could focus on the idea of a Perfectly-Good God, and thus was capable of stabilizing the wandering imagination common to poetic types in order to be see truth as a systematic train of ideas, so clear and distinct that a strong, logical human will (one with which Descartes identified common sense) cannot deny their reality, including that of a human person being a totally-disembodied mind or spirit. In short, centuries before Friedrich Nietzsche, Descartes had moved truth, and with it common sense, out of human intellect, and placed it in some logically-systematic train of ideas or feelings, thoughts – which he called human “will.”

In so doing, however, as the more poetically and historically/humanist-inclined Rousseau had immediately recognized, Descartes cut off philosophy/science, and with it, common sense, from human wisdom, and from what Petrarch and the Italian Renaissance humanists in general had considered to be its historical roots, namely, a somewhat obscure religious body of knowledge first given by God as true philosophy/science to the Jews from whom all true culture and cultural institutions were born and passed on to posterity as historical descendants of an original race.

In so doing, Descartes entirely destroyed the nature of philosophy/science, and real common sense, as a somewhat social-science history, or historical, educational humanist enterprise. The principles he laid down for the nature of philosophy/science as a real genus included the clear and distinct conviction he inherited from Petrarch and Italian Renaissance humanists that the Jews were the historical conduit, historical race/genus from which all false philosophy/science and subsequent philosophical/scientific mistakes, intellectual and cultural backwardness, foolishness, lack of common sense, and sins had historically descended upon Europe and the world, prior to the coming of Descartes and the later Western Enlightenment.

Unwittingly, Descartes became a conduit to Rousseau’s educational principles, which in turn became a conduit for later forms of anti-Semitism, and as an essential principle of Nazi forms of philosophy/science. This included making the Jews a scapegoat for all of Europe’s prior socially- and culturally-caused problems, evils, and sins.

In a similar way, through Rousseau’s critique of him, Descartes unwittingly became a historical conduit passing along to posterity the mistaken notion that a real and scientific species is identical with a race historically descended from original parents (instead of being part of an organizational whole that generates proximately causes and organizational action: a division, or part, of a generic whole, or substance). In truth, a real genus only exists in a real species; and a real species only exists in real individuals. As Gilson once quipped, in the present, real species of animals exist only in real animals, such as those in zoos, not in historical descent or transmission, which no longer exists. If real species were historical descendants of ancestral species, since ancestors cannot historically-descend from themselves, the absurd consequence that would follow would be that historical ancestors could never belong to the same species as their historical descendants!

Worse. The only way we come to know anything is in and through defining it. Doing so, however, essentially involves locating some being within a genus and species. By becoming conduits for essentially racializing the concepts of genus and species, Petrarch, Italian Renaissance humanists in general, Descartes, and Rousseau became an essential part of the historical conduit that brought into existence the contemporary enlightened Woke, anarchic, youth generation, the “useful idiots” (who tend not to be able to distinguish real from apparent, anything logical or not logical, much less genera and species).

Rousseau contributed to the present-day fiasco, in part, by rightly criticizing Descartes for cutting off philosophy/science, and education in general, from its historical roots. While he admitted, with Descartes, that philosophy/science is a hidden body of knowledge, he denied that it (and with it, real common sense) is esoterically buried in an individual mind.
Instead, Rousseau maintained that philosophy/science/real common sense is/are a historical project of discrete, disconnected, emotions to assemble themselves into a historically-driven, social-science consciousness: Perfect humanity. In addition, he denied Descartes’s distinction between matter (which Descartes had conceived as inert extension) and mind (which Descartes had identified with thought, spirit).

According to Rousseau, only spirit exists. Matter is simply unconscious thought/spirit. And, in a way, clear and distinct ideas (clear and distinct, more progressive genera and species), historically and progressively descend from one time to another (earlier emotions being historic ancestors of later, more progressive, enlightened ones somewhat resembling historical, backward ones, like later races historically descending from and somewhat resembling ancestral parents).

After Rousseau, the idea of a real substance or nature, and real genera and species in the common sense way that Aristotle and Aquinas had conceived them to be (as organizational wholes possessing faculties like intellect, will, and emotions), became replaced in the West by essentially different ideas of human beings, genera, species, individuals, and real common sense.

According to Hegel, for example, human beings are born as essentially illogical, un-systematic trains of unscientific, barbaric, emotions, historically driven to project themselves and come into conflict with other historically driven, illogical, unscientific, barbaric emotions that (much like the savage Fuegians that the cultured, Enlightened-socialist Brit, Charles Darwin would later encounter on his first voyage on the Beagle) inhabit a wild geographical region (genus), so as eventually, at the end of history, to unite together into a systematic, or logical train of scientific, self-understanding, qualitatively-higher emotions (species): Perfect humanity, a Scientific, Pure Good Will in which all complete truth and perfect religion and perfect/science/wisdom will coincide in nature.

Understanding human beings in somewhat this way, in his educational tome Émile, or Abstract Man (humanity), Rousseau wedded a Western neo-Gnostic, millenarianism to a neo-Pelagianism on a historical march to become Perfect Social–science Consciousness aware of itself as such – that is, aware of itself as god!

In so doing, like ancient Pelagius, Rousseau denied the reality of original sin as part of humanity, as pre-historic, selfish, barbaric, uncultured, abstract man: Someone like conscience-deprived, crude, vulgar, selfish, intolerant, insincere, socially and culturally backward, brute Donald Trump, emerging into concrete, selfless, socialistic, domesticated, cultured, sincere, tolerant, historic-scientific man: Someone like neo-Gnostic, neo-Averroestic, double-truth-advocate Catholics, like Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Mario and Andrew Cuomo. And Rousseau did so for precisely the same reason that, as neo-Gnostics spiritualists, all Enlightenment intellectuals incline to so: They are, as he was, and as Chesterton rightly recognized about Hegel – Monomaniacs.

Like all the Enlightenment descendants he spawned, including Auguste Comte and his followers, Rousseau denied the evident, real, common sense truth that real multitudes (real organizational wholes, natures), exist independently of something he understood to be social consciousness. To him and them, reality is social consciousness – or the consciousness (systematic, scientific train of thoughts that once was blind emotions that has become Pure Social-Science Good Will). In actuality, for Enlightenment thinkers (the contemporary Woke culture), only one being is real – only total unity exists. Unity and social consciousness are identical and constitute what Marxists and all contemporary utopian socialists and neo-liberals call “humanity,” which they consider to be “God.” Hence, their often-repeated claims to be theists, good Catholics, and so on, not atheists or heretics.

The psychological constitution of a Marxist causes him to think that humanity is real, but “John Smith” is not. Like Hegel, the Marxist thinks that “John Smith” is simply where Absolute Spirit (which Hegel identified with God, which he conflated with Humanity) happens to be conscious of itself, at this or that historical moment. Reality, to a Marxist, is consciousness, historically and progressively realizing that only humanity (understood as collections of socially-conscious feelings, emotions; or consciousness feeling itself historically growing into self-awareness of being scientific feeling: Perfect, Pure, Sincere, Good Will) – is real. Anything apart from humanity, considered in this way, is an illusion, caused by disordered economic relations (the cause of all cultural illusions).

Quite frankly, if seriously maintained intellectually, to a sane human being, one with actual common sense, such a way of looking at reality would be considered sociopathic. Nonetheless, this way of looking at reality is a fundamental assumption, non-negotiable, Marxist and utopian-socialist, and Enlightenment-educational first principle – an essential part of Marxist and Enlightenment self-definition, self-identity, and self-understanding. And education for both begins with (and remains throughout its operation) – the application of this psychological principle behaviorally to modify the psychology of students. Knowingly or not to a Marxist and all Enlightenment utopian socialists, their educational principles essentially demand that they drive out from the psyche of their students any scintilla of real common sense.


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.


The featured image shows the Tree of Pansophia, from Speculum Sophicum Rhodostauroticum by Theophilus Schweighardt Constantiens, ca. 1604-1618.

An Open Letter To the Rector of the Jagiellonian University

To the Rector of the Jagiellonian University:

We, a group of scholars from different countries, have learned that your university and Philosophy Department have seen fit to reprimand Professor Ryszard Legutko for an “Open Letter,” in which he urges your institution to “disband” the office of equal treatment. Since you did not respond to Professor Legutko’s letter, we infer that the Philosophy Department’s position represents your opinion as well. Of more than thirty faculty members, only one stood by Legutko, and one abstained from voting. This forces us to conclude that Professor Legutko was right in calling to your attention the growing ideologization of your university. Uniformity of thinking is not an indication of healthy intellectual life but in today’s academic environment has become a sure sign of the opposite.

Although we do not know all the details of this daring experiment, considering how such offices function in America and elsewhere, Professor Legutko is entirely correct to resist it. Political Correctness, a theme that many of us have addressed in multiple books and articles, is a dangerous totalitarian concept; and it is one that has sowed havoc and disunity in every Western onetime democracy. The result of this venture inflicted on us by public administrators, the media and the educational establishment has been to render our countries less free and more open to ideological manipulation.

Professor Legutko is an eminent scholar in political theory, from whose study on the pitfalls of our religion of democracy we in the Western countries have learned a great deal. His grim warnings about the antiliberal potential of modern democracy (and here we are using ‘liberal’ in its true nineteenth-century sense) are clearly on the mark; and what the good professor is now undergoing at your venerable institution witnesses to the truth of his predictions.

In the name of an elusive goal of total equality, including special rights for designated victims, Western civilization is destroying itself. We were hoping that Poland and other relatively traditional Western countries would be spared this fate that is now overwhelming the United States, the Anglosphere, and parts of Europe. Perhaps we were overly optimistic.

Paul Gottfried,
Editor, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture,
Author of After Liberalism,
Zbigniew Janowski,
Author of Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America

Signatories To The Letter:

Francesco Andriani, President of Ideare (Italy)

Jacek Bartyzel, University of Nicholas Copernicus, UMK (Poland)

Luigi Marco Bassani, University of Milan (Italy)

Clifford Angell Bates, Warsaw University (Poland)

José Carlos Bermejo Barrera, University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)

Jeremy Black, The University of Exeter (England)

Katarzyna Błachowska, Warsaw University (Poland)

Aleksander Bobko, Uniwersytet Rzeszowski (Poland)

Catharine Savage Brosman, Tulane University (USA)

Chris Buskirk, Editor, American Greatness (USA)

Nicholas Capaldi, Loyola University, New Orleans (USA)

Jonathan C.D. Clark, historian (England)

Lee Congdon, James Madison University (USA)

Wayne Cristaudo, Charles Darwin University (Australia)

Felipe Cuello, Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (Dominican Republic)

Magdalena Danielewiczowa, Warsaw University (Poland)

Nirmal Dass, Editor, The Postil Magazine (Canada)

Zuzanna Dawidowicz, Editor, Arcana (Poland)

Marshall De Rosa, Florida Atlantic University (USA)

Marion Duvauchel, Historian of Religions (France)

Filip Doroszewski, Uniwersytet Kardynała Stefana Wyszyńskiego (Poland)

Ian Dowbiggin, Fellow, Royal Society of Canada
University of Prince Edward Island
(Canada)

Jacob Duggan, student at Towson University, Baltimore (USA)

Serafín Fanjul, Catedrático de la UNAM, Miember, Real Academia de la Historia (Spain)

Richard Fafara, Adler-Aquinas Institute (USA).

Devin Foley, CEO of the Charlemagne Institute (USA)

Bruce Gilley, Portland State University (USA)

Catherine Godfrey-Howell, JCD, St. Augustine’s Press (USA)

David Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Ludwig von Mises Institute (USA)

Jean-Louis Harouel, University of Paris II (Panthéon-Assas) (France)

Ann Hartle, Emory University (USA)

Grant Havers, Trinity Western University (Canada)

Domingo González Hernández, University of Murcia, Spain

Jozefa Hrynkiewicz, Warsaw University (Poland)

Arnaud Imatz, Political Scientist and Historian (France)

Elżbieta Janus, UKSW (Poland)

Dariusz Karłowicz, Editor-in-chief, Teologia Polityczna (Poland)

Tomasz Kaźmierowski, Founder of Fundacja Identitas (Poland)

Robert M. P. W. Graham Kerr, Inarah, Institute for Research on Early Islamic History and the Koran, Saarbrücken (Germany)

Roger Kimball, Editor of New Criterion, and director of Encounter Books (USA)

Harrison Koehli, host of MindMatters (USA)

Adam Korytowski, AGH (Poland)

Maria Korytowska, Jagiellonian University (Poland)

Thaddeus Kozinski, Divine Mercy University (USA)

Wojciech Kruszewski, Katolicki Uniwersytet Lubelski (Poland)

Maria Kunicka, XIII Liceum Aleksandra Fredry (Poland)

Wojciejch Kunicki, Wroclaw University (Poland)

Antoni Libera, writer, author of Madame (Poland)

Donald W. Livingston, Emory University (USA)

Sean McMeekin, Bard College (USA)

Justyna Melonowaska, Maria Grzegorzewska University (Poland)

Andrzej Nowak, Jagiellonian University (Poland)

Piotr Nowak, Bialystok University (Poland)

José Luis Orella, Universidad CEU San Pablo, Madrid (Spain)

Michał Otorowski, Fundacja Augusta hr Cieszkowskiego (Poland)

Ciro Paoletti, Director of Associazione di Studi Storici e Militari (Italy)

Robert Paquette, President, The Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization (USA)

Stanley Payne, Univeristy of Wisconsin-Madison (USA)

Olga Płaszczewska, Jagiellonian University (Poland)

Peter Redpath, CEO, Aquinas School of Leadership and Commonsense Wisdom Academies (USA)

Alexander Riley, Professor of Sociology, Bucknell University (USA)

Robert Reilly, Former Director of The Voice of America, Senior Fellow of the American Foreign Policy Council (USA)

Rusty Reno, Editor-in-Chief, FIRST THINGS

Jan Rokita, Ignatianum (Poland)

Magdalena Saganiak, Humanities Department, UKSW, Warsaw (Poland)

Andrzej Wasko, Jagiellonian University (Poland)

Anna Wasko, Editor, Arcana, and professor at Jagiellonian University (Poland)

Robert Weissberg, University of Illinois—Urbana (USA)

Edward Welsch, Executive Editor, Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture (USA)

Bronisław Wildstein, writer (Poland)

Maria Anna Zając, Uniwersytet Śląski (Poland)


Antiquity Under The Guise Of Melancholy

In one of the problems in the Aristotelian corpus (The Book of Problems, XXX, 1), which deals with those related to thought, intelligence and wisdom, its author asks: “why were all men who have excelled in philosophy, politics or poetry or the arts melancholic” (XXX, 1, 10-14), as were many heroes of mythology, such as, Heracles, and “in recent times so have been Empedocles, Plato, Socrates and many other notable men” (XXX, 1, 26-30).

The answer is that there is a direct relationship between melancholy and what we call creativity, as Maria Grazia Ciani has shown. The melancholy of the Aristotelian problem actually encompasses all forms of mental disorder. Aristotle relates it to the loss of control of the passions and assimilates it to drunkenness, and links it to sexual desire and to sleep disturbances in such a way as to give the impression that the common origin of all desires and passions, which later in St. Augustine and later in Sigmund Freud, will receive the name of libido, is the engine that contains the energy which allows for different types of artistic and intellectual creation. Thus, in this brief text we have the origin of the romantic idea of association of genius with madness, analyzed in recent times by the philosopher and psychiatrist Karl Jaspers. Before Aristotle, one of these melancholics, Plato, in his dialogue, The Phaedrus, (244 A) had already stated that “our greatest goods are born thanks to madness” (mania), and there being four kinds of it: the prophetic, whose patron is Apollo, the telestitic or ritual, whose patron is Dionysus, the poetic, whose patrons are the Muses, and the erotic, inspired by Aphrodite and Eros.

Platonic mania is directly related to poetic inspiration, conceived as vision or trance; and therefore, it is also understood as a source of creativity. What happens with Platonic mania and melancholia is that they become metonymies, confusing the part with the whole, because in Hellenic tradition and medicine, mental illness, when conceived under an organic model, a model that coexists with the religious, in which the disease is understood as possession, and the philosophical, in which it is related to the passions and thought, is structured in a more complex morphology.

The Greeks in fact divided the alterations of the passions and thought, madness, into two large groups: delirium with fever, which corresponds to the inflammation of the brain, and delirium without fever, which would be our mental illness. This is structured in two great poles: mania, or agitated madness, with delusions and hallucinations, and sometimes accompanied by violence, and melancholia or sad and apathetic madness, reaching immobility and resemblance to death in catatonia. Next to these two great groups we have senile dementia, epilepsy, and the disease proper of women, hysteria.

Plato and Aristotle reduce all forms of madness to one, because what interests them is analyzing how the imbalance of the passions allows intellectual creation. The melancholic desires to live in solitude, like Heraclitus, the philosopher who wept, as opposed to Democritus, the philosopher laughed, in the Hellenic tradition. This solitude is the condition of his superiority, because it allows him to observe things and people objectively, thanks to the distance and detachment from passions. It is supposed that Heraclitus, like the Nietzschean Zarathustra, went to live in the mountains, became a vegetarian and, after returning to his hometown, died of dropsy, because of the water that accumulated in his body because of his diet. Euripides, the misanthrope of tradition, the first possessor of a library, is supposed to have lived in a cave; and Aristotle himself, who was called “the reader” in the Academy, made writing to be read, not recited or dialogued, the key to his philosophy. The first Christians practiced anachoresis as a way of life and a way of seeking knowledge; and with them was born silent reading, mentioned for the first time in history by St. Augustine in his Confessions, when he recounts his surprise at seeing Ambrose reading silently in Milan.

Solitude and melancholy were considered the indispensable condition for observation; and the artist, the philosopher or the historian thus became neutral observers of the passions and catastrophes of others, as described by Pseudo-Longinus in his treatise, On the Sublime, in which the scene of the spectacle of the shipwreck, seen from the cliff, as the source of the aesthetic feeling of sublime beauty, understood as that which overrides the passions and elevates thought, as opposed to the pleasurable feeling of the beautiful, became a key element in Western thought.

The paradigm of the melancholic spectator, observer of the past, or of the present, was fundamental in Europe from the Renaissance onwards. The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries saw a brilliant revival of melancholy. Robert Burton, an Oxonian clergyman, was the author in 1628 of a masterpiece (The Anatomy of Melancholy), that drew upon an exhaustive study of biblical and classical sources on this feeling.

For Burton, who was a neo-Stoic, all disorders of the soul are due to the uncontrolled passions of all kinds; and all of them are nothing more than different forms of melancholy in his monumental and erudite treatise. His study is so complete that all aspects of human life of the present and the past are reflected in it, for what is history but the study of the joys and sorrows, the ambitions, hatreds, loves, thoughts and feelings of human beings? The work of the anatomist of melancholy is to try to describe from a distance the story of all these passions, seen from the dispassion that provides academic isolation and the disenchantment of all passions, typical of the philosopher and historian, which would lead Burton himself to also fall into melancholy.

Burton’s book is situated on a very expansive context. Already in 1586, in England itself, Timothie Bright had devoted another book to the subject. And in France the same had been done by André du Laurens in 1594 and Jourdan Guibelet in 1603.

Melancholy came to know a bright future, in the literature of romanticism; and some sociologists, such as, Wolf Lepenies tried to associate it with the ways of thinking and feeling of the emerging and frustrated German bourgeoisie. For example, those whose role was essential in the birth and consolidation of classical studies, focused on the evocation of a vanished past. However, long before that, melancholy was directly associated with visions of the past.

The Greek author of the Qoheleth, better known as, Ecclesiastes, a treatise attributed to the wisest king, Solomon, developed a whole theory of history, which tried to make sense of the time he lived in, the Hellenistic era, characterized by its endless succession of wars, which would affect the Jewish people very directly.

According to the Qoheleth, history cannot recover the past, definitively lost and impossible to reconstruct:

“Vanity of vanities! Everything is vanity. What profit does anyone gain from all his labor at which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away and another generation succeeds it, but the earth stands firm forever. The sun rises and the sun sets; then it returns to the place where it rises.
The wind blows southward and then veers to the north, constantly turning as it repeats its course. All the rivers go to the sea, and yet the sea never overflows, for the rivers continue to return to their place of origin. All things are wearisome and very difficult to express. The eyes are not satisfied with seeing and the ears do not have their fill of hearing. What has been will be so again, and what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun. Whatever is perceived to be new has already existed in the ages before us. Those people who died in ages past are no longer remembered, and the people yet to be born will not be remembered by those who come after them. I have seen everything that has been done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a chase after the wind”
(Ecclesiastes 1).

The impossibility of recovering the past through the evocation of it that historians can do was a substantial part of European thought, which contemplated it until the Renaissance under the rubric of melancholy. Here is just one example from Jorge Manrique, when he says:

Let us leave the Trojans,
For we have not seen their evils
Nor their glories;
Let us leave the Romans,
Though we have heard and read
Of their victories.
Let us not care to know
What of the century past,
And how it went.
Let us come to yesterday,
Which is as well forgotten
as all of that (Coplas, XV).

These verses are especially pertinent because they deal with the classical tradition, never lost in the Middle Ages and again in force from the “Renaissance” of the twelfth century. Greek and Roman history, together with biblical history, is fully alive in Jorge Manrique, as well as in late medieval Spanish literature, as María Rosa Lida de Malkiel pointed out.

If we read one of the first incunabula, the Weltkronik by Hartmann Schedel, published in 1493, which is interesting not only for its text but also its hundreds of illustrations, we can observe how this history of the world that begins with the biblical creation intermingles, following the historiographic tradition of St. Augustine and Orosius, the Jewish, Greek and Roman histories. All its characters are equally present in the text and the engravings, as are the oriental cities and those of the classical world in the miniatures. From all of them, from their lives and sayings, a moral lesson can be drawn, in the style of Valerius Maximus. Here the loop of melancholy has been broken, for the past becomes present, but at the cost of anachronism and imitation of it, as will happen in the European Renaissance, incomprehensible without the birth of the printed book, which will later be key to understanding the role of classical studies.

The printing press was an essential agent of change to make the Renaissance possible, and also the Reformation and the scientific revolution; for without it, the codification and general transmission of knowledge would have been impossible. In the case of Spain, for example, it was precisely the scarcity of printing presses and publishers which, together with the Counter-Reformation, largely explains the weakness of Spanish humanism, as Luis Gil Fernandez has shown in a very detailed study.

The birth of history and philology as sciences is inseparable from the overcoming of anachronism, which fully identifies the past and the present; and from the establishment of what is called estrangement, or the distancing of the present and the past. This process of estrangement makes it possible to create the necessary distance for the development of an objective method, as Anthony Kemp and David Lowenthal have pointed out. However, this distancing must be accompanied by an interest that promotes the study of a distant past and brings with it the birth of a certain process of assimilation.

The scientific study of all aspects of classical culture was institutionalized in Germany, in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The importance of German scholarship was such that we can say that, just as classical Greece and Rome were the ideal homeland of many Germans, Germany itself is in a sense the common homeland of all scholars of antiquity.

In order to understand this process, two kinds of factors must be taken into account. External factors, referring to Germany’s own political and social situation and the development of its new university system; and internal factors, which allowed the institutionalization of all this systematic body of knowledge, Wissenschaften, without which it is impossible to access the ancient world.

Germany at the end of the 18th century was a conglomerate of small kingdoms, with the exception of Prussia, and dozens of free cities, known today as “Home Towns,” which the Germans called Heimat. Their population was more than 80% rural, and political domination corresponded to the nobility and the different churches. An average German town had between 3,000 and 5,000 inhabitants, was under the power of a local nobleman or ecclesiastical authority and its municipal life was controlled by guilds and corporations and was clearly restricted, which did not prevent the development of an important culture and a certain publishing industry. Germany’s economic and industrial development was very limited and its industrialization took place late in the 19th century. For this reason, a significant bourgeois class did not emerge that would allow the social and economic advancement of, for example, the intellectual professions.

We may take as an essential and social model the figure of Friedrich Schiller, poet, playwright and historian. Of humble origin, he trained as a military doctor, but became one of the first professors of history in Germany and author of the first great publishing success of the 19th century, his History of the Thirty Years’ War. Schiller and Goethe lived under the protection, and many times the whim, of the nobles and petty princes; and both considered, like many German intellectuals, culture as a way out and an escape route from the situation of social constraint.

Heinrich Heine said that in Napoleonic times, England dominated the sea, France the land and Germany the air, thanks to its cultural creations. Culture was conceived as a way of sublimation and escape from the present, and it was thought that there could be full human freedom, civil, cultural and intellectual, without full political freedom, thus creating what Leonard Krieger called the German idea of freedom, a freedom under the cloak of authority, often times arbitrary.

Such freedom under surveillance and such constraint of a social class, the bourgeoisie, meant that culture was understood as a form of nostalgia for a past in which that freedom had been possible – and that was the role of Greek and Roman culture, evoked as absence in Schiller’s own poems, which we can clearly see in his Die Götter Griechenlandes:

Ja, sie kehrten heim, und alles Schöne,
Alles Hohe nahmen sie mit fort,
Alle Farben, alle Lebenstöne,
Und uns blieb nur das entseelte Wort.
Aus der Zeitflut weggerissen, schweben
Sie gerettet auf des Pindus Höhn,
Was unsterblich im Gesang soll leben,
Muß im Leben untergehn.

(Yes, they returned home, and everything beautiful,
Everything high they took with them,
All colors, all sounds of life,
And all that was left for us was the lifeless word.
Torn away from the tide of time, they float
They are saved on Pindus heights.
What shall live immortal in song,
Must perish in life).

The idealized past of Greece is the poet’s true homeland, as it was for Goethe; the land where the lemon tree blooms. The poet understands the evocation of the past, in which freedom and beauty were lost, as an essential function of poetry and historical narrative. This is also the case in Friedrich Hölderlin’s epistolary novel, Hyperion. In this novel, Hyperion’s letters to Diotima evoke both the loss of freedom, love and happiness, through creation and reading. The Germans created a culture understood as a remembrance of the national past and of a past they identified as their own in Greece and Rome. This explains the importance of the study of all aspects of the past in the development of their national culture. In it, this German idea of conditional freedom was directly linked to the idea of Bildung, or education and shaping of the mind and life of each individual; and fundamental in that Bildung was the creation of the new European university by Wilhelm von Humboldt, at the University of Berlin, under the protection of the King of Prussia.

Wilhelm von Humboldt created the so-called research university, in which a professor had full freedom to teach and research his knowledge and was provided with the means to do so. This professor, be it L. von Ranke, G.W.F. Hegel, K. von Savigny, J. Liebig and so many others, would train not only students but also researchers; and thus, the institutionalization of the Altertumswissenschaft became possible. The new university gave birth to a new social and personal type, the professor, with his specific ideology and ethics analyzed by A.J. Engel.

In Germany, the university and the liberal professions (doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists), were the essential means of social ascent, in a country where the delayed industrialization did not allow until very late the birth of a rich bourgeoisie. The Jews, excluded from the university professions almost until the 20th century, took refuge in them. The German professors were free in their privileged world, isolated from politics by their knowledge; but they always depended on the political power in the public universities; and that is why they were always politically very conservative and could not react to the rise of Nazism, according to Fritz Ringer. Such was the internal framework in which the Altertumswissenschaft was institutionalized. Let us now see what it consists of.

The German word, Wissenschaft, designates any kind of systematic knowledge of a given subject, and is not exactly equivalent to the English term, “science.” There is a Judentumwissenschaft, a set of knowledge necessary to be able to understand and study Jewish culture and history; and for the same reason there is a Religionswissenschaft, which does not consist in reducing religious phenomena to a science, because then the specifics of religious experience would be reduced to nothing. The Altertumwissenschaft is a whole system of knowledge necessary to be able to study what is considered a strongly unitary phenomenon, which is the world of classical antiquity.

Its basis is the knowledge of two languages, Greek and Latin, in all their aspects: morphological, syntactic and semantic, the study of their history and all the metrical, stylistic and rhetorical forms necessary to be able to understand the texts in these two ancient languages. But this study of languages is only a part of it, since it also includes the study of archaeology, epigraphy and numismatics, as well as, of course, classical history and all literary genres: epic, lyric, tragedy, comedy, prose, history, oratory, and philosophy in its various parts, as well as all the sciences developed by the Greeks and Romans. August Boeck pointed this out in 1886; but he also indicated that philology was “the knowledge of what is known.” By this he meant that its aim was to achieve the understanding, or in other words, the updating of the experiences lived in all fields, felt and thought by the men and women of Antiquity.

Naturally, only very few authors managed to master all these fields, although some did, such as Ulrich von Wilamowitz-Moellendorff, who wrote on Greek language, literature, history, philosophy and religion. By doing so, Wilamowitz maintained the idea of the unity of the subject of study, and because he was aware of the hermeneutic character of all these disciplines. A classical philologist turned philosopher, Hans Georg Gadamer, thus developed a theory that gave a perfect account of the work of the philologist, the historian and the philosopher. For Gadamer, these disciplines, called hermeneutics, were structured as follows.

A hermeneutic discipline studies a cultural and historical whole that is defined by the existence of a corpus of texts which is transmitted over time, while being studied and enriched. This body of texts shapes a cultural and personal identity and creates a sense of belonging. Think, for example, of the role of the Old and New Testaments in Christianity, the Talmud in Judaism, and the Koran for Muslims. Each member of that group is recognized as such through tradition. His identity is delimited by that tradition and through its identification with the corpus of its texts. But it is by immersing oneself in it that one constantly recreates one’s identity and renews it, while at the same time keeping alive the tradition to which one belongs. Hermeneutic activity is based on reading, rereading and commenting on texts. In it, to read is to begin to write, and to write is to read again.

This going to the old textual corpus and then returning to the present is what Gadamer called the “hermeneutic circle;” and it is this circle, based on continuous and endless reading, that is the basis of the work of the historian, the philologist and the philosopher, three figures that overlap in the field of Altertumwissenchaft. Without texts, without books and without reading, all these studies become meaningless.

David Hume once said that “reason is and must be the slave of the passions,” to the scandal of moralists and Stoic philosophers. In reality Hume led a rather discreet and stoic life, and so what he meant by that phrase is that the motor of our psychic life is not thought, but feeling – passion. For that reason, it is incomprehensible that the gigantic effort, in all the disciplines necessary to be able to study classical antiquity, could have been developed, if there had not been some deep interest in it.

And, of course, there was deep interest in Germany. Greek and Latin formed the basis of the baccalaureate studied at the Gymnasium, the secondary school for those who would go on to university studies, and which, by the way, was attended by not even 10% of young German adolescents, since the majority who studied did so at the Realschule, where they studied modern languages, and sciences and techniques necessary for the development of commerce and economic or industrial activity.

The prolonged study of Classical languages made it possible to create a whole corps of professors and scholars, who made possible the massive work of study and cataloguing that made it possible in Germany to create the great corpora of inscriptions and texts, and to elaborate the great instruments of consultation, such as, the Real-Enzyklopaedie, a gigantic collective work, indispensable for study, even today; and which was developed over many years, like so many other working methods.

What did the Germans see in Greece and Rome? We might even say, why did they become obsessed with Greece, which exercised a kind of tyranny over German culture and thought? They no longer saw in it a nostalgic past, in which men had been free and happy, as had been the Greece of Schiller and Hölderlin, but a model to be followed in all areas of culture, for Greece had created philosophy, science, art and the best literature, and also provided the models on which European political systems were based.

The Altertumwsissenschaft conceived Antiquity sub specie aeternitatis, as had been the model of Roma aeterna. Ever since Constantine moved his capital to Constantinople, the double idea of translatio and renovatio developed. Rome could remain Rome elsewhere and constantly renew itself. The emperors of Byzantium remained emperors of Rome, and then also the czars of Russia, who called themselves Caesars. And the same thing happened in the West, ever since the coronation of Charlemagne, which meant the creation of the Holy Roman Empire, which survived until the Napoleonic wars, when it was neither sacred, nor an empire, nor Roman, nor Germanic, as Voltaire pointed out, but which was renewed with the Second Reich and then unfortunately with the Third Reich which was supposed to last a thousand years.

Greece and Rome were the timeless model to imitate for the entire German cultured society. If we read the 1878 book by Jakob von Falke, a jewel of German publishing for the quality of its engravings and binding, we can realize that, despite its shortcomings as a historical work, since for its time it does not cite either Droysen’s or Mommsen’s works, it reflects very well the passion of the German bourgeoisie for the Classical world. It is a luxurious book of great size that could adorn a good bourgeois salon, attesting to the admiration for that vanished world.

The paradigm of classical history sub specie aeternitatis began to be criticized in the early nineteenth century by authors such as Tocqueville, and was the subject of fierce ideological battles, as each country tried to identify with the Classical past in its own way, creating antithetical models.

The Germans tended to identify themselves, following the model created by K.O. Müller, more with Sparta than with Athens, since Sparta, a traditional state, with an agrarian base and militaristic organization, was conceived as a kind of simile of Prussia at the beginning of the 19th century: agrarian, disciplined, militaristic and conservative, as Édouard Will pointed out years ago. Similarly, English liberals, such as George Grote, identified Athens with their native England: maritime, commercial, democratic and enlightened.

And in the United States, where the presence of Classical studies was always very limited since the subject was not taught in secondary education, Classical models served on the one hand to justify their peculiar institution, slavery, but on the other hand, they were also a model for the drafting of their republican Constitution, conceived on a more Roman than Greek model. One of its drafters, however, proposed in an amendment that the new official language of the USA should be the Attic dialect, as they could no longer maintain the language of their metropolis.

In France, from the very moment of the Revolution, the Greek and Roman republican models were present, and for this reason numerous histories of Greece and Rome were published. This approach has always been present among French historians of the Classical world, even among those who had political commitments that were later very debatable, as in the case of Jérome Carcopino, in whose work this was always a fundamental component, since he believed that the study of the past could not be dissociated from the present.

After the mark left by the numerous works of Arnaldo Momigliano on the development of the historiography of antiquity and Classical studies in general, the study of the historiography of ancient history is now an academically consolidated field. Luciano Canfora has published numerous books and articles on the subject. In all these works it can be seen how all political ideologies – liberal or conservative, Marxist, Fascist, Nazi, or of any other type have needed to be confirmed through the study of their precedents in antiquity. This need to find a justification in such origins is what has so far kept alive in many cases the interest in the ancient world, and to some extent continues to do so.

However, what is happening nowadays is that these justifications are no longer undertaken by means of documented research work, carried out in accordance with the rules of the historical method, but by means of informative books of a more or less propagandistic nature. This is what is happening in the USA with authors who seek in the Greek past a legacy according to which only a strong military power can be the guarantee of freedom, economic development and democracy, tending to change the Athenian model for the Spartan one, in cases such as that of the ideologist Robert D. Kaplan. Although this new orientation is also present in the case of professional historians of Greek antiquity, such as, Victor Davis Hanson.

The Russian Revolution, the birth of Fascism, Nazism and later the Second World War, and the process of decolonization of the world brought about profound transformations in Western societies that caused the Classical models, conceived under the paradigm of eternity, to enter into crisis. Nevertheless, Classical studies managed, until recently, to maintain their vigor, because the richness of Classical sources, covering all fields (medicine, science, philosophy), and all possible aspects of social and family life, and the expression of the most varied ideas and feelings, provided an excellent testing ground for all kinds of studies. Feminism, of course, drank profusely from ancient sources and also the so-called gender studies or the history of sexuality, a subject vetoed by the authors of the nineteenth century.

The Greek sin par excellence became the object of privileged study in the departments of gender studies. Dozens of books and hundreds of articles have been published, creating a field of work that has been synthesized by James Davidson, a Classical philologist, in a comprehensive and exhaustively documented book that stretches into 634 pages. It is said that you can only study what you love, what you hate, or what you have already dreamed about. In that sense, and if we leave aside the enormous effort involved in the study of Classical languages and philology, less than that of mathematics or physics, however, Classical studies should not be in crisis and be subjected to a certain shared melancholic sensation of seeming to live out its end.

Numerous voices of alarm have been raised. Victor Davis Hanson himself, along with John Heath, has asked the question: “Who killed Homer?” According to them, only the recovery of Classical wisdom as a whole that integrates what in the USA is called “humanities” can allow Classical studies to be saved, lost in a world that values publications only by their number, obsessed by publication for publication’s sake, and in which the monographs of those who know more and more about less and less, and focused on insignificant topics supposedly very technical, have made the reading rate of the Classics decline sharply, in a parallel process to the loss of general knowledge among a good part of the professors.

In Italy, Salvatore Settis has asked himself the same question, as has a historian of Greek philosophy, Giuseppe Cambiano. The idea is repeated. Reading the Classics is fundamental because of the richness of their contents and because we cannot understand our cultural legacy without them. But what would happen if we no longer recognized, or even wanted to recognize our cultural legacy? What if what we reject is the book itself and reading, two essential components without which neither history, philology nor philosophy would make sense? Could it be that the rejection of the world of books is global and therefore that the hermeneutic disciplines have become impossible? Some believe so.

Each society creates its own system of global communication (very different in oral cultures), and among cultures with different degrees of literacy and in the electronic, visual and digital world. Marshall McLuhan had already warned of this in his now classic book, The Gutenberg Galaxy. These communication systems do not absolutely determine linguistic expression, much less thought. But they can do so, if they are used inappropriately.

Information can be processed in different ways and can be measured and quantified. All information is either assimilated or lost; and the process of assimilation takes place over time, since information is a flow. The assimilation capacity in a given time is inversely proportional to the speed of the flow. If speed is the result of dividing space by time:

S= s/t,
then the speed of the information is equal to its quantity divided by time:

S= Qi/t,
being the assimilation the division between the information itself and time. That is:

Ai= Qi/ t2

For this reason, the proliferation of information in the digital media, which of course is a great enrichment and creates very useful tools for consultation and research in the field of Classical studies and ancient history, becomes a toxic tool, if it is not used as a means to an end. The training of a historian or scholar of the humanities can only be based on the study of texts, on their reading, re-reading and analysis, and on the practice of reflective writing. Digital media are just that, media, as are printed dictionaries. A dictionary contains all the words; but in order to write, one must know how to handle language in terms of structured thought. Buying a dictionary is not enough. There are also all the letters on a keyboard; and they can be combined in millions of random ways; but a chimpanzee amanuensis will hardly create a good book.

Computer experts have drawn attention to the birth of a process of transformation of language and thought because of the abusive use of the Internet. Nicholas Carr points out that the Internet system favors parataxis over syntax. The user tends to move from link to link, in parallel processing, and to reintegrate links by superposition, not in a complex and durable structure. This explains the rejection of deep and long-term reading that is already being observed. Two Spanish professors of Greek literature have told me the same anecdote. None of their students had read the Iliad, in Spanish of course. One of them managed to get a Canto read, the other ordered it, but found that it just summaries of the “argument” taken from Wikipedia. This is not an exception, as the rejection of reading among humanities students is becoming the norm in philosophy, history and philology, sometimes supported by some professors.

The rejection of reading, and the idea that everything can be found on the Internet, contributes to the creation of what one computer engineer, Jaron Lanier, has called the “digital herd.” If everyone searches for the same thing, with the same search engine, in the same set of files, they will necessarily find the same thing. Originality thus disappears, because in history and philology it consists of discovering little-known data and establishing relationships between them that had not been found before. This requires continuous, meticulous and patient reading over many years of training and apprenticeship, as well as knowing how to find new modes of written or other forms of expression. The problem is that many teachers are contributing to the destruction of the ability to express oneself through the inappropriate use of PowerPoint.

PowerPoint is a program created for making advertising presentations. It is very useful for this and for processing images of all kinds, but not texts, which are reduced to almost childish outlines. That is why Franck Frommer considers it a program that can make us stupid. The information that is hackneyed, superimposed in a conventional way and expressed in a simplistic way is the opposite of creation and historical research and exposition, so it can be said that the history of antiquity and Classical studies will end up in a serious crisis, if we do not return to the only world that can make them possible, the world of texts, reading, reflection and good writing.

An ancient history sub specie aeternitatis is no longer possible, because the regression of Classical studies in general education makes it impossible for most people to identify with that world and consider it as an eternal model to imitate, in a world that is changing rapidly in economic, political and military areas, and that seems to want to value continuous change, and on its own, in the development of communication technologies, which make them increasingly faster and which offer so much information that is impossible to process.

If there is no global and eternal model, we must return to the world of melancholy. As we have seen, it was a world in which the past, gone forever, appears in a fragmentary way. History sub specie melancholiae can only be the fragmentary reconstruction of that disappeared past, but also the evocation of its absence and the finite expression in a small text of our infinite desire to know and not to fall into oblivion. The Greeks believed that what distinguishes melancholy is the sensation of the loss of sense and perception of the future. There is no future for the melancholic who contemplates with distance the spectacle of his own life. We have seen, following Pseudo-Longinus, how the sublime emerges in the scene of the spectator before the shipwreck. There is no single spectator before the spectacle of the past and the present world; and therefore, as long as several spectators can communicate, there will no longer be room for individual melancholy; and there will be room for the hope of leaving for the future small traces and remains among the ruins of time.


José Carlos Bermejo Barrera is Professor of Ancient History at the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain). He has published numerous books in the fields of mythology and religions of classical antiquity and the philosophy of history. Among these are The Limits of Knowledge and the Limits of Science, Historia y Melancolía, El Gran Virus. Ensayo para una pandemia, and most recently, La política como impostura y las tinieblas de la información. He has published numerous works in academic journals, such as History and Theory; Quaderni di Storia, Dialogues d’Histoire Ancienne, Madrider Mitteilungen. He is a regular contributor to the daily press.


The featured image shows, “Clio, Muse of History,” by Charles Meynier; painted in 1800.

Of Universities And Their Collapse

Briefly, I would like to discuss Allan Bloom’s anticipations, from his excellent essay on the collapse of the university. But first, let me give you an excerpt from it:

Democracy, or the egalitarian regime, must (…) perforce have utility as its primary motive: it is founded on the rule of all, and the vital desires and the fear of death are shared by all – as opposed to the desires for glory and pure knowledge which are rare. This devotion to utility is particularly true of modern democracies, the theory of which was precisely to encourage the self, regarding passions as a sure means to political consensus. Disinterested love of the truth is particularly threatened in democracy… In modern democracies the universities have… attempted to provide a basis for the cultivation of the theoretical life which finds only thin soil elsewhere in the society. The university, to the extent it represented the theoretical life, is more a memory than a reality… One need only look at academic philosophy and the social sciences to see how irrelevant the tradition has become to them. They suppose they have found new methods in the light of which the older teachings appear primitive.

In the 1960s, universities all over the world experienced protests directed against traditional forms of education. The state, accused of authoritarianism and of hindering intellectual freedoms, had completely surrendered the system of higher education. It had, literally, abandoned the University and fled. For some time, the University belonged to no one. Yet, this situation couldn’t last long, because an abandoned object, especially when it presents a significant value, quickly finds a new owner and is taken over. Thus, the University fell into the hands of business and administration, that have provided it with a new purpose: utility.

This hostile take-over of the University by the market was accompanied by a bureaucratization of academic life, its – so to speak – “Americanization;” for the American model assumes that scholars are a bit like children, who don’t know what managing a corporation means, are not aware that teaching is business as good as any other, or even better than others, especially when you consider that everyone has to finish one school or another. In this way, at European universities, where administration used to play a rather marginal role, “America” had been discovered. The University could finally begin to lay down golden eggs. In April 1968, almost 2000 German professors protested against this sort of “Americanization” of the University, as well as against the increasing role of students’ bodies and academicians with lower degrees. With no results. Decisions had been made and the battle for the University was lost. Let’s see, what this change really meant.

The change meant an alteration of a definition of the University, as well as of the institution itself, which aimed at transforming it into a corporation. Anyone, who has difficulty with composing a senseless syllabus, who struggles with filling out an 11th evaluation questionnaire this year, who opposes blackmail by troglodyte students understands this perfectly. An “Americanization” of the contemporary University is about subduing it to the administration and allowing a corporate system to shape academic structures.

Ernst H. Kantorowicz in his brilliant and humorous essay about how pre-Nazi, German universities functioned proved that limiting the University’s freedom, a bureaucratization of even the simplest tasks, such as, grading a student, is just a prelude to totalitarian solutions on a much broader scale. That is why we have to move out from the University, at least for a while, and go beyond the stiff institutional framework. I can do at the University, whatever it expects me to do. I will fill out forms, give reports, apply for grants, write in English and Chinese (No, I won’t write in Chinese!) – but I will go elsewhere to think. I am not offended. I simply accept the rule, according to which I receive my paycheck for different things, than thinking. This is the new deal, which I accept, since it has been forced upon me.

Well, I have been doing this for more than a decade now anyway. With my colleagues I run a foundation, which publishes important, though usually unprofitable books. We organize conferences, give scholarships to young academicians. We move philosophy to the opera-house and into media. We show that thinking is sexy. And you don’t need big money to do that. Big money is necessary in sciences.

The thing is that the humanities, broadly taken, is no science. It is a craft, which allows the building up of national culture. Elements of graph theory, or research on non-linear optics – this is science, and it would be good to combine it somehow with new technologies, because it is here, on the free market, where it can display its efficiency. It is different with culture. It seems too fragile to be able to hold its place in the free market, without the help of the state.

I could suggest here a number of solutions, which would support such aims of the University, for example, freeing the humanities from the obligation of parametrization, which is used to measure progress in natural sciences. Yet, instead, I will formulate a more general postulate: let’s return the University to the state. Let’s make it an element of the system of state institutions responsible for culture and national heritage.


Piotr Nowak is Professor of Philosophy at the Bialystok University in Poland, deputy editor‐in‐chief of the annual Kronos. Philosophical Journal. He is the author most recently of The Ancients and Shakespeare on Time: Some Remarks on the War of Generations. He has published, among others, in Philosophy and Literature. He is also the host of TV shows.


The featured image shows, “Lorenzo Tornabuoni Presented by Grammar to Prudentia and the other Liberal Arts,” by Sandro Botticelli, painted ca. 1483–1486.

The Decline Of Universities: A Recent History

They are little children rioting and barring out the teacher at school. But their childish delight will end; it will cost them dearly” (Fyodor Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor” in The Brothers Karamazov).

1. The Destruction of Evergreen College

In September of 2017, biology professor Brett Weinstein, a “progressive” Bernie Sanders and “Occupy Wall Street” supporter, at the very progressive Evergreen College, in very progressive Washington state, along with his similarly progressive wife, professor Heather Heying, were forced to resign from their positions at Evergreen. Professor’s Weinstein’s crime was to write a letter to the faculty at Evergreen objecting to a change in the college’s annual “day of absence” which, in past years, had been a day in which “students of color” absented themselves from the campus “in order to highlight their vital and unappreciated role” on the campus. In 2017, however, “white” students were “invited to leave the campus” for the entire day after “students of color ‘voiced concern over feeling as if they are not welcome on campus, following the 2016 election’.” Since the Evergreen campus had nothing whatsoever to do with the election of Donald Trump it is not clear what the 2016 election has to do with minority students “feeling unwelcome” on the Evergreen campus but that doesn’t matter because actual reasons are no longer required for a “felt” grievance.

Professor Weinstein’s letter objected to barring members of a particular racial group, Caucasians, from the campus because that is not “a call to consciousness” but rather is “a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.” His wife’s sin was that she wrote a public letter to the staff and faculty at Evergreen in which she criticized the college’s handling of the situation. She made no racial remarks whatsoever, but was, of course, immediately accused of being a racist.

Professors Weinstein and Heying were foolishly operating under the old rules that one should treat people on the basis of the content of their character, not the color of their skin, as opposed to the new rules that one should treat people on the basis of the color of their skin as opposed to the content of their character. As the New York Times, not exactly a bastion of white supremacy, put it, Professor Weinstein “had the gall to challenge a day of racial segregation.” Professor’s Weinstein and Heying, like many of us, had not, apparently, digested the new view that racial segregation is not racism any more, even though it had been the very definition of racism not so long ago (before it was miraculously redefined as the opposite of racism).

Indeed, the current “President” of the United States, Joe Biden, announced that he would pick his Vice-Presidential running mate on the basis of her gender and skin color, not the content of character; and he was, of course, celebrated for this racism by the “news” media. This is a turning point in American history. One now picks someone for a major position, not because he or she is qualified but because they check the boxes of “identity politics.” This is how nations end.

For his unforgiveable sin of objecting to racist segregation at Evergreen, Professor Weinstein was confronted by about 50 students outside his classroom who called him a racist and accused him of supporting white supremacy. Professor Weinstein had, of course, made no assertion of white supremacy whatsoever. However, the criterion of being a white supremacist is no longer that one is a white supremacist. The new criterion is that one disagrees with the leftist cause du jour. The college president, George Bridges, exhibiting the level of courage and commitment to principle that one has come to expect from college “presidents” and administrators these days, ordered the campus police to stand down, whereupon they informed Professor Weinstein that they could no longer guarantee his safety on campus.

As a consequence, Professor Weinstein had to hold his class in a public park (which would, no doubt, raise some thorny insurance issues, but no one was thinking of what would happen if a student were injured off campus because no one was thinking at all). President Bridges, apparently working on a comedy routine, perhaps for Saturday Night Live, called the “protestors” courageous, expressed his “gratitude” to them, and reminded everyone that freedom of speech is of great importance and must be protected – even as he allowed one of his professors and his wife to be run off the campus for exercising their right to freedom of speech. As everyone now knows, at least on our university campuses, “War is peace, freedom is slavery, and ignorance is strength.”

The truth, of course, is that the students who drove Prof. Weinstein and Professor Heying off the campus were not “protestors.” A protestor is someone who holds a sign that says that racism is wrong, or perhaps, with a flower in their hair, says, “Make love not war.” These Evergreen “protestors” were thugs employing force and intimidation to get their way. In these kinds of contexts, the word “protestor” is now an Orwellian euphemism employed by college presidents and other overpaid unfunny comedians on late night television to avoid their responsibility to describe campus thugs for what they are.

As all this was going on, photographs and names of Professor Weinstein’s students were circulated online and graffiti, “Fire Brett!” appeared on campus buildings. It is, apparently, not sufficient to destroy the professor’s career because he was not sufficiently obedient. It is now also necessary to endanger his students as well. The New York Times, commendably, quoted a line of Allen Bloom’s book, The Closing of the American Mind: “A few students discovered that pompous teachers who catechized them about academic freedom could, with a little shove, be made into dancing bears.” The students did not turn Professor Weinstein or his wife into dancing bears, but they did bag the college president quite quickly, although, admittedly, that is not the coup it once was because this is now the preordained outcome.

As a result of the student activist attacks on a distinguished faculty member who resisted racial segregation, resulting in both him and his wife being forced off the campus permanently, thereby damaging the quality of education offered to the students at Evergreen, and the President’s incomprehensible praise for the student mob, Evergreen College later had to pay Prof. Weinstein and his wife a $500,000 settlement for failing to protect them from race-based hostility and “threats of physical violence” on campus.

Further, Evergreen is being rewarded by cuts of more than 10 percent from its operating budget for 2018-2019 and raises in student fees because of declining enrollment. It would appear that parents do not wish to send their children to a “college” in which distinguished professors are threatened and forced to resign, and in which even the completely innocent students caught in the middle have their personal details posted online by perpetually aggrieved leftist thugs. Who could have seen that one coming? Not, apparently, the brilliant “president,” faculty, and student “protestors” at Evergreen.

The New York Times article also acknowledges that leftist attacks on conservative speech on university campuses have become quite common. What makes the Evergreen case noteworthy is that it is not just conservatives who are now attacked by leftist mobs but anyone, even a seriously “progressive” professor and his wife, who have had their careers as professors ended for opposing the Left’s narcissistic effort to gain an entirely symbolic token of appreciation of their vital role on campus.

Although the Left has created these ignorant snarling adolescents, believing they will be of use in achieving their political agendas, they are now relearning the hard universal truth that since these thugs will by nature never be satisfied, because their demands are based on whim, not reality, they will inevitably always want more, which, since “more” cannot be given indefinitely into the future, eventually turn on their own. Thus, progressives are now beginning to experience what conservatives have suffered for decades.

For example, immigration activists have recently protested naming a school in Chicago after Obama because he has now been designated an “oppressor.” As one of these activists put it: “If you’re removing the name of Thomas Jefferson, one oppressor, the name of Obama is another oppressor, and our families do not want to see that name.”

2. The Unmitigated Horror Of Permitting A Ben Shapiro On Campus

Another illuminating example of campus intolerance for conservatives is provided by Ben Shapiro’s attempt, sponsored by Young Americans for Freedom (YAF), to give a speech titled, “When Diversity Becomes a Problem,” at California State University at Los Angeles. Faced by the prospect of the unmitigated horror of an articulate conservative on campus (although, admittedly, Shapiro is probably smarter than most of the professors at that university, and is, therefore, not actually harmless where left wing dogma is concerned), the President of the University, William Covino, tried to have Shapiro’s event cancelled entirely and replaced by a different kind of event.

After YAF and Shapiro pushed back hard, the school backed down and said that the event could go forward without interference. However, student “protestors” (another mob) formed a human chain to prevent people from entering the event through the front door, thereby interfering with the civil rights of the people who wanted to hear Shapiro. This is not, however, seen as a problem on college campuses because the expression “civil rights” no longer means civil rights. For the uninformed, “civil rights” now means, roughly, “latest leftist preferences.”

Eventually, small groups of two or three people were able to enter the Shapiro event with escorts through the back door. When the “activists” became aware of the back-door entrance, they began to block it as well. Some of those who tried to enter the Shapiro event claimed that they were punched and (not surprisingly) called white supremacists. Recall that the expression “white supremacist” does not mean white supremacist anymore, but, rather, now means person of any race who attends a conservative lecture.

The fire alarm was pulled, a regular strategy employed by “protestors” opposed to conservative speakers on a university campus, perhaps because doing so requires no intelligence whatsoever, making it the perfect tactic for today’s leftist thugs. Students were also harassed when they tried to leave the event. Professor Melina Abdullah, one of the professors fearful of inviting such a terrifying conservative to speak on campus, called Ben Shapiro, a “Neo-Nazi” but latter admitted that since Shapiro is Jewish this is a tad ironic, and, in a minimal fake concession to reason, changed “Neo-Nazi” to “KKK.”

In order to understand Professor Abdullah, one must recall that “Neo Nazi” no longer means Neo-Nazi. It now means: someone who disagrees with the Left’s latest demands. It is also noteworthy that after the event was over, the university held a “Healing Space” to enable the university community to “heal” after Shapiro illuminated them. At this “Healing Space,” President Colvino (perhaps working with President Bridges of Evergreen University for the same comedy routine on Saturday Night Live) states that he would never invite someone like Shapiro to the campus and floated several ideas how the administration might work with student groups to find a way to prevent any similar illumination in the future.

3. Dave Rubin’s Trials At The University Of New Hampshire

Another highly illuminating example of intolerance for conservative speech on university campuses is provided by the exchange between David Rubin, a self-identified gay Jewish former leftist and a self-identified oppressed female student at the University of New Hampshire (UNH). The video (which, at the time of the writing of this article is present both on youtube.com and on Rubin’s own Facebook page under the title “Dave Rubin handles protestors at UNH”) is well worth watching because it illustrates the critical reasoning abilities, or, more precisely, the lack thereof, of the students on our contemporary university campuses. The reader is strongly encouraged to watch this video for themselves in its entirety at some point.

When Rubin opens the floor to questions, a young woman takes the microphone, but immediately complains that someone is holding the microphone for her. She says, “Free speech but he’s going to hold the microphone.” How can she survive the indignity of a male holding the microphone for her? Rubin remarks that her complaint seems silly because she is coming in “ready to fight” – to which she replies that she’s not ready to fight but that “it’s interesting that he’s holding the microphone.” In fact, it is not the least bit “interesting” that someone is holding the microphone for her and she gives no reason why it is “interesting.”

This is a typical tactic of the Left. They complain about trivialities and insinuate, without providing any evidence whatsoever, that that there is some deep and dark conspiracy behind insignificant events, in this case, the horror of someone being nice to her. If you don’t see it, you must be stupid or you are not “woke” (“woke” being the approximate synonym for the “consciousness raising” of the self-indulgent 1960s drug culture). She then proceeds to accuse Rubin of painting people at UNH of having “a victimhood complex” and adds: “As if I wake up every morning and I think, wow, how can I be a victim?”

In fact, the first thing this young lady did upon reaching the microphone was to demonstrate her “victim complex” in her comments about the microphone. The reason it is “interesting” to her that a man holds the microphone for her is that this can be used to suggest, which, of course, it objectively does not, that the man is assuming that a woman cannot hold their own microphone. It is an indignity as great as a man holding the door open for a woman.

In fact, if one watches the entire tape, one can see that the attendants hold the microphone for males as well (but that is, apparently, not as “interesting” to privileged perpetually aggrieved adolescents). In fact, the attendant is merely being “polite,” and what is actually interesting is that this kind of politeness is no longer recognized or welcome on college campuses. If one doubts that these students at UNH are privileged, the current UNH financial aid page lists the total estimated cost, including tuition, room, books, fees, etc., for state residents for the year 2020-2021 as $34,830, for regional students as $47,220 and for out of state students as $52,920.

Since this privileged young woman implies that she is an oppressed person, and since Dave Rubin is nothing if not polite, he gives her the opportunity to describe her oppression. She replies that she “has no reason to sit and talk about my own oppression because that is, like, only mental energy unless I am going to be paid to talk about my oppression” (at which point, as an alternative to pulling the fire alarm, a group of black females stand up and begin chanting “Hate speech incites violence” over and over again in order to disrupt the exchange and deny some students their civil rights to hear the talk.

After trying, unsuccessfully, to silence the chanters, Rubin offers to pay the woman at the microphone $20 dollars to describe her oppression, at which point, someone in the crowd yells, “It’s worth more than that, asshole,” to which the woman herself replies, “Yeah.”

In fact, Rubin makes a mistake here. He should not have offered to pay this woman to describe her alleged oppression. It sets a bad precedent to start offering to pay people, especially privileged college students, to complain about their lives. Further, if this woman were actually oppressed, she would not need to be paid to take such a golden opportunity to explain to a cruel world how she is oppressed. The fact that she had herself implied that she should be paid to do so, and then, after being offered money to explain how, refuses to do so, shows that she is putting on a show, in particular, a virtue-signaling show, not making a serious point about oppression. The fact that she refuses to give the reasons why she is oppressed suggests that she does not have any (at least, none that would not be greeted with derisive laughter upon being articulated). Indeed, despite the posturing about concern about oppression, the young woman makes clear that she really wants to be given money without have to work for it.

In fact, her entire bearing and attitude and contemptuous remarks to Dave Rubin, who been entirely respectful to her, suggests that the truth is the exact opposite of what she alleges. She actually sees herself as a member of a privileged group whose members are entitled to oppress perfectly decent people for no good reason except that they have different political views from her own, such as they are. The self-identified oppressed woman is actually the oppressor.

It is necessary to say “her views, such as they are,” because the young woman actually failed to articulate a serious “view” during her entire sojourn at the microphone. It used to be that one of the first things one learned upon arriving at a genuine university was that articulating a serious view is not as easy as one thinks it is, but, apparently, no more. For example, at one point, she asks Rubin if he thinks “there is a correlation between hating Jews and wanting to kill them” and informs him that “It’s a yes or no question.” She expresses astonishment when Rubin declines to answer that sort of “question” when, in fact, Rubin was entirely correct not to do so.

In order to answer a “question,” it must be formulated with sufficient precision that it is possible to answer it, and the “question” she asked, such as it is, is not formulated with anything close to the necessary precision to render it answerable, let alone, answered by either a “yes” or a “no.” The point is not difficult. If one does a serious search for scientific studies on the “correlation between hate speech and wanting to kill people,” one will not find any.

There are many quite obvious reasons why one will not find such studies. The first is that in order to set about establishing such a correlation, one would have to define “hate” speech, and the definitions of “hate” speech vary enormously in countries that have such laws. Rubin informs her that in the United States the Supreme Court (Brandenburg vs. Ohio, 1969) ruled that one cannot outlaw inflammatory speech unless it is a direct call to lawless action, a fact which she, apparently never having heard of the first amendment to the constitution, did not seem to know and which she simply dismisses because it is incompatible with her narrative.

One would think this is especially relevant to the issue since the discussion is being held in the United States. Some countries do ban “hate speech,” but she did not specify which definition she is might prefer. To take just a few examples, the definitions of “hate speech” in Iceland, Malta, Sweden and the United Kingdom vary greatly. In Scotland there are specific “hate speech” laws targeting football matches. In Norway, section 135a of the penal code includes speech that “ridicules” someone’s “philosophy of life” as “hate speech.” The horror!

One would think that students who have been inundated with lessons on respect for the differences between different cultures would not need special instruction on how difficult it will be to provide universal definitions of such problematic concepts. However, the problem with the young lady’s question is even more basic than this. She refers to a “correlation” between “hate speech” (undefined) and “wanting to kill Jews.” How would one establish such a correlation?

Perhaps one has some idea how one might go about trying to establish a correlation between people who use certain kinds of very explicit hate speech, like NAZI’s who actually call for killing Jews and the actual killing of Jews, but one has no idea how one would go about establishing a correlation between someone’s “saying hateful things about Jews” and their “wanting” to kill Jews. For, many people say hateful things about various groups all the time but do not actually want to kill them or even hurt them. As difficult as this may be for privileged adolescents to grasp, Red Sox fans who express hate against the evil Yankees do not actually “want” to kill them.

It takes only a moment’s reflection to realize how enormously difficult, except in very special narrowly circumscribed cases, it would be to attempt to establish a correlation between “hate” speech (even if one had an agreed definition of it) and what the people who use such speech actually “want” to do. To put it briefly, “wanting” is a subjective phenomenon, and, therefore, refers to something that is inherently very hard to measure. The young lady’s purported “yes or no” question is not a “yes or no” question after all. It is far too indeterminate, as formulated, to answer at all.

Indeed, that is precisely why such fake questions are so useful on today’s college campuses. Since these are not genuine questions it is impossible to answer them, which means that the sacrificial conservative will not answer it and can, therefore, be accused of not answering (unanswerable) “questions.” Rubin was attempting to have a serious discussion. The young woman who challenged him so haughtily is engaging in a childish virtue signaling exercise that clarifies nothing and helps no one.

In the distant past, in another less privileged and more serious age, one used to go to university to acquire the skills and knowledge to engage in fruitful discussions of such issues. At the present era, apparently, many people go to college to engage in narcissistic self-glorification.

Before leaving the subject of Rubin’s talk, it is useful, briefly, to consider another exchange between Rubin and a different student towards the end of his question session because it too shows much about the sorry state of our college campuses. Another young woman takes the microphone and, after making the same point about wanting to hold the microphone herself, thereby striking another completely meaningless symbolic blow for female empowerment, points out that since “women, people of color and other marginalized identities were not written into history and, therefore, into the foundation of our country… my question is, how do you think that everyone is equal and represented, if this country was founded on the principle of exclusion?”—to which the crowd erupts in a great cheer.

The woman appears to regard herself as having made the definitive point and many in the crowd apparently agree. Since this particular kind of “question” (actually, it is an assertion, specifically an accusation) is routinely raised by privileged adolescents on college campuses, it is worth addressing it directly. Rubin replies with an historical discussion about the founding fathers and their faults.

In fact, there is a much simpler three-word answer to her alleged “question;” namely, that “we have evolved.” However, in order to understand this simple answer, one must be able to understand the distinction, apparently quite elusive on many contemporary college campuses, between “then” and “now.” Once again, the young woman might have raised legitimate issues about exclusion, for there are legitimate issues that might be expressed by people serious enough to articulate them, but her aim was not to raise legitimate issues or clarify anything. It was to show that she is a member in good standing of the in-crowd—that she “cares” (in some impotent symbolic sense).

4. From The “Berkeley Free Speech Movement” To The “Berkeley Censorship Movement”

Consider next the riots that occurred at the University of California at Berkeley when, on February 1 of 2017 at 8 P.M, Milo Yiannopoulos, a British conservative, who identified as “gay” at the time was scheduled to speak (although for the record, Milo has recently announced that he is no longer “gay” and that he is now planning to open a Christian conversion therapy facility in Florida). Despite the proud tradition of supporting free speech at Berkeley, more than 100 Berkeley faculty, prior to his appearance, signed a petition urging the university to cancel the event. A group of about 1,500 people gathered on the steps of Sproul Hall to protest Milo’s talk. The protest was non-violent until another group of about 150 “black bloc” “protestors,” including members of “Antifa” and members of the left-wing group “By Any Means Necessary,” entered the crowd and began setting fires, damaging property, throwing fireworks, attacking members of the crowd, and throwing rocks at the police. The University cancelled the event soon thereafter. After the event was cancelled, the “protestors” (mob) moved downtown where they continued to break windows at businesses and banks. A Syrian Muslim was attacked by a “protestor” with a rod and pepper sprayed by a “protestor” who said “he looked like a NAZI.”

The violent reaction to Milo’s event is especially noteworthy because Berkeley was the home of the “free speech movement” in the 1960’s when many students, mostly on the Left, argued for the right to engage in political speech on campus, in particular, speech in favor of civil rights and against the Vietnam War. The “free speech movement” eventually won the argument and the political speech, much of it to the left, has spread throughout US universities.

The situation has now changed into its opposite. Whereas Berkeley, and American universities generally, defended freedom of speech as a fundamental right, these same institutions now go to great lengths to shut down conservative political speech. Jeffrey Selingo of the Washington Post contrasts the light security required when conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who opposed the “Equal Rights Amendment,” was invited to speak at his school in his undergraduate days with the fact that the appearance of conservative speakers on college campuses nowadays result “in protests with armed police officers reminiscent of a war zone and with students doing their best to interrupt speakers.”

The home of the free speech movement has now, under the influence of the Left’s conceptions of tolerance and equality, transformed into its precise opposite. Whereas the Berkeley “Free Speech Movement” of old proudly defended the right of all to free speech, the home of the free speech movement now shuts down speech by “conservatives.”

In fact, a variety of philosophers, including Hegel and Marx, have pointed out the curious way in which certain kinds of views and social systems seem inevitably, over time, to transform, dialectically, into their precise opposites – and, in fact, as if to prove them right, the leftist “peace and love” movement of the 1960’s has transformed into the leftist violence and hate movements of the present day.

One need not, however, plumb such deep and difficult philosophical notions as “dialectical logic” to see how this has happened. For the method of this precise reversal is much more mundane. Specifically, the Left has, by employing a variety of techniques, achieved sufficient numerical dominance in the faculties and administration of our colleges and universities that they are able to shut down opposing views. Now that they are in power, they do not extend the same courtesies to the “establishment” that the “establishment” formerly extended to them.

The domination of American colleges by the Left is discussed by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni (ACTA), a non-profit non-partisan organization dedicated to upholding academic standards and defending the free exchange of ideas. Members include Democrat Senator Joe Lieberman, Democrat Colorado Governor Richard Lamm, and Republican Lynn Cheney among its founders.

ACTA states that “freedom of speech is threatened on today’s college campuses” largely because of the pervasive influence of Marcusean ideas. Herbert Marcuse, one recalls, is the “father” of the “New Left,” which was founded in order to counter the fact that well-known leftist regimes like those in the Soviet Union and Communist China had an unfortunate tendency to murder many tens of millions of people in order to advance their particular visions of “equality” and “brotherhood.”

The “New Left” was marketed to American audiences as the more humane alternative that retained what is good in leftist ideas but dispensed with the distressing penchant of the “old” Left for killing people who get in their way. However, the “New Left” Marcuseans do “claim the right to silence ideas [that they] consider to be false or reactionary” because the Marcuseans see themselves “in the possession of truth and therefore entitled to impose this truth upon the rest of the academic community and eventually upon society as a whole.”

Since Marcuse sees ordinary people as incapable of making the right choices, he holds that they must be “forced to be free” by an “elite” “educational dictatorship,” an idea which Marcuse says is “easy to ridicule but hard to refute” (One Dimensional Man, Chap. 2). That is, he holds that it is acceptable to use “undemocratic means” to attain leftist goals, which, it must be admitted, is progress of a sort because censoring dissidents is preferable to killing them.

However, Marcuse does not completely eschew the use of violence to achieve the Left’s goals. In the same book, he states that “no third person, least of all the educator and intellectual, has the right to preach” non-violence to the oppressed. Marcuse here conveniently tries to have it both ways. Although he does not himself call for violence to achieve leftist goals, he states that intellectuals have no standing to criticize those who do. ACTA singles out the speech codes at the University of New Hampshire, the scene of the discussion between David Rubin and the oppressed female discussed earlier, and those at Bates College, to illustrate these points about leftist suppression of freedom of speech on college campuses.

5. The “Port Huron Statement

It should be no surprise that the contemporary university has become a vehicle of undemocratic leftist activism. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) explicitly set this out as their aim in their 1962 “Port Huron Statement.” Its author, Tom Hayden, had figured out when he reached the wise old age of 23 how the world should work if he is to judge it to meet his personal standards. The 6 key points of the Port Huron Statement for re-making the university along Hayden’s “New Leftist” lines are listed here:

  1. Any new left in America must be, in large measure, a left with real intellectual skills, committed to deliberativeness, honesty, reflection as working tools. The university permits the political life to be an adjunct to the academic one, and action to be informed by reason.
  2. A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the country. The universities are distributed in such a manner.
  3. A new left must consist of younger people who matured in the postwar world, and partially be directed to the recruitment of younger people. The university is an obvious beginning point.
  4. A new left must include liberals and socialists, the former for their relevance, the latter for their sense of thoroughgoing reforms in the system. The university is a more sensible place than a political party for these two traditions to begin to discuss their differences and look for political synthesis.
  5. A new left must start controversy across the land, if national policies and national apathy are to be reversed. The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond.
  6. A new left must transform modern complexity into issues that can be understood and felt close up by every human being. It must give form to the feelings of helplessness and indifference, so that people may see the political, social, and economic sources of their private troubles, and organize to change society. In a time of supposed prosperity, moral complacency, and political manipulation, a new left cannot rely on only aching stomachs to be the engine force of social reform. The case for change, for alternatives that will involve uncomfortable personal efforts, must be argued as never before. The university is a relevant place for all of these activities.

In each of these 6 points the Port Huron Statement identifies the university as the central place to initiate and disseminate these “New Left” programs. The language is explicitly anti-democratic. The call for political life as an “adjunct” to academic life in the university is not the call for a fair debate between the Left and the Right on university campuses. The aim is solely to advance “New Left” ideas and programs. Further, there is no suggestion that the “New Left” must attempt rationally to persuade people to accept its vision of the proper “distribution” of the “New Left” across universities and the country. On the contrary, the “Declaration” states that this distribution “must” be done.

The “Declaration” then goes on to state, categorically, that “The universities are distributed in such a manner,” not that this distribution might happen if the relevant parties agree. This is the language of religion, not democracy: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done,” except that in this case it is the will of the “human all too human” “New Left,” not that of an omniscient Deity, that “must” be done.

One might object that the reference to “action informed by reason” and “intellectual skills” in the first point does call for rational persuasion. But the Port Huron Statement only recommended intellect and reason as tools” for “action.” That is, it does not propose that the relevant communities must be rationally persuaded to accept the goals of the “New Left” but only that reason and intellectual skills must be employed by the activists to advance “New Left” causes. One requires smart activists. It does not matter if the people are smart because they are to be led by the all-knowing activists.

One might make numerous comments about the other points in this “Declaration,” but points numbers 5 and 6 are especially worthy of comment. If one ever wondered why American society is constantly being uprooted and torn asunder, why, for example, one cannot go to a baseball or football or basketball game without being lectured about alleged police brutality, why young children must be subjected at school to the “transgender bathroom” issue and other delicate topics about human sexuality that seem more appropriate for a much older age; why religious institutions, especially Christianity (for example, the “Little Sisters of the Poor”) seem to be constantly under attack, why one cannot even talk about the “Boy Scouts” anymore but only about the “Scouts,” why one is constantly being told that historical statues, even statues of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses Grant, must be torn down; why the names of sports teams, like the Cleveland Indians and Washington Redskins, and the names of High Schools, must be changed to reflect “woke” agendas, and so on, Point 5 gives the explanation.

The explanation is that “A new left must start controversy across the land” and “The ideal university is a community of controversy, within itself and in its effects on communities beyond”. There is, once again, no suggestion that the university community itself should be consulted on the question whether it wants to abandon its traditional mission of pursuing a neutral search for the truth and become a tool for starting “controversy” both within itself and “across the land.” There is no mention of any democratic process here. These are certainly not ideas to be put to “the people” for a vote. Although the Left constantly claims to want to “liberate” the people, it actually has only contempt for them (“the basket of deplorable”, “flyover country,” “Donald Trump’s credulous rube 10-toothed base,” etc.).

On the contrary, this is stated as fait accompli: “The ideal university is a community of controversy.” The university community is going to be turned into a community of controversy whether one likes it or not, and whether this interferes with learning organic chemistry, the differential calculus and Shakespeare or not. Further, this controversy will be spread to the “communities beyond” whether they like it or not. These changes will not rise up organically from “the people.” They will be imposed by all-knowing activists pursuing an a priori agenda. As Herbert Marcuse puts it in One Dimensional Man (Chap. 2), since the “slaves [the American people]” have been indoctrinated by the allegedly evil “capitalists,” they must be “forced to be free” (whether they want to or not and as the “New Left,” not themselves, understand freedom).

There is one more statement in Point # 6 that deserves special mention. If one ever wondered where the “victimhood” culture came from, part of the answer is in the statement in point # 6 that “the university must give form to people’s feelings of helplessness and indifference.” The claim here is that the Left can shape these feelings so that they can exploit them to advance their radical agenda. That is, it is no longer merely the aim of the universities to understand whatever actual objective “helplessness and indifference” may exist in society. It is to “give form” to “feelings” of helplessness and indifference,” that is, to convince people that their “private troubles” are really not private! It is to convince people that all of their private troubles are really caused by their political institutions and move people to change them. This comes straight out of Karl Marx’s Theses on Feuerbach: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point is to change it.”

The Students for a Democratic Society has been highly successful in enacting these reforms in our universities and in the “community beyond.” One might reply that this is a good thing. For, universities have always produced people who have gone on to change the world for the better, to take just a few examples, Jonas Salk, Barbara Jordan, and John Kennedy. The problem with the Port Huron Statement is that it states, so to speak, a priori, that the universities must be organized to produce people who change the world in one direction, towards the ideals of the “New Left.”

This leftist orientation was not reached by democratic means or by consensus. Although the Left standardly claims to stand for “the people,” they would certainly never think of actually asking them what they believe or want. It will be done SDS’s way. Period. As befitting our Orwellian age that they helped to create, the Students for a Democratic Society would be more accurately named the Students for an Undemocratic Society.

This should not be controversial. In fact, many points could be made here, but only one can be discussed here, namely, SDS’s treatment of women from the beginning. Although Sandra ‘Casey’ Cason (who later married Tom Hayden and became Casey Hayden) first led Tom Hayden to SDS, there was no woman’s plank in the original SDS charter. Indeed, Casey describes how at the beginning she was regarded as “one of the boys.” She also recalls how early SDS meetings were characterized by endless debates driven by young male “intellectuals” posturing and any women who made the mistake of speaking up was treated like a child who had interrupted adults. In 1962 she left Tom Hayden and SDS and returned to her home in Atlanta.

Jonathan Leaf’s A Politically Incorrect Guide to the Sixties quotes a male delegate’s report how at the 1965 SDS convention women were made to “wait on tables, clean up, get laid. That was their role.” A woman who criticized this chauvinistic attitude from the floor was shouted down with the remark “She just needs a good screw.”

In later years, when a Woman’s Liberation Workshop at SDS managed to get a resolution accepted, the New Left Notes printed the resolution with a caricature of a woman in a “baby doll dress” holding a sign that said, “We want our rights and we want them now.” See, Miriam Schneir’s 1994 article “An SDS Statement on the Liberation of Women” for additional information. In the 1969 convention, women were given just 3 hours to caucus and their call on women to struggle against their own oppression was rejected by the main body. The “Students for a Democratic Society” was never about democracy. It was about power for a certain group of “posturing” radical males who, having just arrived at the vestibule to adulthood and discovered how the universe works, decided that they deserved to dictate to the women and the rest of “the deplorables.”

Since the Left has been willing to achieve its goals by undemocratic means (that is, according to the leftist slogan of the 60’s, “by any means necessary”), they have been massively successful. The degree of their success is illustrated, for example, by the fact that “Obamacare architect” Jonathan Gruber could, while laughing, say, in front of multiple university audiences, without fear of pushback or punishment, and encouraged by the supportive laughter of these audiences, that it was “the stupidity of the American voter” that enabled the Obama-administration to hide the true cost of “Obamacare” from them.

If one is to appreciate the intolerance on contemporary American university campuses, the attacks on conservatives, the assaults on freedom of speech, the glorification of mass murderers and woman abusers like Che Guevera, the contempt for the American people (Hillary’s “basket of deplorable”), and so on, one must understand that the American university has become dominated by the Marcusean ideas enshrined in the Port Huron Statement.

With the conservative opposition banished, our universities have abandoned their traditional mission of producing tolerant good constructive citizens trained to solve problems, and have instead become left wing indoctrination tools that aim is to produce “social justice warriors (SJW’s)” determined to impose their views “by any means necessary,” first on the universities and later on the unsuspecting good-natured country at large.

The claim is not that most students and faculty are conscious card-carrying Marxists or Marcuseans or even card-carrying leftists. There was a Youtube video online for some time of a group of students at Evergreen College during the Weinstein incident who were sitting in the library trying to study but were assaulted by a screaming mob. They had just to sit there and take it until the mob was finished. It is assumed here that many, if not most, of the students and faculty on US universities, even those who are genuine tolerant liberals, wish that all the silliness and intimidation would just to away so that they can get back to learning, science, math, history, and the arts. Unfortunately, Marcusean ideas, enforced by the Left’s anti-democratic intimidation tactics, have become the “default” position, at least in public, of most university students and faculty who feel they have no choice but to kneel to the Leftist script du jour.

6. The Socialism Fantasy

The critique in the previous section does not mean that there are not problems with our heritage and history of the sort that motivate the Left. Of course, there are! But the most basic reason there are problems with our American heritage, even our “founding fathers,” is, as Plato remarked in the Theaetetus (176a), that “Evils … can never be done away with … [and] they must always haunt this region of our mortal nature.” That is, these flaws derive from human nature which is spread evenly thoroughly all the races, genders, political and economic systems and epochs.

The common leftist idea that the advent of socialism or communism will precipitate the development of a new “socialist man” and woman that will magically be free of the flaws present in human beings raised under capitalism is a childish dream more suitable for a 9th grade science fiction club than it is for serious adults. There is no evidence whatsoever that greed, violence and unhealthy competition are a product of capitalism or that these will be eliminated under socialism. The record of poverty, oppression, and mass murder in socialist and communist regimes is in fact far worse than anything one finds under capitalism.

Estimates vary, but that great socialist man of the people, Vladimir Lenin, initiated the “Red Terror” in Russia after the 1917 revolution in which, according to the Cheka Weekly, between 10,000 and 15,000 people were “summarily executed” in a few weeks alone, and that is not all of Lenin’s killings. That great socialist man of the people, Josef Stalin, is estimated to have murdered 20-27 million people for the glorious cause. That great “socialist man of the people,” Nikita Khrushchev, sometimes viewed as a “moderate” Soviet leader, is associated with purges in Ukraine that killed over 400,000 people.

It is difficult to know the number of murders that take place in North Korea because the ruling Kim family will not let anyone in to see the glorious socialist paradise. However, Hwang Jang Yop, the former chairman of the Standing Committee of the Supreme People’s Assembly in North Korea, a position he held for 11 years, defected to the South Korea in 1997 and described the millions of deaths in North Korea due to starvation. In April 2010, the South Korean National Intelligence Service arrested two North Korean agents who had allegedly been sent to assassinate Yop. Asked about the assassination attempt, Yop remarked, “Death is just death. There is no difference from dying of old age or being killed by Kim Jong-il.” After his defection, Yop wife, still in North Korea, died by suicide, and one of Yop’s daughters died under mysteriously by falling off a truck. Yop’s other children, a daughter and a son, as well his grandchildren, are thought to have been sent to labour camps; perhaps to refresh their revolutionary zeal.

That great socialist man of the people, Mao, is estimated to have murdered 80 million people. In December 2005, a Wall Street Journal article estimates that the regime of the great socialist man of the people, Fidel Castro, may have murdered up to 14,000 people. It may explain a lot about our so-called “news media” that Ted Turner, the former owner of CNN whose net worth is estimated at 2.2 billion capitalist dollars, told Bill O’Reilly that there were some things he admired about this mass murdering communist.

In October of 2017 a Washington Post article states that the regime of this great socialist man of the people in Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, murdered many thousands of people. A 2019 article in Reuters reports that human rights groups estimate that the great socialist and Marxist “man of the people” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe killed “as many as 20,000 people… in western Zimbabwe, most of them ethnic Ndebele.” People forget that Jim Jones, who murdered 918 commune members with poisoned Kool-Aid, 304 of them children, described himself as a Marxist and an admirer of Cuba and the Soviet Union and promised a “socialist Eden” on earth to his followers.

Of course, that great “socialist man of the people,” Che Guevara, did not have time to murder as many people as the true greats, Stalin or Mao, but a March 2020 History.com article estimates that 144 people were murdered on Che’s extra-judicial orders in Cuba. Guevara further increased his body count after Castro got fed up with him and kicked him out of Cuba.

Eric Luther, in his 2001 book on Guevara explains that Guevara’s first murder by his own hand was of his “friend,” Eutímio Guerra, a peasant army guide who admitted that he gave information on the rebel’s position to the Cuban government. There was, of course, no trial. There was no time for real justice, so “social justice” had to do. Che put a pistol to Eutímio’s head and blew his friend’s brains out. Jon Lee Anderson in his 1997 book on Guevara describes how this great “socialist man of the people” eventually developed a “remarkable detachment to violence.” One could go on, but at a certain point one must realize that the mass murder in socialist and communist regimes in not an accident but is standard practice.

Despite the excellent socialist marketing campaign in our universities and now in the US congress, socialist leaders are not magically immune to greed, just as they are, astonishingly, not immune to the rest of human nature either. Quite the contrary! It is almost impossible to measure the total wealth of that great “socialist” man of the people, the ruler of the Soviet Union from the mid-1920’s until 1953, Joseph Stalin, because, as a complete dictator, having mingled his wealth with that of the state, he is estimated to have acquired about 5.8 Trillion pounds (about 9 Trillion dollars).

Nikita Khrushchev, who ruled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics from 1953 to 1964, is estimated to have amassed 50 million dollars while his beloved “workers of the world” were standing for hours in queues to get a head of cabbage. Nicolae Ceausescu who rose through the socialist ranks until he became the communist ruler of Romania from 1974 to 1989 is estimated by Idol Net Worth to have amassed about 5 million dollars while at least a hundred thousand children suffered and died from malnutrition in his orphanages.

Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Fidel Castro at 900,000 dollars while his people were going blind from malnutrition and vitamin deficiency. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of his brother, that great “socialist man of the people,” Raoul Castro, who had not been in power long enough to grab as much as Fidel, at a paltry 100 million dollars. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua as a mere 50 million dollars. In 2018 the New York Times reported that the adult Ortega children have somehow managed to run everything from gasoline distribution to the television stations in Nicaragua. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people” Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a mere 20 million dollars, but, of course, there was not as much in Zimbabwe to steal so his relatively small portfolio is forgivable. Celebrity Net Worth estimates the net worth of that great “socialist man of the people,” Hugo Chavez, at about 1 billion dollars for his short tenure as president of the country.

For the record, Salon is a strongly “progressive” website that, based on its self-proclaimed superior “capacity for intelligence and rational thinking,” in 2013 praised Hugo Chavez’ socialist “economic miracle” in Venezuela – which was, of course, prior to the more recent Venezuelan socialist economic miracle of people eating their pets and trees in order to survive

Celebrity net worth estimates the net worth of that great socialist-communism “man of the people” Kim Jon Un at 5 billion dollars, with up to 20 palaces scattered around North Korea for his personal use, perhaps to rest as he refines his vision of the socialist utopia, while children in his country, genetically identical with south Korean children, are up to two inches shorter due to malnutrition.

Closer to home in the United States, the revered “socialist” pioneer “man of the people,” Bernie Sanders, who stated with practiced moral fervor in the 1970s that no one needs more than 1 million dollars, is now estimated to own 3 homes and be worth 2.5 million dollars. This does not count the take of Bernie Sander’s wife, Jane O’Meara Sanders, who managed to amass about 1.5 million dollars as a social worker and college administrator. There is good news and bad news about Jane’s tenure as President of Burlington College in Vermont. The good news is that when she resigned in 2011 from her 139,000 dollars a year salary, with substantial additional benefits, after her “ambitious plans” for the college, in which she overstated donations to it, failed to work out, costing a local Catholic Church dearly, Jane received a $200,000 dollars severance package to soften to blow to her portfolio. As a reward for her brilliant “leadership”, she was soon, perhaps in a poor attempt at humor, appointed to the Vermont Economic Development Authority. The bad news is that, due to “longstanding financial woes,” including the “crushing weight of the debt” undertaken by the college when Jane led them to buy the property from the Catholic Diocese, Burlington College shut down completely several years later, throwing many socialists and non-socialists alike equally out of work and ending the education dreams of many students. In any case, this makes Bernie and Jane a socialist American “power couple” with a joint net worth of 4 million capitalist dollars and multiple homes in which to plan the utopia.

The great “socialist man of the people,” Tom Hayden, who authored the Port Huron Statement, ended up, according to Celebrity Net Worth, with about 33 million capitalist dollars in his bank account, most of which he got in a divorce settlement from Jane Fonda. Jane herself, much beloved in North Vietnam and Hollywood for her picture with the anti-aircraft guns being used to shoot down American pilots in the Vietnam War, has amassed a quite respectable 200 million dollars. Quite surprisingly, Jane, unjustly stuck at a paltry 200 million dollars, is not giving her “Workout Collection” video tapes to the oppressed “workers of the world” for free but, rather, the tapes can now be purchased on Amazon.com for a mere 49 capitalist dollars.

Milton Friedman and F.A. Hayek argue that there are reasons why, far from producing a new “socialist man” free of the greed and violence that characterizes the evil “capitalists,” socialism actually tends to produce far more ruthless and greedy leaders than anything seen in capitalist countries. One might make many points in support of Friedman’s and Hayek’s contention but I give only two here.

First, in contrast with capitalism, in which the “ownership of the means of production” is spread out over a plethora of competing capitalists, “the means of production” in a socialist regime is concentrated in one central authority,” usually the state. But it is inherently dangerous to concentrate so much power in one central authority. For, if the state controls the means of producing houses, cars, houses, factories, medicine and health care, then it is very easy for state actors to use that exclusive power to help political supporters and punish political enemies.

In a capitalist state, by contrast, with a genuine free market, if person X does not like the health care they get from supplier A, X may simply decide to patronize a different supplier B. Further, since it is in A’s interest to keep X’s purchasing loyalty, A is motivated to deliver the best possible health care to X. Thus, in a “free market,” it is inherently difficult to employ ownership of “the means of production” to punish people, but if any one supplier does become unfair or dictatorial, as they sometimes do (“woke” corporations Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook come to mind), that fact alone provides an incentive for a competitor to arise to capture this new group of disaffected buyers.  This liberating competition does not happen in a “single payer” system.

By contrast, a socialist system is perfectly designed to make it easy for the government to punish political enemies and provide a perfect excuse for doing so: “Please get into the queue, comrade, for the liver cancer operations and wait your turn! The Central Committee of the Party is compiling the list as we speak.” The common belief in the United States that a “single payer health care” system, that is, a system in which the single payer for all health care costs is the government, will eliminate injustice in the field of health care is foolish in the extreme. For control of the “single payer” system by a single central government authority is tailor made for political payback and government abuse of power.

The second reason a socialist system is inherently dangerous derives from the very thing that makes it so attractive to people, especially young people lacking in self-knowledge and inexperienced in the ways of the world. For the socialist leader does not merely claim that they are going to produce a better kind of car, perhaps a car that gets 5 % better gas mileage than the nearest competitor. The socialist leader claims they are going to produce the utopia of a universal “brotherhood” characterized by absolute equality and “social justice,” and, following upon that, the emergence of a new kind of “socialist man” and woman free of the oppressive greed of the “capitalist man” and woman.

But this means that the stakes of leadership in a socialist system are enormously high. For example, the former “comrades” and friends, Trotsky and Stalin, with their competing visions of the socialist state, vied for control of the emerging Soviet Union. Whereas the differences between two different visions of the 1971 Mustang is not likely to be seen to be sufficient to justify the murder of the proponent of the one design by the proponent of the other, Trotsky and Stalin promoted quite different visions of the glorious Soviet socialist utopia. The differences between these two visions are literally cosmic. A whole new world (and a whole new “socialist man” appropriate to that world) never before seen on the face of the earth is being created. Stalin is not just trying to produce a better Mustang than Trotsky. He is trying, like God, to create a whole new and better world than Trotsky. Since the stakes are so high, Trotsky cannot be allowed to succeed.

In 1929 Trotsky was exiled to Turkey by Stalin, but eventually ended up in Mexico. After surviving one failed assassination attempt in May of 1940 in Mexico, Trotsky wrote an article titled “Stalin seeks my Death.” In August of that same year, Trotsky was attacked in his study by Spanish communist Ramon Mercader with an ice axe. The blow penetrated 2.4 inches into Trotsky’s brain but failed to kill him immediately. He died a day later from loss of blood. And Trotsky and Stalin and once been close friends and comrades. So much for the heroic socialist brotherhood. The Messianic quality of socialism, the adolescent dream of a whole new world free of injustice, is among its most dangerous features.

7. “Social Injustice Warriors” and Sophistry

Since indoctrination and obedience can only be maintained when they are “justified” by a plethora of sophistries, the most popular arguments in our universities, and the arguments routinely regarded by the Left as definitive, are the arguments that a view is wrong if it is racist, sexist, homophobic and the like. In fact, these kinds of arguments can be found in the section titled “ad hominem fallacies” in any standard logic and critical reasoning text book. The claim that a view is wrong because it is racist, sexist, homophobic and the like is an attempt to avoid the onerous necessity of arguing against that view by employing legitimate rational methods. If, for example, someone says that it is racist to say that illegal immigration should be stopped, the proper response should be, “But is that true? Let’s look at the facts and the relevant moral principles and discuss the matter.”

It is a fundamental logical point that one cannot determine whether a view is racist, sexist, homophobic, etc., without first independently determining the relevant facts and moral principles. Thus, these arguments also commit the fallacy of “begging the question,” that is, assuming what they purport to prove.

For example, if there is in fact a crisis at the border, that is, if there is an abusive people-smuggling ring exploiting laxity at the southern border, if there is a large amount of dangerous drugs smuggled across the southern border, if there are not sufficient resources available in place to care for people who enter illegally through the southern border, thereby putting them in danger, if a large influx of people illegally entering depresses the job market for poorer American citizens and so on, then it cannot be racist to say that illegal immigration should be prevented.

The immediate jump by the Left to the charge that it is racist to make these sorts of points is a transparent attempt to avoid the discussion of these relevant issues (and the main reason the Left usually wants to avoid a fair discussion of these issues is that it cannot win in a fair debate). The easy accusations of racism, sexism, homophobia and the like by the Left are an attempt to exempt themselves from the onerous trouble of thinking – that is, to excuse themselves from what used to be the whole point of an education. Thus, the various left-wing indoctrination tools employed in the university must at the same time be supported by a pervasive set of left-wing sophistry tools.

It is worth mentioning, at least briefly, the role of “Post-Modernism” in honing the systematic use of sophistry to achieve political ends in our universities. Although “Post-Modernism” deserves a more sustained treatment, the basic point for present purposes is that it is a relativist view that dispenses with the notion of “objective truth” in favor of the view that there are just different narratives about the world.

Whereas Marx believed in objective truth, later leftists, perhaps because of the perceived failures of Marxism, formed an alliance with “post-Modernism” that has cleared the way for the wholesale embrace of sophistry in order to achieve their political ends. For, the elimination of the notion of “objective truth” leaves a lacuna in human thought that will be filled by something. Since the notion of “objective truth” places limits on the tendencies toward excesses in human thought, the elimination of this notion gives free reign to the idea that it is legitimate to use one’s cognitive faculties simply for the pursuit of power.

Since SJW’s are prepared to use undemocratic means, including, not only systematic sophistry, but also intimidation and violence, to achieve their ends, the expression “social justice warrior” is, in fact, a euphemism for “social injustice warrior.” The fact that our universities are largely run by “social injustice warriors” is amply illustrated by the treatment of progressive Professor Weinstein and his wife, but also by the infantile and thuggish reactions to harmless conservative speakers like Ben Shapiro on college campuses. The students who pull fire alarms or chant slogans like “Hate speech promotes violence”) are more than happy to violate other people’s civil rights and dole out social injustice to those who disagree with them.

Once a certain tipping point is reached, and there is no longer any check on leftist ideas in the universities, there is no limit on how extreme the Left can become. A professor at Drexel University in October of 2017 can tweet, “All I want for Christmas is white genocide” and then claim victim status after he was forced to resign his position, but not, of course, by the university, which, apparently, does not consider the call for mass murder as a firing offence. In an additional pathetic chapter to this story, this former Drexel professor later put the following comment on Facebook: “I’m glad to announce that, starting today, I will be a Visiting Scholar at NYU’s Hemispheric Institute of Performance and Politics. Happy New Year!” It is, apparently, not inconsistent with NYU’s enlightened system of values to call for the genocide of a whole race of people – as long as one is murdering the right people. One does not have to be a conservative to recognize that calling for mass murder may not be the best way to solve the problem – should, that is, actually solving problems, as opposed to virtue-signaling (and other forms of self-promotion), even be the aim anymore.

8. “The Worse Things Are, The Better They Are”

Since many of the proposals put forward by the Left are transparently not designed to solve any problems, but are more like to exacerbate them, one should make the obvious inference. These members of the Left do not actually want to solve the problems. They want to make them worse. Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the 1917 Russian communist revolution, is reported to have said that “the worse things are, the better they are.” What this means is that that one is not going to bring about the glorious socialist or communist revolution if people are content with their lives. Recall SDS’s view that one must convince people that their private troubles are really caused by societal factors and require political change.

On the contrary, if the glorious socialist or communist revolution is to take place “the people” must be maintained in a state of misery. If they are content with their lives, they must be changed to become discontented with their lives. The left often does not, therefore, actually want to solve problems. If conservatives, or even what remains of the genuine liberals, are permitted actually to solve the problems and lift the poor out of poverty, thereby enabling them to achieve dignity and self-respect, the socialist or communist revolution is off (and with it the well-paid careers of a bevy of leftist politicians and functionaries).

For example, one would think that the Democrat Party and the Black Caucus in Congress would have been pleased when Donald Trump was able to announce at his first State of the Union address that black unemployment was at an all-time low (a claim that Politifact, not a right-wing outlet, rated as “mostly true”). Instead, the Democrat side of the aisle and large majority of the “Black caucus” scowled and sat on their hands at the good news for the black community. Sometimes the most obvious inference is the best one. The left is not interested in solving the problems of the poor. They have a different agenda. For the elite Left depends on a dependent miserable aggrieved underclass to justify their own existence and keep themselves in wealth and power.

9. The Decline In Our Primary And Secondary Educational Institutions

Since the university is the source of much of our current political discourse, and since many of our political and cultural leaders come through the university system, the corruption of the universities has led to the corruption of most of our cultural institutions, including not only the “media” and the “arts,” such as they are, but also our primary and secondary education.

Consider the state of our primary and secondary schools in the United States! Since the teachers and administration at these institutions are almost invariably a product of the university system, the effect of leftist intimidation of the universities is reflected there as well. The Brookings Institute, which is not a conservative organization, and whose employees tend to support democrats, describes the poor state of US primary and secondary education:

For private education, from pre-K through secondary, prices are 8.5 times higher now than in 1980. For public schools, the rise is lower—4.7 from 1980 to 2013 —but still far above general inflation… but learning has stagnated. For the nation’s 17-year-olds, there have been no gains in literacy since the National Assessment of Educational Progress began in 1971. The long-term stagnation cannot be attributed to racial or ethnic differences in the U.S. population. Literacy scores for white students peaked in 1975; in math, scores peaked in the early 1990s.

It is, therefore, not surprising that the United States is outperformed by many countries at the international level, not only by Singapore and Hong Kong, but even countries like Vietnam that had not so long ago been bombed to oblivion during the Vietnam war and now spend much less per student on education. Singapore tops the list in primary school math, secondary school math, primary school science and secondary school science. In 2016 it was reported that the United States only scores 10th for secondary school math, outperformed even by the relatively poor country of Kazakhstan. The United States is not even in the top 10 for primary school math. The United States is not in the top 10 for secondary school science, outperformed by Slovenia and Kazakhstan. The United States scores tenth for primary school science education, outperformed by Poland and Kazakhstan.

There are, no doubt, many factors for this poor showing. However, since the primary and secondary schools are staffed predominately by people who go through our universities, leftist bias in education, and the ensuing cultural decline, starts long before college. Since the Left emphasizes “social justice” over basic education (reading, writing, mathematics, and science), students from US primary and secondary schools will have learned to feel aggrieved, or, perhaps, learned to feel guilty for other people’s grievances in which they personally had no hand whatsoever. What they will not have learned, unfortunately, is mathematics, science, or reading and writing skills that will enable them to compete with students in Singapore, Hong Kong, Poland, Slovenia, Kazakhstan or Vietnam. The problem is now severe enough that it is a matter of national security.

The fact that America’s educational system, from primary school through university, is in such a state of decline should not be a surprise. When, under the pressure of leftist activists, one prioritizes “social justice” (sometimes social injustice of the sort witnessed at Evergreen University, the University of New Hampshire, Berkeley and so on) over a neutral pursuit of the truth, one gets waves of students highly sensitized to their series of grievances but not very good in math, science, or writing (or, as at the University of New Hampshire, for formulating a coherent position at a public talk).

Since the decline in education standards is evenly spread across the board, the average American may not feel the effects of the decline in at the present time. But when America’s chief competitors, like China and Russia, surpass it, Americans will soon learn the difference between the “woke” grievances conjured by privileged political activists in Sociology 101 and the real grievances that will be imposed on them by their rather less gentle external enemies.

10. What About Real Grievances?

It may be objected that the present article makes light of the real grievances experienced by many groups, for example, black people, Native Americans, women, handicapped people or LGBT people throughout in American history. In fact, the present argument makes no effort whatsoever to deny that such grievances exist, that many of them have considerable merit, and that the university is one of the places in which it is appropriate to address them. The present argument is only opposed to the a priori political activism imposed on our universities at the expense of the traditional mission of a neutral pursuit of the truth as laid out by the Port Huron Statement.

It is only when the discussions of social problems and human grievances is framed a priori in favor of the Left (“A new left must be distributed in significant social roles throughout the country. The universities are distributed in such a manner”), that the university is turned from its proper mission to understand the world to an improper Marxist mission to change it. For, the latter alternative makes the decline in standards that is evident throughout our educational institutions today inevitable.

Putting on a pair of “blinders,” especially ideological blinders, is never a wise way to set about actually solving social problems. If one structures the university around leftist agendas then the results of studies and investigations within the university will be that capitalism, “the Patriarchy,” Systemic Racism” and the like are the cause of all our ills – because that is the a priori assumption one begins with. Tautologies may be comforting, as our political class and the “news” media know very well, but they never yield any real insight into the problems.

Since history shows that the problems are best resolved when the universities maintain a free and fair environment undistorted by any a priori political ideology from either the Left or the Right, the leftist domination of the American university beginning in the 1960s, accompanied by the usual threats and censorship, can, therefore, only guarantee that the real problems will not be satisfactorily solved and that a more just and fair society will not be produced. Quite the contrary! Ideological blindness can only lead to injustice and misery. The present paper does not, therefore, argue that the various social problems and grievances should not be addressed within the university. It only argues that these can only be properly addressed in the free and fair environment that preceded leftist intimidation that began in the 1960’s.

The usual reply to this argument is that things were not very good to the various minorities prior to leftist intimidation of the universities. After all, “the Patriarchy,” “capitalism” and other abstractions, we have been told, ruled with an iron fist. In fact, this is easily refuted. The fact that the Left is so well represented in the contemporary university and is permitted, even encouraged, to make their criticisms and demands, testifies to the fact that these exaggerated claims are not true.

For, once a group claiming victim status stand up in America and makes its case, the culture generally responds quite quickly at multiple levels. It is, of course, true that aggrieved groups must step up and make their case. They cannot expect “the System” or “the Patriarchy” to make their case for them – or do they? There is, therefore, a sense in which the exaggerated left-wing criticisms of “the system,” “the Patriarchy,” and “capitalism” are self-refuting. For, if those criticisms were true, if, that is, the “System,” “capitalism” or “the Patriarchy” were really were so oppressive as the Left claims they are, the plethora of aggrieved anti-democratic university activists making them would not occupy their present privileged positions.

11. Choosing Ignorance

In the “old days,” when children went to the university to learn, rather than to teach, the traditional mission of the university was understood to be to provide a neutral free and fair environment for the discussion of all views as the best means for arriving at the best ideas and solutions to problems. When problems were pointed out, e.g., the dearth of women and minority students, rational arguments were put forward to rectify this situation and female and minority representation in the universities increased dramatically.

For example, whereas male enrolment in US universities 1967 was almost double that of female enrollment, Wendy Wang and Kim Parker for the Pew Research pointed out females caught up with males in university enrolment around 1990 and that the United States now experiences “a ‘reverse’ gender gap where women are more likely than men to go to college. By 2009, a record 44% of young women were enrolled in college, compared with 38% of young men.” The same study points out that the female graduation rate has now surpassed that for males.

Similarly, a 2015 article in The Atlantic by Andrew McGill describes the changes in black enrollment in tertiary institutions:

Since 1994, black enrollment has doubled at institutions that primarily grant associate degrees, including community colleges. In 2013, black students accounted for 16 percent of the student body there, versus 11 percent in 1994. Universities focusing on Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral degrees also broadly saw gains, with blacks making up 14 percent of the population, compared to 11 percent in 1994.

Not everyone, however, was happy with these successes. Since solving social problems does not produce enough unhappy leftist revolutionaries, a group of radical “New Leftists” in the Students for a Democratic Society plotted to change American universities as a first step towards changing America as a whole. They did not, however, as their name might suggest, propose to do this by democratic means. They did not set out to convince the American people by open and transparent rational arguments that the traditional neutral mission of free and fair discussion needed to be changed. Since the traditional university system had been so successful, this would be almost impossible to do. Rather, they developed a plan to “distribute” leftists across the universities and set about carrying this out. In response to grievances, whole new departments, programs, and hiring practices were quickly established in response to these leftist demands.

Since the primary aim of the leftists is the advancement of their ideas and programs, once they achieved a “critical mass” in the universities, they used their newfound power, conferred on them surprisingly easily by the implacable evil oppressive “Patriarchy,” to make adherence to these leftist ideas, as opposed to the neutral pursuit of the truth, the primary criteria for hiring and policy decisions. As a consequence, the Left’s power in the US universities grew, leading to further control over the hiring and policy decisions, in an ever-repeating cycle.

The notion of a meritocracy, intrinsically suspicious because it had been so successful at producing a level of national wealth and power unmatched in human history, was decreed to be verboten by the intolerant Left and had to be abandoned. As a result, the Left now enjoys a dominant position of power in most university faculties and administrations. Conservatives, and sometimes even moderates and progressives that do not follow the script du jour closely or quickly enough, as at Evergreen University, are literally afraid to express themselves in the “Ivory Tower” citadel of ideas. The Port Huron “New Left” plan has been successful beyond its wildest dreams. In this way, the traditional formula for success in US universities was replaced by a formula for failure.

The fact that the Left was able to take over the universities so quickly and so easily might lead a neutral observer to think that these abstractions conjured in Sociology 101, such as “the Patriarchy” and “the Capitalist System,” to explain all of our sins, real and imagined, do not really exist, but, since the neutral observers no longer exist, or, to be more precise, since the ones who do exist in the university are afraid to speak up, no one is left to point this out.

As a consequence, over a period of time, the peaceful environment for the free and fair discussion of issues was replaced by the leftist mobs that threw progressive Professors Weinstein and Heying out of Evergreen University for questioning their adolescent racist plans, that insulted Dave Rubin for talking politely, even when they gratuitously insulted him, to students in a public talk, and that rioted, set fires and beat people at the home of the Berkeley “free speech movement” when gay British conservative Milo Yiannopoulos attempted to state his point of view. Ironically, it was often “conservatives,” who still retain the old-fashioned notions of freedom of speech and other fundamental democratic principles, that spoke up in defense of the progressive professors Weinstein and Heying and “gay” speakers Rubin and Yiannopoulos.

In the Gorgias, Plato has Socrates argue that it is better to lose an argument than to win it (because one learns something new when one loses the argument but not when one wins one). The current state of our universities can be explained by the fact that, dominated by the censorship and intimidation employed by the Left, they have chosen not to learn anything new. They will not lose any arguments because they will not engage in any arguments they cannot “win.” Anyone foolish enough to argue against the Left will be driven off campus; or, if they are lucky, will merely have to endure students, sometimes, unfortunately, supported by members of the faculty and administration, ringing cow bells, pulling fire alarms or chanting juvenile slogans to prevent them from being heard. As a consequence, discussions in the universities are reduced to a continuous virtue-signaling rehearsal of leftist ideas, which, inevitably leads to even sillier ideas.

Since the a priori goal of the universities is now the promotion of leftist ideas on and off campus, objections to these ideas will either be censored altogether or “refuted” by invoking transparent sophistries. When, therefore, reality intrudes and these leftist ideas fail, perhaps leading, in “progressive” cities, to soaring poverty and crime rates, sprawling unhealthy tent cities, “poop” maps to protect tourists from the odoriferous truth, and discarded needles everywhere, it will be impossible to solve these problems because it will be impossible even to “see” them (describe them) for what they are. For it has been decreed, a priori, that social problems cannot be caused by the leftist ideas or policies because everyone knows the Left only seeks equality and “social justice” and that these problems must be “caused” (in some notion of “causation” not found anywhere in the history of science or in any leftist’s head) by “the class struggle,” “the Patriarchy” or “systemic racism.” If anyone disagrees with this, let them formulate a properly formulated testable causal law, hopefully in grammatical English, linking “the Patriarchy” or “systemic racism,” with the presence of used needles and poop all over San Francisco streets.

12. Reversing The Decline

The question arises whether this decline of the United States into an intolerant “war of all against all” can be reversed? There are many reasons to think that it is already too late. For a psychosis of intolerance involving an obsessive unrealistic way of thinking has entered our national mentality and one feature of the psychosis is that those who have it do not see it as a psychosis, but, rather, as wisdom incarnate. Another feature of the intolerance-psychosis is that those who have it see those who do not have it as evil. Normally, one would look to the more rational elements in our institutions, in particular, our universities, to resist this kind of destructive movement.

The problem is that since the root of the psychosis is the universities, and since they provide the people to fill the rest of the influential positions in society, none of these leading influential institutions are interested. In some cases, the remedy lies as close as the nearest critical reasoning textbook but since that was written by “the Patriarchy,” it cannot be trusted and is only invoked in special cases when it can be useful.

Something similar can be said of other parts of the “education industry,” the “news” media, and the “government,” most of whose members have been produced by the same “cookie cutter” assembly line in the universities. Filled with the massive pride and self-certainty of people who live inside the leftist bubble and suffer only to talk with the faithful, they are certainly not going to do it themselves. “It is the pride of a child and a schoolboy.” (Dostoevsky, “The Grand Inquisitor”).

This leaves only “the people” to repair the situation, and it may be that students and parents, finally appalled by the kind of intolerance, censorship, hate and rank infantilism exhibited at so many other universities may begin looking for alternatives to traditional university education in sufficient numbers to force the universities to reform. Unfortunately, since “the people” have been declared by the all-knowing elites to be “a basket of deplorables,” the all-knowing elites in the ‘Biden administration’ are currently preparing “domestic terrorism” guidelines to monitor these dangerous individualistic freedom-mongers more closely for thought-crimes.

In the United States, “the people” used to be respected as the ultimate authority in the American democratic system. Unfortunately, since they, with their dangerous tendencies towards individuality, self-respect and freedom of thought, stand in the way of the elite’s plans to control everybody’s lives, prospects for individual freedom and human dignity in the United States do not look very good at the moment. However, reality can be surprising. The massive levels of transparent “in your face” greed, incompetence and corruption in Washington D.C. may help the Constitution and the rule of law make a comeback. It is, therefore, necessary to keep working toward the recovery of our freedom and dignity should the chance arise to claim it.

But one thing is for sure. No matter what changes one makes in other parts of the society, no matter how many laws one passes, no matter how much money one raises and spends, no matter how many conservatives one puts into office, no matter how many constitutionalist judges one puts in the courts, no matter how many carefully reasoned books and articles one publishes,, the intolerance psychosis that infects our society will not be healed until our universities, and, consequent upon that, the rest of our “educational” system and other societal institutions are “liberated” from their leftist “liberators” and returned to normalcy.

It is important, however, not to deceive oneself. Since a corrupt leftist dominated university system will continue, following SDS’s plan, to “distribute” leftist anti-American activists throughout the entire society, poisoning every institution against the country and its traditions, if we cannot return our universities to their traditional proper mission of providing a genuinely neutral free and fair forum for the discussion of all issues, nothing else we do can make any real difference to the emerging tyranny. Conservatives require only a free and fair discussion. Nothing more. The censorship and “cancel culture” that have poisoned American society began in the universities; and they must be ended there before the country can heal itself. Conservatives are happy to let Marxists, communists and socialists have their say. It is the Left, supported by their capitalist child billionaires in Silicon Valley and the partisan Lilliputians in the “news” media that, knowing the outcome of free and fair discussions, fears freedom.


Richard McDonough is the author of two books, numerous articles, encyclopedia and dictionary entries, and book reviews. He has taught previously at Bates College, the National University of Singapore, the University of Tulsa, the University Putra Malaysia, the Overseas Family College, the PSB Academy, the University of Maryland, the Arium Academy, and James Cook University. In addition to philosophy, he has taught psychology, physics, humanities and writing courses.


The featured image shows and anonymous work from the 18th century.

After The Anti-Racist Struggle At Trinity College – The Wokeness Crown

There is nothing novel about the gravamens of “anti-Black racism” that Mayo Moran, the Provost of Trinity College at the University of Toronto, has been laying down over the last half year. Indeed, it is rather disappointing how pedestrian her pronouncements have been. When Canadian university faculty and administrators were swept up in the Great George Floyd Moral Panic of 2020 in May and June, Moran like others declared that she had suddenly discovered wide-ranging racism plaguing Trinity and announced plans for complete therapy.

As elsewhere, Moran is now taking this movement in its logical direction of abandoning deliberation and procedure in favor of revolutionary action. In November 2020, she promised that the “recommendations” due to be made by an “anti-racism task force” by the end of the year would be treated not so much as recommendations as commandments: “Our goal is to begin implementation as soon as possible.”

The idea that there is a crisis of “anti-Black racism” at Trinity, or elsewhere on Canadian college campuses, is absurd, and everyone knows it. Alongside First Nations students, black students are the most coddled and privileged members of the campus community. When three black Trinity students of the college’s Multicultural Society wrote in the university newspaper this summer about the intolerable suffering of “anti-Black racism rampant in the dining hall, the quad, and on the front steps” of the college, the most they could come up in specifics was that they had “heard of” some black students being treated rudely during orientation.

When I went to Trinity, being treated rudely during orientation was one of the purposes of the exercise, creating solidarity with one’s fellow classmen and good-natured connections to upper classmen. The three black students would have Trinity redesign its orientation with special rules for the treatment of black freshmen, surely an ironical aim for a group devoted to “inclusion.”

The other charge of pervasive anti-black racism the students made was that Trinity student groups – which include the Trivia Association, the James Bond Society, and the Garlic Bread Society – had not issued pro-Black Lives Matter statements during the summer. These non-compliant student groups, they charged, were “rooted in hate and further the exclusion of Black students at Trinity.” From what I can tell, their Multicultural Society did not issue a letter of condolence on the death of Sean Connery in deference to the feelings of the James Bond Society either. Shocking.

The totalitarian face of any political movement is never so clear as when it demands complete deference to its agenda from others in a pluralistic world. Like Provost Moran, these three students believe that the purpose of a university or college is to take a position on controversial social issues of the day and then rigorously enforce conformity among all students – sort of like the Marxist doctrines that animated the BLM movement in the first place.

In good Leninist form, the students also warned darkly that “people are choosing to protect their own images rather than acknowledging their faults” without naming anyone in particular. Perhaps sensing the threat, the college’s three main student leaders stepped down and apologized for their skin color: “As white and privileged leaders, we are the very people who have benefited from these institutions. We wholeheartedly believe that these structures need to be taken down.” This was the only blatantly racist episode that Trinity experienced over the summer, but of course it was the sort of performative virtue-signalling that progressive administrators like Moran look upon with loving kindness.

To charges of rampant racism, student radicals at the college later added rampant misogyny and “classism” (to be distinguished from classicism which these students may not have heard about in their years of thought reform at Trinity). This new Holy Trinity – race, class, and gender – has now replaced the older one that sought God’s truth.

Following the cue of the “white and privileged” students to “take down” the 170-year old college, Provost Moran and her “task force” are running headlong into a transformation of Trinity from a place of education into something truly sinister. There is already a student-led “Trinity Anti-Racism Collective” formed this year, and if its writ is as large as the Provost’s actions suggest, the college might simply rename itself accordingly as part of its Woke rebranding.

Such a renaming would at least help the shrinking number of intellectually curious high school students – as opposed to those adept at the virtue-signaling, performative moralizing, and careerist box-checking – to begin seeking out alternative places for a serious education. The list of elite colleges in the U.S. that have suffered this fate is a long one and Trinity may soon join them. Along with the disappearance of top students will go a disappearance of the “excruciating whiteness” that the organizers of the Trinity Multicultural Society insisted forced them to mobilize in 2018. During the current academic year, just 2 of Trinity’s 10 student leaders are white. Surely there will be no more excruciating whiteness once the whites have been sent packing. This is of course a problem from Trinity because there is wide evidence that top-performing high school students will avoid ethnic ghettos where the majority group has been ethnically cleansed since those places will not help them to thrive in mainstream society or to form valuable social connections.

So why care about this predictable response from Provost Moran and her anti-racist task force, any more than we care about similar developments elsewhere on Canadian college campuses? Isn’t this just the way the campus has gone, and the evidence that Canadians interested in freedom of thought and speech and a vigorous contest of ideas in the search for truth should no longer expect to find it in taxpayer funded universities and colleges?

Two reasons suggest otherwise.

One is that Trinity, like some other legacy institutions of education in Canada, holds a special place because of its deep lineage in the Canadian tradition. What happens there is more emblematic of a core shift than, say, similar developments at a newer or more experimental institution, or for that matter at Provost Moran’s alma mater, the UBC English Department whose June Statement of Solidarity Against Anti-Black violence promised with illiberal ferocity to eliminate “scholarship that still valourizes whiteness and settler-colonial ideas of European civilization.” We don’t expect much of the UBC English Department, which regularly suspends classes so that its students can rush to the barricades to support the latest social justice cause. But if excellence and academic freedom and merit cannot survive at Trinity, they will not survive anywhere in Canada.

More practically, there are substantial intellectual lineages of which Trinity is the steward that risk annihilation by Provost Moran’s new fanaticism. Over the summer, the college’s library was “re-evaluated and reshaped” according to an official notice, to downplay its main holdings in Canadian history and literature and emphasize the new party doctrine which the Provost helpfully enumerated as “anti-racism, anti-oppression and equity.” Surely it does not take a history degree to feel alarmed when political movements show up at the library spoiling for a fight with the stacks. Book burnings in the Quad anyone?

In particular, the Trinity library is steward of the Upjohn-Waldie Collection, which is no mere trifle in Canadian heritage. The collection includes rare books from late medieval Europe such as a 1473 book on the education of princes and a psalter of the same year. Priceless manuscripts from the early Renaissance include two first edition publications by Martin Luther and printed in 1520 and 1531, and a 1623 printing of Shakespeare’s Timon of Athens. The collection harbors one of the best holdings of early exploration accounts of Canada, such as a 1728 printing of John Gatonbe’s A Voyage into the North-West Passage Undertaken Anno 1612, and Alexander Mackenzie’s 1801 Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Laurence Through the Continent of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans. There is a 1787 Book of Common Prayer in Mohawk, a critical early resource documenting that language, and a first edition of Joseph Conrad’s 1942 collection of nautical stories, The Tremolino.

I dwell on these precious holdings because libraries and collections are not inert, but rise or fall depending on how they are stewarded and celebrated. The Trinity library staff spent their entire summer “reevaluating” to promote the latest Woke Studies novels, as well as reading and promoting hate-filled screeds by black American racialists. Trinity’s precious holdings, especially that Mohawk prayer book, may soon be charged with “valourizing whiteness and settler-colonial ideas of European civilization.” The iconoclastic destruction of Trinity’s Upjohn-Waldie Collection, by indifference and erasure even if the books survive in some forgotten vault, seems only a Provostial missive away from “immediate implementation.”

Of course, the world will not fall because Trinity (or McGill, or Queen’s, or Dalhousie) falls. But the wave of illiberalism that Provost Moran is leading is an important signpost in this larger trend. As goes Trinity, we might say, so goes Canada. “After the Struggle, the Crown”, reads the college moto from 1851. Queen Moran is now hastening to the throne after her struggles against phantom racism at Trinity. I prefer an older college motto, that of the Trinity Literary Society that came into being in the 1840s, and has recently become a focal point for the Trinity revolutionaries that Moran has unleashed: Feros Cultus Voce Formare. “To tame wild manners by power of the voice.” Canadians as a whole need to tame the wild manners of campus barbarians with the voices of their strong opposition.

A native of Calgary and a graduate of Trinity College, Bruce Gilley is professor of political science at Portland State University.

The image shows an etching of Trinity College by Owen Staples, c. 1930.

The Decline Of Postivism: A New Culture War

The current ideological spasm seen widely in the West has a quasi-religious aspect. The idea of racism as a demonic force operating everywhere fits that. So does the iconoclasm, the attempt symbolically to reorder urban spaces in order to drive home a set of political imperatives.

What is most striking is the suspension of any sense of critique of the new order. Debate is so beneath you when you possess all truth. Much better just to steamroll people into subjugation. Debate is seen as oppressive. Instead, edicts are issued from on high, as befits a cult. Those who hold contrasting views are readily dismissed and shunned: if you do not think you are a white supremacist that means that you are guilty. If you feel uncomfortable about being accused of being a white supremacist – that means you are guilty. This is like a blatantly constructed trap; as is the reference to having “a conversation” when that is the very last thing that is intended.

In practical terms, we are seeing a bringing to fruition of the attack on positivism that has been so insistent since the 1960s, an attack that is bridging from academic circles to a wider public. In particular, there was, and continues to be, a critique of subordinating scholarship and the scholar to the evidence; and a preference, instead, for an assertion of convenient evidence that was derived essentially from theory. Empiricism was discarded, or at least downplayed, as both method and value, and there was a cult of faddish intellectualism heavily based on postmodernist concepts.

Divorcing the Arts and Social Sciences from empirical methods invited a chaos that some welcomed but that others sought to reshape in terms of a set of values and methods equating to argument by assertion and proof by sentiment: ‘I feel therefore I am correct,’ and it is apparently oppression to be told otherwise. The conventional academic spaces, the geopolitics of academic hierarchy and method, from the lecture hall to the curriculum, have all been repurposed to this end.

In this view, the statues that are unwelcome are not isolated residues of outdated and nefarious glories, but a quasi-living reproach to the new order. Indeed, the statue of Cecil Rhodes that decorates Oriel College, Oxford is referred to by its critics as making them feel uncomfortable. So also with crests of arms or stained glass, or the names of buildings and streets. All are to be removed because they are seen not as mute products of the past, but, instead, as toxic reproaches in a culture wars of the present in which there is no space for neutrality or non-committal, or, indeed, tolerance and understanding.

Iconoclasm, therefore, from whatever political direction, is a matter of a set of values that is inherently anti-democratic, in that the legitimacy of opposing views is dismissed, indeed discredited as allegedly racist, and anti-intellectual because there is an unwillingness to ask awkward questions and to ignore evidence which does not fit in the answer wanted. Examples of the latter might include the extent of slavery and the slave trade prior to the European arrival in Africa or the role of European powers in eventually ending both. It is possible to debate these and other points, but debate is not accepted if it involves questioning assumptions.

However, such questioning is crucial to understanding the past, which is the key aspect of history as an intellectual pursuit rather than as the sphere for political engagement. Historians need to understand why practices we now believe to be wrong and have made illegal, such as slavery or (differently) making children work or marrying them, were legitimate in the past. It is not enough, in doing so, to present only one side of and on the past because that is allegedly useful for present reasons. Nor to refuse to recognise debate in earlier, plural societies.

People in the past believed that they were right for reasons that were perfectly legitimate in terms of their own times, experience, and general view of the world. Imposing anachronistic value-judgments is antithetical to the historical mindset of the scholar, and is inherently transient as the fullness of time will bring in fresh critiques of present-day values, which will also be wrenched out of their historical context, not least by ignoring inconvenient evidence. Thus, iconoclasm will be perpetuated, providing a form of blood of (stone) martyrs to revive revolution, and to the detriment of any sense of continuity, unless, that is, the sole sense that is sought is that of an anarchic presentism.

Again, there are elements that can be traced to the assault on positivism. In particular, the notion of accumulated wisdom, and/or of source criticism based on an understanding of past practices, have in large part been discarded as a consequence of an academic culture being brought into line with those within it who use virtue-signalling to push their views. Iconoclasm is to the fore here.

The theme of a difficult ‘conversation’ about Britain’s past and its legacy in the present was pushed hard by critics, but their view of conversation was only one-way. It encompassed growing calls for iconoclasm, with Rhodes a target in Oxford from 2015 and Afua Hirsch, in an article in The Guardian, calling for Nelson’s Column in London to be pulled down. She described Nelson ‘without hesitation’ as a ‘white supremacist’ because he spoke in favour of slavery. Hirsch, who pressed for Britain to face its role in the slave trade and attitudes linked to its empire building, backed the Rhodes Must Fall movement vigorously and, in ‘The Battle for Britain’s Heroes’, a BBC programme on 29 May 2018, returned to the attack on Nelson and presented Churchill as a racist. Meanwhile, in February 2018, the controversy was over the exhibition ‘The Past is Now’ at Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in which information boards claimed that “the relationship between European colonialism, industrial production and capitalism is unique in its brutality.’”

The key Birmingham politician of the Victorian period, Joseph Chamberlain, an exponent of a stronger British empire who became Secretary of State for the Colonies (1895-1903), was described as “still revered despite his aggressive and racist imperial policy.” One board attacked Britain’s ‘hasty’ departure from India in 1947 for ‘trauma and misogyny,’ and a second board offers another partisan context: ‘capitalism is a system that prioritises the interests of the individuals and their companies at the expense of the majority.’

Janine Eason, the Director of Engagement, said that it was “not possible’ for a museum to present a neutral voice, particularly for something as multifaceted as stories relating to the British Empire,” and, instead, that the exhibition was both a way to serve the multicultural population of Birmingham and was intended ‘to provoke.” Of course, real “provocation” would have been to offer a different account, one that was more grounded in historical awareness; or, even more, two or more accounts, but such an approach is indeed regarded as provocative.

The toppling of statues is far from new in Britain which has had its share of revolutions. Indeed, in addition to those of political and constitutional transformation, which included the execution of a king and declaration of a republic in 1649, and an overthrow of another king in 1688 leading to constitutional change, came those of three religious revolutions: the Henrician under Henry VIII, the Edwardian under Edward VI, and the Puritan one of the mid-seventeenth century. These saw state-imposed iconoclasm in every community in the country, which was far more extreme than political revolution. Church decorations and paraphernalia, from mass-books and roodscreens to wall-paintings and statues, were destroyed, with particular emphasis on the destruction of shrines to saints, for example, that of Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Every monastery, nunnery and chantry was despoiled and terminated. This iconoclasm left the ruined monastery as an abiding image in British culture.

Yet, the brutal iconoclasm of the British past was also left in the past because of the nature of British politics and political culture after the Glorious Revolution of 1688-9. The emphasis switched to one of organic change and a government of consent expressed through, and in, parliamentary accountability. The British came to convince themselves that their politics was one that was far more orderly than those of most others, and notably so France, where there were revolutions in 1789, 1830, 1848 and 1871, followed by the instabilities of the Third and Fourth Republics.

So also with the British view of their own political culture, society and emotions. Iconoclasm, therefore, was not part of the British design. There were radical movements in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, but they were those of minorities, and there was an essential ‘lawfulness’ about Methodism in the eighteenth and Chartism in the nineteenth.

Attacks on symbols of power and continuity were pronounced in the case of Irish nationalism, but that was a separate tradition and one that did not influence the British one. The continuity of British political culture proved able to absorb the impact of trade unionism and the rise of the Labour Party, while the end of empire did not have the disruptive impact in the metropole that was to be seen in some former colonies.

That was very different to the situation today. In one respect, the disruption of decolonisation is being brought back now into the metropole, and that element is certainly apparent in the case of some members of minority groups from the former empire. Alongside the attempt to use slavery to discredit imperialism, different immigrant sensitivities play particular roles, with those of people of Caribbean descent especially concerned about slavery and those of Indian descent more so about the legacy of imperial rule. Conversely, there is less comparable critique from those originating in Hong Kong about British imperial rule.

In this overall context of contrast, statues in practice have different resonances. That of Edward Colston (1636-1721), the Bristol merchant who played a role in the slave-trading Royal African Company was one of particular note for the controversy over slavery, and the 1895 statue of him was pushed into Bristol Harbour in June 2020. The statues of Robert, 1st Lord Clive (1725-74) in London and Shrewsbury had more resonance for empire and India, and petitions in 2020 calling for the removal of the Shrewsbury one had 23,000 signatures between them. A counter-petition argued that removing the statue would erase part of the town’s history. Shrewsbury Council decided on a 28-17 vote not to remove the statue, and this decision was criticised on the grounds of supposed racism.

Similarly, there was a petition to remove the London statue, while the highly-overrated historian William Dalrymple, writing in The Guardian on 11 June 2020, declared that Clive “was a vicious asset-stripper. His statue has no place on Whitehall … a testament to British ignorance of our imperial past…. Its presence outside the Foreign Office encourages dangerous neo-imperial fantasies among the descendants of the colonisers… Removing the statue of Clive from the back of Downing Street would give us an opportunity finally to begin the process of education and atonement.” And so on with the usual attacks on Brexit being apparently a consequence of an imperial mentality that has never been confronted. Leave aside the extent to which Dalrymple is strong on assertion but no evidence, and that “Little Englanders” were of far more consequence in the 2016 referendum, what you get is a running together of past and present with the modern British supposedly trapped by the past. Therefore, in this approach, the statues have to fall, and the libraries and reading lists must be reordered.

The alleged validity of these views is allegedly further demonstrated by the false consciousness adduced to those who do not share them. Other statues then come up for immediate criticism. The most prominent in Exeter, that of General Redvers Buller on his horse, Biffen, is allegedly rendered unacceptable because he was a general of empire. That Buller was not associated with anything particularly bad is ignored by referring to him as having invented concentration camps during the Boer War of 1899-1902. In fact, one, he was no longer in command then; two, these were not the same as the later German camps, being more akin to detention centres; and, three, such camps had a long provenance, most recently being used by Spain in fighting an insurgency in Cuba in the 1890s.

Why, however, let facts stand in the way? In each and every case, there is misrepresentation in the iconoclastic demands; but that is not the point. We are in the midst of a postmodernist world in which facts are allegedly subjective, an irrational one in which emotion trumps reason, and one of gesture in which the statue is all-too-prominent as a target and the senses of continuity and identity that go with it deliberately attacked. If this is not a culture war, a war on culture, it is difficult to know what is.

The image shows “Fraternité Avant Tout (Brotherhood Above All),” by Asger Jorn, strategically vandalized in 1962.