'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Sunday, November 26, 2017
Roger Scruton: The great swindle - fake ideas and fake emotions have elbowed out truth and beauty
Whatever you think of Foucault and Rorty, there is no doubt that they were intelligent writers and genuine scholars with a distinctive vision of reality. They opened the way to fakes but were not fakes themselves. Matters are quite otherwise with many of their contemporaries....
In Foucault’s view,
all discourse gains acceptance by expressing, fortifying and concealing the
power of those who maintain it; and those who, from time to time, perceive this
fact are invariably im-prisoned as criminals or locked away as mad - a fate that
Foucault himself unaccountably avoided...
reduces culture to a power-game, and scholarship to a kind of refereeing in the
endless ‘struggle’ between oppressed and oppressing groups. The shift of
emphasis from the content of an utterance to the power that speaks through it
leads to a new kind of scholarship, which by-passes entirely questions of truth
and rationality, and can even reject those questions as themselves ideological. The fake intellectual invites you to
conspire in his own self-deception, to join in creating a fantasy world. He is
the teacher of genius, you the brilliant pupil. Faking is a social activity in
which people act together to draw a veil over unwanted realities and encourage
each other in the exercise of their illusory powers... NB: I call this behaviour a retreat into language. It is very prevalent these days, especially amongst leftists of the pomo-sapien variety. The homo-jansanghus and his Islamist counter-parts cannot retreat into language, for they have long replaced human speech with shouting. Added to which they can resort to state-supported hooliganism. DS
A high culture is the
self-consciousness of a society. It contains the works of art, literature,
scholarship and philosophy that establish a shared frame of reference among
educated people. High culture is a precarious achievement, and endures only if
it is underpinned by a sense of tradition, and by a broad endorsement of the
surrounding social norms. When those things evaporate, as inevitably happens,
high culture is superseded by a culture of fakes.
Faking depends on a
measure of complicity between the perpetrator and the victim, who together
conspire to believe what they don’t believe and to feel what they are incapable
of feeling. There are fake beliefs, fake opinions, fake kinds of expertise.
There is also fake emotion, which comes about when people debase the forms and
the language in which true feeling can take root, so that they are no longer
fully aware of the difference between the true and the false. Kitsch is one
very important example of this. The kitsch work of art is not a response to the
real world, but a fabrication designed to replace it. Yet both producer and
consumer conspire to persuade each other that what they feel in and through the
kitsch work of art is something deep, important and real.
Anyone can lie. One
need only have the requisite intention — in other words, to say something with
the intention to deceive. Faking, by contrast, is an achievement. To fake
things you have to take people in, yourself included. In an important sense,
therefore, faking is not something that can be intended, even though it comes
about through intentional actions. The liar can pretend to be shocked when his
lies are exposed, but his pretence is merely a continuation of his lying
strategy. The fake really is shocked when he is exposed, since
he had created around himself a community of trust, of which he himself was a
member. Understanding this phenomenon is, it seems to me, integral to
understanding how a high culture works, and how it can become corrupted.
We are interested in
high culture because we are interested in the life of the mind, and we entrust
the life of the mind to institutions because it is a social benefit. Even if
only a few people are capable of living this life to the full, we all benefit
from its results, in the form of knowledge, technology, legal and political
understanding, and the works of art, literature and music that evoke the human
condition and also reconcile us to it. Aristotle went further, identifying
contemplation (theoria) as the highest goal of mankind, and leisure (schole)
as the means to it. Only in contemplation, he suggested, are our rational needs
and desires properly fulfilled. Kantians might prefer to say that in the life
of the mind we reach through the world of means to the kingdom of ends. We
leave behind the routines of instrumental reasoning and enter a world in which
ideas, artefacts and expressions exist for their own sake, as objects of
intrinsic value. We are then granted the true homecoming of the spirit. Such
seems to be implied by Friedrich Schiller, in his Letters Upon the
Aesthetic Education of Man (1794). Similar views underlie the German
romantic view of Bildung: self-cultivation as the goal of
education and the foundation of the university curriculum.
The life of the mind
has its intrinsic methods and rewards. It is concerned with the true, the
beautiful and the good, which between them define the scope of reasoning and the
goals of serious enquiry. But each of those goals can be faked, and one of the
most interesting developments in our educational and cultural institutions over
the past half century is the extent to which fake culture and fake scholarship
have driven out the true varieties. It is important to ask why.
The most important way
of clearing intellectual space for fake scholarship and culture is to
marginalise the concept of truth.. read more: