Polanyi on Liberty and Nihilism

Freedom of thought is rendered pointless and must disappear, where reason and morality are deprived of their status as a force in their own right. When the judge in court can no longer appeal to law and jstice; when neither a witness, nor the newspapers, nor even a scientist reporting on his expriments, can speak the truth as he knows it; when in public life there is no moral principle commanding respect; when the revelations of religion and of art are denied any substance; then there are no grounds left on which any individual may justly make a stand against the rulers of the day. Such is the simple logic of totalitarianism. A nihilistic regime will have to undertake the day-to-day direction of all activities which are otherwise guided by the intellectual and moral principles that nihilism declares empty and void. Principles must be replaced by the decrees of an all-embracing Party Line.

Micheal Polanyi, The Logic of Liberty

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ISI and the Great Tradition

Jeremy Beers over at ISI generously advanced me a review copy of The Great Tradition. Now they have generously quoted my response on their web site. Take a look – especially at the book!

Warning! The contents of this link will change every month or so.

Russell Kirk on Desperate Housewives!

“Most fiction nowadays appears to be written for dirty-minded and naive adolescents, although perhaps most of it is read by middle-aged housewives.”

 Russell Kirk, The Perversity of Recent Fiction: Reflections on the Moral Imagination in Redeeming the Time.

If you have a stake in the future of American politics, literature, education, child-rearing, justice, or freedom -READ THIS BOOK!

Islam, The Greeks, and Science

Islam, The Greeks, and the Scientific Revolution

Fascinating read by a “Norwegian conservative” describing why the Islamic world, in spite of its ideal location on the trade and information routes, never achieved a sustained scientific revolution. Published in Assyrian International News Agency.

The Place of Technology

A little over a month ago, my back went out on me. For four days I lay in bed with a continual supply of ice and Advil, virtually unable to move. Finally, after no improvement, I went to my doctor, a kinesiologist. He told me that I did something to my disk while swimming the butterfly and that I should never do that again. He also told me to get myself a back brace and to wear it most of the time for a while and then whenever I’m doing anything approaching heavy lifting or bending (like, say, getting off the couch after watching a football game).

 Since then I’ve worn the back brace most of the time, though for the last couple days I’ve tried not to. The not so funny thing is, now about five weeks later, my disk has recovered for the most part, but my back is weaker.

When I was in 8th grade and Ronald Reagan was failing in his Quixotic bid for the Republican nomination, my knee was bothering me so I went to my family doctor. He had no idea what was wrong with it so he made up some ideas as he went along. They didn’t help, so when I was 17 I had my knee scoped. All they could tell me was that my left leg was weaker than my right. About five years ago, in spite of weight lifting, walking, running, etc. I started wearing a knee brace.

The not so funny thing is that my left leg has gotten even weaker.

The not so funny thing about all technology is simply this: if we replace a human faculty with technology, the human faculty is diminished.

This is by no means a sweeping indictment of technology. The stick was a great improvement over the thumb and the plough was a magnificent improvement over the stick. Reviews on the tractor are a little more mixed.

But this is meant to be a call to sobriety in our haste to replace the human being with the machine, especially in education. Education is the cultivation of our human faculties, like words and reasoning. Socrates went so far as to object to writing because he argued that our memory would be impaired if we placed it outside of our minds. He was, of course, right. Educators should not see learning how to read as the be all and end all of education.

Consider the calculator. When seventh graders get their hands on these things, they forget how to calculate themselves.

And now the computer has arrived in every classroom on earth and we are going to save the world! Yeah, right.

Here’s my position: In education, no technology should ever be used that is not necessary and when it is used, the human faculty that is being replaced must be consciously and deliberately cultivated in some other way.

If you are seeking to cultivate wisdom in children, you will have to cultivate the faculties used to gain wisdom. These faculties reside in the soul and they use the powers of the body. Do not break the link between the body and the world around it.

Always remember: when you replace a human faculty with technology, that human faculty is diminished.