Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Kalb Speaks: How to escape the Matrix

Technology, says James Kalb, "leaves out what concerns us most." And yet technology and the education that now exalts it is what we're all supposed to focus on in our educational institutions.

In order to combat this tendency, says Kalb, we must restoring "an understanding of the world that has a place for intelligence and meaning." We must "accept that the world is ordered by reason and meaning":
Academic study itself is less a matter of pure critical thinking oriented toward radically autonomous decision than the transmission of a tradition of inquiry and understanding directed on the one hand toward the good, beautiful, and true, and on the other toward leadership and wisdom. Education is always education into a community based on an understanding of man and the world, so it should always have a religious component and emphasize substantive cultural content. For that reason, liberal education should see itself as fundamentally religious, and emphasize something very much like study of the classics. A religious setting makes it possible to make sense of all else, while classical studies provide the discipline of close attention to extremely high-quality texts that present the viewpoint of free and active men capable of handling whatever comes their way. It is hard to imagine a better school for leadership and wisdom, or for the search for truth.
Read the rest here.


Martin S. said...

Christopher Dawson famously argued that technologism triumphed over humane liberalism. (From fascinating essay by Russell Hittinger) And I think JRR Tolkien penetrated to the heart of our problem in his mythology also.
"Christopher Dawson on Technology and the Demise of Liberalism"

"The key is the word “unplanned,” for it indicates that human activity is to be regarded in the same fashion as impersonal nature. Like lightening, floods, and tumors, the event of pregnancy follows a line of causality independent of a truly human act; hence, it needs to be brought under the control of a technology. The Court frankly admitted not only that abortion is practiced for the most part as ex post facto birth control, but that the practice has become a necessity.

In other words, the increments of legal emancipation track the increments of technology, and the increments of technology are recast as kinds of social necessity. In order to make room for what was, in itself, a relatively small part of the pharmacological revolution, the entire legal and moral order of the polity was changed:

(1) the Bill of Rights was reinterpreted, to make what was once homicide at criminal law a fundamental right at Constitutional law;
(2) all common law pertaining to the responsibility of husbands over wives and children was summarily struck down;
(3) divorce laws were changed;
(4) professional associations of physicians and lawyers changed their by-laws to condemn any opposition to this continuum of technologies;
(5) churches changed their moral theologies to accommodate the separation of sex and procreation;
(6) public school curricula changed, and indeed new cabinet offices invented for the purpose of habituating even pre-pubescent children to the use of the technology;
(7) even a conservative writer like George Will, who authored the book Statescraft As Soulcraft, now recommends Norplant patches as a remedy for the breakdown of the family in the inner city.
No culture would permit its basic institutions and practices to be so dramatically changed simply by the dictate of individual liberty, or for that matter, as a rationalization for sexual pleasure; the remarkably rapid nature of these changes can be understood only if we realize that the technological order is regarded as a necessity. And, as the ancient legal dictum put it, “necessity knows no law.”

I am not so naive as to suggest that this one little device, swallowed with a glass of water, is the efficient cause of all of these troubles. The pill was received in the post-WWII suburbs, in which an array of technologies (chiefly the automobile) made possible a form of family life functionally independent of paternal authority. But the pill does give an especially vivid example of how the humane elements of a culture are reinterpreted to render technology immune from the direction of any higher principle. Even justice turns out to be the right of individuals to have equal access to the technology."

Art said...

Alternate title of Kalb's piece: In Praise of the Madrassa

Martin S. said...

@Art is a troll. Remedy for that graffiti"

"The first cause is pure act, having no adjoined potentiality; and thus is itself pure light by which all other things are illuminated and rendered knowable." STAquinas 'Super De causis, lect. 6