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Distinctions

June 22nd, 2010

Wisdom is about making distinctions.

The great medieval Jewish commentator on the Bible, Rashi wrote (in his comments to Leviticus 11:47) that it is not sufficient to have great knowledge of our moral precepts.  Instead, the Torah requires us to be able to make distinctions between the pure and the impure.   Between right and wrong.  Rashi continues that it is not sufficient to be able to be able to make these distinctions only in the obvious cases.  Instead, one must also be able to distinguish in those cases in which the difference between purity and impurity is as fine as a hairsbreadth.

That is the nature of wisdom.

The Left is at war with wisdom.

Why is this?

Well, it all goes back to Jean Jacques Rousseau. It was he, with his idea of the “noble savage” who began to popularize the idea that there is no meaningful distinction between the civilized and the barbarous.

John Derbyshire writes:

One response to the difficulty of pinning down where civilization ends and barbarism begins has simply been to deny the difference altogether, or even to elevate the barbarian (spontaneous! spiritual! in touch with nature!) over the civilized person (repressed! materialistic! heartless!) This has been a typically modern project, launched by the odious Jean-Jacques Rousseau 250 years ago. Rousseau’s “noble savage” concept is now an ineradicable part of our culture, and forms one of the underpinnings of the modern cult of political correctness.

(Similar modern projects have attempted to deny the existence of other key polarities in human nature and society. The difference between the sane and the mad, for example, was flatly denied by Scottish psychologist R.D. Laing, who argued that it was in fact schizophrenics who had the more correct view of the world, while the rest of us are demented. Relativistic morality and “root causes” sociology have tried the same trick with the difference between the criminal and the law-abiding. The Unholy Trinity of enemies of normal human life — barbarism, madness, and crime — have thus been “normalized,” at any rate to the satisfaction of key cliques of influential thinkers.)

We can easily see how, in their work of 250 years, the Left has succeeded in blurring the distinctions in the areas of barbarism, madness and crime.  We can see how wisdom in these areas has been corroded.

The results have not been pretty.  Terrorism is tolerated among the LeftCrime is tolerated among the Left (as long is it’s not happening to certain people).  Leftist ideologues convinced governments to release the inmates of our mental hospitals onto our streets, filling them with the homeless.

The sexual revolution heralded the Left’s victory in the area of human sexuality.  The results there were also less than pretty.

And now they have their sights set on marriage.

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  1. Lefty
    June 22nd, 2010 at 19:31 | #1

    Meanwhile, the Right heralds The Market in unqualified terms, promoting “market solutions” to everything, and then acts shocked when people start buying and selling reproductive capacity as though it were any other commodity. Where you see ancient conspiracies involving Rousseau, the Frankfurt School, and terrorist-sympathizing libertines, I see the outcome of a process that is far more basic to the continued development of capitalism: the infiltration of market values into every sphere of human existence.

    SOME of the Left is at war with wisdom on this issue. And so is some of the Right.

  2. Arlemagne1
    June 22nd, 2010 at 19:59 | #2

    Lefty,
    Markets are not perfect. But they’re better than any proposed alternative I’ve seen.

    Who says anybody is shocked about buying and selling reproductive capacity? There is a demand for it. There will be a supply. It’s just that simple. We just want to emphasize that it’s a bad idea. That’s all.

  3. Arlemagne1
    June 22nd, 2010 at 20:01 | #3

    And why should you be skeptical about “ancient conspiracies about Rousseau and the Frankfurt School? They wrote down their ideas. They published their ideas. People have acted on them having stated their motivations in college seminars, in books, in op eds, in speeches.

    Just because some conspiracy theories are nuts does not mean that people have not conspired to remake the world in the way that the Left has attempted to do. They have. Nobody tried to hide it. They advertised that fact. It’s obvious.

  4. nerdygirl
    June 22nd, 2010 at 20:36 | #4

    Insert cheap shot about “The Right” being able to damage marriage more then enough on their own with their extra-marital affairs and coming out of the closet in the airport bathroom affairs.

    People on either extreme of the political spectrum tend to, well, suck at life/being human. “The Left” and “The Right” are the same thing in different piles.

  5. Arlemagne1
    June 22nd, 2010 at 20:44 | #5

    Nerdygirl,
    You have to work on your reading comprehension. When I say that the Left wants to blur distinctions, it’s because that’s what the Left IS. That’s the ideology. Read their writings. It’s all right there to see. Right out in the open.

    Now, right wingers (I presume you mean social conservatives here) sometimes fall short of their ideologies. They are human.

    But there is a difference between falling short of one’s values, and a project to uproot those values by blurring and then taking away the distinctions that make those values possible.

    Ironic that in a post about distinctions, you yourself, a Leftist no less was incapable of making those distinctions.

  6. Lefty
    June 22nd, 2010 at 22:08 | #6

    When you say, “Markets are not perfect. But they’re better than any proposed alternative I’ve seen,” what does that actually mean in this context? Do you really think they’re the best alternative in all spheres of human activity, or only in some?

    “Who says anybody is shocked about buying and selling reproductive capacity? There is a demand for it. There will be a supply. It’s just that simple. We just want to emphasize that it’s a bad idea. That’s all.”

    Not me. I want to outlaw it.

    “And why should you be skeptical about “ancient conspiracies about Rousseau and the Frankfurt School? They wrote down their ideas. They published their ideas. People have acted on them having stated their motivations in college seminars, in books, in op eds, in speeches.”

    So that’s where promiscuity comes from. Some old college professor shakes a finger at the crowd and croaks, “I vahnt you all to haf SEKS!” And then everybody’s all like, “well, I dunno, but if this Herbert Markyoozy says it’s okay…”

    No, the forces at work here are far bigger and more basic than the machinations of some academics with a spite at family values. Family ties had been weakening, and sexual morality loosening ever since the end of feudalism — a period of time that coincides with the rise of capitalism and the triumph of market relations in ever more sectors of human life.

    “Just because some conspiracy theories are nuts does not mean that people have not conspired to remake the world in the way that the Left has attempted to do. They have. Nobody tried to hide it. They advertised that fact. It’s obvious.”

    And isn’t it amazing that the one great win of this pack of alleged Marxists ~just happened~ to have the effect of extending the logic of the market into the most intimate and fundamental things.

    What I’m saying is that such successes don’t indicate what an awesome, fearsome conspiracy is out there. They indicate that any such conspiracy is only swimming with the tide.

  7. Lefty
    June 22nd, 2010 at 22:35 | #7

    Arlemagne1 :
    Nerdygirl,
    You have to work on your reading comprehension. When I say that the Left wants to blur distinctions, it’s because that’s what the Left IS. That’s the ideology.

    Baloney. Blurring distinctions is a rhetorical tactic that unfortunately sees plenty of use throughout the political spectrum.

  8. nerdygirl
    June 23rd, 2010 at 10:39 | #8

    I’m more of a moderate. But seriously, said scandals are not “falling short of their values”. If a financial advisor filed for bankruptcy, I’d assume said financial advisor was full of crap. If a politician makes a name for themselves by promoting family values or an anti-gay stance, and then turned out to be having an affair or gay, I’d say they were also full of crap.
    Well, most politicians are full of crap anyway.

    I’d argue people blur distinctions when it suits them, regardless of ideology. It’s human to do so. Social mores and values change and evolve over time. I mean, the church replaced pagan festivals and traditions with it’s own, the church used to sell indulgences to absolve sins, which for a time was considered acceptable and then after the reformation was not. Look at censorship of nudity, there are times where it wasn’t a problem and times where popes commissioned fig leaves.

  9. Arlemagne1
    June 23rd, 2010 at 17:10 | #9

    Nerdygirl wrote:

    Yes. Sometimes people of all political persuasions blur distinctions. As you can see from the Derbyshire article I quoted, the distinctions are not always clear. Judgment and wisdom are needed to make those distinctions. But the Left’s aim is to create a new human being. In order to do that, they had to give a reason to dispense with what came before. To do that they blurred the distinctions between the values held dear by the old order. There is no comparable philosophy which relies as much on blurring distinctions.

  10. nerdygirl
    June 23rd, 2010 at 20:25 | #10

    And this is different from a religion promoting it’s way over another pagan lifestyle how?

  11. Arlemagne1
    June 24th, 2010 at 08:11 | #11

    1) I don’t deal in discussions about “religion” in general. There is no such thing that can be generalized adequately to have a meaningful discussion on your question.

    2) That said I’ll answer your question using the example of Judaism.

    Judaism began when an entire nation was redeemed from Egypt, brought to Mt. Sinai, given the Torah and then brought into our Land after 40 years in the desert. Due to the fact that the truth was revealed to our people, there was a bright line distinction between the true and the false in spiritual matters.

    Any relations with the pagans were predicated not on blurring distinctions between pagan practices and Jewish practices, but on convincing pagans that there is but one G-d (Judaism does not seek to convert anybody, but it does seek to let the world know that there is but one G-d. I’d say our obscure desert tribe has succeeded beyond any expectation, wouldn’t you?)

    In fact, the Jewish literature of the Talmud is all about making distinctions. The difference between Sabbath and ordinary, between a woman who is married and a woman who is not married, the difference between food which is kosher and not kosher. Instead of blurring distinctions, Judaism is about making those lines as clear as possible.

  12. Lefty
    June 24th, 2010 at 10:14 | #12

    Arlemagne1 :
    But the Left’s aim is to create a new human being. In order to do that, they had to give a reason to dispense with what came before. To do that they blurred the distinctions between the values held dear by the old order. There is no comparable philosophy which relies as much on blurring distinctions.

    Okay… What if I said something like this:

    The Right’s aim is to defend the old order against any change. To do that, they habitually refuse to acknowledge the complexity, ambiguity, and contradictions inherent in the issues that confront us. There is no comparable philosophy that relies as much on ignoring complexity.

    Would you consider that a fair and accurate assessment of your thinking, or a gross caricature?

  13. Arlemagne1
    June 24th, 2010 at 11:07 | #13

    The Right’s aim is to defend the old order against any change. To do that, they habitually refuse to acknowledge the complexity, ambiguity, and contradictions inherent in the issues that confront us. There is no comparable philosophy that relies as much on ignoring complexity.

    Would you consider that a fair and accurate assessment of your thinking, or a gross caricature?

    A gross charicature? Yes.

  14. Arlemagne1
    June 24th, 2010 at 11:22 | #14

    Lefty,
    If you had clicked the links helpfully provided in my post, you would see just how much the authors acknowledge ambiguity, complexity, etc. The question is where do you draw the line. It has to be drawn somewhere.

    And pardon my misspelling of caricature.

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