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Ep. 61 - Liberal Anti-Culture vs. the Western Vision of the Soul (Pt I) - James Matthew Wilson

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catholiculture on Jan 16 2020 The devastation rationalism has wrought on modernity has yet to be calculated, because it is the air we breathe, often regardless of our professed beliefs. To take …More
catholiculture on Jan 16 2020 The devastation rationalism has wrought on modernity has yet to be calculated, because it is the air we breathe, often regardless of our professed beliefs. To take politics as an example: the modern left, disenchanted with the Enlightenment narrative of reason’s supremacy, has, rather than restoring reason to its proper subordinate place in our vision of reality, instead become skeptical of all claims to truth. Lacking a foundation in truth, “critical thinking,” that shriveled scrap of reason enshrined by academics, has not kept them from believing any absurdity one could name. Meanwhile, establishment conservatism has for decades shown little awareness or interest in what is beyond immediate political utility—rendering its occasional victories at the ballot box empty of much power to conserve. Nonetheless, a certain artistic-cultural vitality has typically been associated with liberalism. Only recently, when liberals have taken on the role of censorious schoolmarm, has the right begun to appear more creatively daring in its challenge of the status quo. But this association of creativity with subversion of society’s dominant structures is itself a bequest of the liberal “tradition”, whose increasing banality should warn those on the right that there is only so much mileage one can get out of exposing corruption and hypocrisy. It may be surprising to learn that conservatism began as a literary and aesthetic movement rather than a political one. This is the starting point for a contemporary classic of philosophy, James Matthew Wilson’s The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness and Beauty in the Western Tradition. The conservatives, starting with Edmund Burke in his critique of the French Revolution, defended the old order on the basis of its beauty. Wilson follows them in claiming that Beauty is central to the soul’s (and the West’s) vision of reality. This is the first of three episodes exploring themes from The Vision of the Soul. In this episode, after giving an account of the roots of liberalism and conservatism, and showing the emptiness of liberal “freedom”, “equality”, and “critical thinking”, Wilson lays out what he considers the six central insights of the Western (Christian Platonist) tradition, culminating in the contemplation of Being as our greatest excellence and happiness.