If whatever feels good must be good, we’re headed for ruin, says another prophetic prof
VIDEO: [Augustine College] Dr. Dennis Danielson tells how he came to write a sequel to Lewis’s Abolition of Man. [Mar 23, 2019]
In this space last week, I propounded the theory that the age of prophecy did not die with the biblical period, but from time to time prophets reappear. We live today in an era of such a reappearance, and I held that chief among the modern prophets is Dr. Jordan Peterson. In vibrant scorn and telling fact, he accuses his former academic colleagues of treasonously selling out the values and disciplines they had been entrusted to honor and teach in favor of a repackaged but exceedingly dangerous version of Marxism.
No one from academe or the acquiescent media has been able to effectively refute him, though many notable leftist luminaries have tried. and been badly beaten by his dread clarity and telling fact. In the course of this, three startling truths have come to light about the remnant of what used to be the humanities and arts faculties in virtually all the universities. They are:
First, that the Marxist dogma, now peddled under the name “postmodernism,” has established near total control over the academic agenda in both the public schools and what were once the humanities faculties in the universities.
Second, that the self-proclaimed goal of this movement is the eradication of the western democratic form of government and radical revision in our whole social order.
Third, that the mainstream media so greatly fear the power of this movement to smear them as bigots, racists, and hateful alt-rightists that they are consciously censoring their news coverage and concealing what is actually going on. Effectually, this would mean that perhaps the biggest story of the present era is not being covered by them at all.
Few media people and fewer politicians have dared stand up against this academic insurrection. Peterson, the glaring exception, offered a word of encouragement for those few who did. When they threaten, he said, “don’t apologize, don’t retract, don’t modify, stand your ground, and they will go away.” They aren’t noted for bravery, only for treachery, perfidy, disloyalty and sedition to those who had entrusted their children to them, and did not expect them to be turned into Communists.
But then all these nasty names will not distress the accused because these criticisms are all moral evaluations and therefore the mere subjective feelings of the accuser. Children under the postmodernist philosophy, which has been widely adopted in North American schools, learn very early to distinguish “facts” from “opinions.” The former are real and the latter aren’t because they depend on a moral rule and all moral assertions cannot be factual because there is no such thing as a real right or wrong, a real bad or good, a real vice or virtue.
That’s what kids are being taught in school, anyway, even young children. If a youngster spots a five-dollar bill on your table and pockets it, that will make him richer. It will “empower” him, and in the eyes of the postmodernist that’s good, because gaining power is what life is all about. If he gets caught, and made to return the money, he is thereby disempowered and this is therefore bad. Take note, however, that what made it bad was not taking the money, but getting caught.
I suspect that any sensible reader would conclude that the above paragraph must surely be an exaggeration. We cannot possibly be teaching children to be thieves. I certainly had the same reaction when I first heard of this. Then I realized that if we teach children that morality is purely subjective, that everyone can make up his own rules, that if a thing feels good then go ahead and do it, well mere stealing would be one of the lesser consequences. But I still could not believe this as happening in our schools.
Until, that is, last week. Someone sent me a little book just published by Regent College and written by Dennis Danielson, emeritus professor of English at Regent. There is a word in the title that only avid readers of C.S. Lewis are likely to recognize. “The Tao of Right and Wrong: Rediscovering Humanity’s Moral Foundations.” The Chinese word “Tao,” says the Oxford dictionary, means “the Right Way.” It’s a kind of inventory word, an omnibus of all the world’s great moral systems, and religious teaching, used in that sense by Lewis in his book, “The Abolition of Man.” In an appendix Lewis shows the astonishing moral parallels in all the great civilizations, thereby indicating one common source for them all.
Lewis, says Wikipedia, depicts the destructive effect of denying any reality to the assertions of morality. ‘”By denying that values are real or that sentiments can be reasonable, subjectivism saps moral motivation and robs people of the ability to respond emotionally to experiences of real goodness and real beauty in literature and in the world.”
Danielson’s “Tao,” published 75 years after Lewis’s “Abolition of Man,” convincingly updates Lewis’s observations, describing in detail the attempts to dispense with the Tao by substituting various scientific or philosophic contrivances to conceal their ultimate dependence on it. Similarly, we get the “waffle” words — “appropriate” or “inappropriate” behavior, “positive” or “negative,” “worthy” and “unworthy,” “fitting” or “unfitting,” “harmonious” or “dissonant” — summoned to avoid the dire use of “good” or “bad,” and “right” or “wrong,” meanwhile hopelessly confusing students by teaching them that whatever they feel like doing is okay.
“How can our society hope for cultural, moral and political leaders of integrity and high principle,” asks Danielson, “if we continue to preach to young people and ourselves that value judgments constitute purely subjective and probably self-serving opinions? Or that Reason is a mere calculator of data, and an organ at best of critical thinking? Where are the places in our curricular and schools for the making of souls and the fortifying of hearts?
“Instead we continue to propagate curricula and teaching materials that place us and our children outside the Tao, squeamish about ultimate postulates and embarrassed to speak of virtues and paths of righteousness… We somehow do not see the contradiction of producing cynics while expecting to be producing idealists… If we desire to raise a generation of citizens prepared to embody wisdom, magnanimity, courage, character, virtue, then in our schools and in our teaching we must begin by forswearing the cultivation of humans without hearts.”