Tag Archives: Aristotle

Drowning in Ignorance

American thinkers (lower case) often ask, how did we manage to have the mental giants all on the same page when they wrote our founding documents, the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution?

Because whatever it was, the body politic has lost it. Soros’ money may have paid for a decade of protest, riots and looting but why are younger generations doing it at all? Don’t they know their roots? It would never occur to Boomers or their elders to wear a vagina suit in public or question their gender.

Time has come to resurrect two mid-20th century prophets, Allan Bloom (The Closing of the American Mind – How Higher Education has failed Democracy and Impoverished the Souls of Today’s Students) 1987 and E.D Hirsch, Jr. (Cultural Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know) 1988. They defined the problem.

The Impoverished Souls once in the academy are now running the public schools and the Media

Our wise forefathers had one unifying factor – their common knowledge of the King James Bible and the works of Shakespeare.  The War of the Roses demonstrated that monarchies do not work, that succession by bloodlines leads to internecine warfare, that assorted King Richards lurk in the shadows to murder their rivals, that foreign wives are anathema as God said to King Solomon, that too much power in one group, be it the barons on the plain or the rabble beyond the pale would sound a death sentence to a Republic. To guard against any concentration of power in any section of the government they included checks and balances and a bicameral system.

Ben Franklin said we’d inherited a Republic if we could keep it.  “Ben, if you are listening, these kids don’t know what a republic is.” So when Saddam Hussein was protected in the Gulf War by a Republican Guard Democrat voters thought that was our own Republican Party?

Our forefathers also knew Plato and Socrates. The notion of a moral leader taking the political high ground from Aristotle sounds quaint today. They knew bias against color and creed in Othello, the dangers of nepotism, bad judgment and the influence of emotional instability from King Lear and Hamlet and as a final warning, Shakespeare named his historical works “tragedies” so yes, it could happen to you too. Tragedies, as defined by the Greeks, were demonstrations of how a personal moral or character flaw could destroy a person in power not the modern day definition which is little more than “oh, what a pity.”

They knew that Protestant Huguenots had been slaughtered on St. Bartholomew’s Day in 1572, so religious freedom was essential. As they wrote these documents they saw the collapse of France from unchecked monetary policy and a politicized state church, and from Elizabeth the First the bedrock need for a free press as well as free assembly, the core of the 1st Amendment, not the Second or Third but the very First. And yes – if we should perchance by accident or design inherit one of these rotten leaders, we need our firearms.

The national mind during the 19th century was held together until the end of World War 2 by the glue of the widely read Harvard Classics. This Public Religion, to use George Will’s phrase, is not a collection of “good ideas” but a record of the failure of Europe to stabilize, as it has yet to do even today. And because they were all originally from immigrant stock they knew Primogeniture and Entail were legal locks on personal and corporate progress. The EPA ties up our property instead now! The glaring millennium of mistakes in Europe created our national principles.

But millions today, thanks to redacted history books and influences from Communist writers like Howard Zinn, leave us with myriads not knowing a shred about all this. We have two or three generations of classroom teachers trained without the cultural literacy of any American assumptions. As a final nail in the academic coffin, there is neither Bible reading nor prayer in schools, so any literary reference to a Prodigal Son or allusions to the Hebrew Bible fall on puzzled ears.  The national division today is not between Republican and Democrat, black and white or rich and poor, but between those who know the origins of the past and those who have a new version of history seen through the lens of moral relativism.

Lincoln quoted Psalm 19 in his Second Inaugural Address; but who knew? Last Friday I watched a few minutes of Washington Week; I started laughing and changed the channel.  We are drowning in ignorance.

(revised.)

The Difference between Ethics and Morals

Ethics exist in every organized society as an agreed-upon system of behavioral norms and attitudes by which members live in as much harmony as possible.  These rules apply first to public behavior but also hopefully to private as well. Ethics governs interpersonal relationships, business deals, political life and social life. It is temporal and voluntary.

Aristotle

Aristotle wrote his famous Nicomachean Ethics in 340 B.C.E which was widely accepted as the norm except that even he focused on the individual application more than the corporate. Perhaps he knew that controlling other people was pretty much a lost cause.

Morals are the same thing, but they are dictated by a single God through the Bible, hence their origin in the Judeo Christian traditions. Greeks, and other nations at that time, had a pantheon of gods, many of whom were reprobates and not worth emulating. Jews alone at that time were monotheists.

God alone is the one who expects accountability from those who violate moral codes since they come from Him. They are temporal, spiritual and eternal in their consequences.  Morals demand a higher standard because God not man is the final arbiter. Ethics may vary from one society to another. Morality does not because God has one set of books, not two or more.

In practice this how it works. Socrates got a bad reputation in Athens for speaking out against evil and mismanagement. Political leaders felt the brunt of his criticism and based on their ethical principle, “the peace of the community,” told Socrates to commit suicide because he was, in effect,  disturbing the peace. Socrates agreed with Athenian Ethics and drank the poison.

This would not have happened in a moral society. Here truth is superior to “an uncomfortable community” and life is precious, preferable to death. God’s laws not man’s comfort is the standard.

When a society veers away from a God-imposed criteria it loses its footing which leads to confusion. When abortion was legalized in mid-20th century America it marked a steady decline in public behavior so now we hear cursing by even the smallest children to a media unrepentant about slander and managed news. Today there is virtually no part of public life left uncontaminated by a loss of morals and spiritual anarchy.

In our fascination with the Greeks superior intellectual attainment and ability to recognize and applaud the human aspect of mankind they still crashed and have never regained that level of culture. Ethics works – it works wherever it is tried, but it cannot retain ascendancy when founded on humanistic principles. When man tries to govern himself, he fails.

In contrast is Israel which having been disciplined by a rightfully angry God, returned in 1948 to its homeland after many generations with its moral laws in tact.

Will America do likewise?