Modern academia is far from the last bastion of open minds and open discourse. The spirit of reason that drove Plato’s Akademe in ancient Athens is dead in our universities, though the ideology of the proto-totalitarian Plato is alive and well. Today, supposed philosopher-kings dictate the lives of those who seek entrance into the ranks of elite interpreters and disseminators of crypto-socialist esoterism. Their criteria is not reason and truth, but conformity to the doctrinaire teachings of neomarxism and its tacit enforcer political correctness.
Staggering within today’s monastic halls of academia is the lack of real, substantive debate. While academia has always been satirized as a place where pointy-headed philosophical types debate “how many angels can dance on the head of a pin,” there once was meaningful debate on the core issues of philosophy that determined the research programs of all fields. In a move that would make Stalin proud, many philosophers and brilliant minds of the past have been erased from the big picture of human knowledge. It is not that these intellects do not measure up to the supposed insights of the New Left, it is the fact that these truth-tellers represent a threat to the left’s political program, which is driven by Platonic “big lies,” and Sorelian “useful myths.” In other words, it is not because these past philosophers are not insightful that they are excluded from the formal curricula of our universities; it is because they are insightful that they are excluded.
Radicalism requires a number of character traits on the part of its adherents, which are not only ingrained by what they are taught, but what they are not taught. Because radicalism is a kind of being “freed” from one’s personality, reality, and morality, radicalization simply demands removing those ideological anchors that keep one “grounded,” politically, socially, economically, and spiritually. When one becomes unhinged and unable to govern oneself, the power of the government is increased; this is due to people’s demands to be ruled over and to do for them what they presumably cannot do for themselves. This is the motivation behind the left’s program, and the reason for the nexus of interest behind the ostensibly emancipatory left and its relentless drive to increase the power of the state. The left’s radicalization program of “addition by subtraction” is briefly discussed below.
Radicalism requires being unhinged from objective reality. Before one can determine truth and falsehood, one has to have a grasp on the true nature of reality. That is why a student will no longer normally encounter Aristotle, the thinker who launched golden ages around the world, unless as a short pretext to superficially critique his thinking, such as his views on slavery in the ancient world. What historicism and the lack of serious historical study means is that students are not able to place ideas within local and temporal contexts. Aristotle questioned whether or not men were born slaves, and as such, his introspection was leading in the right direction towards emancipation. But since he wasn’t a full-blown radical, he is to be condemned when mentioned, but in the main, ignored. Plato’s Republic, on the other hand, written by Aristotle’s teacher and philosophical rival, is nearly required reading, because it is a communism-friendly text. And forget about Ayn Rand. The gatekeepers of “knowledge” won’t allow dissent on fundamental principles; which is to say, the elites know better than we do how we are to live our own lives.
Radicalism requires a lack of self-restraint, wisdom, and prudent living. Thus, one will not find the thought of Stoics such as Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations is the secular equivalent of Proverbs, nor much of classics in general, such as Plutarch’s Lives, or Epictecus’ The Golden Sayings. However, one might find Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War, presumably because it illustrates how the abuse of language can lead to stasis, or social decay and revolution.
Radicalism requires irrationality. When one examines the term itself, “irrational,” it implies being unable to weigh alternatives in the real world and to choose the option that best serves one’s self-interest. Thus we see on the left an aversion to texts of political economy, with their emphases on such fundamental rational concepts as “scarcity” and “opportunity cost,” and thus only a cursory introduction to such texts as Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations or Ricardo’s On the Principles of Political Economy and Taxation (curiously, see the pathetic Wikipedia entry). Perhaps if students delved into such texts at deeper than a superficial level, they would learn that Marx derived his “Theory of Labor Value” from Ricardo, who used it modestly, and put it in the broader context of international trade and maximizing efficiency.
Radicalism requires a lack of awareness about history. Thus one will not generally find Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Cicero’s Orations, Montesquieu’s Considerations on the Causes of the Greatness of the Romans and Their Decline, Adam Ferguson’s An Essay on the History of Civil Society, David Hume’s The History of England, or Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France in required history courses, which are typically non-Western related. Such seminal texts give one a “feel” for how to think about history, in terms of general patterns of what is conducive to the success of society; as well as the horrors wrought by mysticism, the causes of social madness, and the destructive effects of immorality. Instead, one is taught that history is irrelevant, and consists primarily of memorizing facts and figures; at least until one gets to college, when one can learn “real history” from such tendentious luminaries as Charles Beard and Howard Zinn, and that the only thing one has to know about the Founders was that they owned slaves and they wanted to increase their prosperity by lowering taxes and expanding trade. The fact that they founded a nation whose charter led inexorably to the political emancipation of all adult citizens (meaning men and women), and to unprecedented prosperity, is jettisoned; historicism again wreaks damage by dropping context and denuding the acts of history of their moral significance.
Radicalism requires confusion about the nature of politics and government. In addition to Aristotle, whom was mentioned earlier, such crucial texts as Montesqueiu’s The Spirit of the Laws, Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense are dropped. Montesquieu is commonly objected to on the grounds that he was ‘aristocratic,’ and because his speculation on the heterogeneity of societies being tied to climate bordered on racialism; therefore, his brilliant innovation of divided government, a crucial concept embedded in our Constitution, is somehow tainted by association. (Though the charge that Karl Marx was a deadbeat father and a social parasite apparently is a kind of blasphemy.) Locke is usually attacked along the lines that he was too ‘mystical,’ that is to say, too Christian. But as we saw with the indispensable Thomas Aquinas and his magnum opus Summa Theologica, rationality can be wondrously harmonized with Christianity, particularly in the ideals of Natural Law and natural rights. Common Sense is dropped as too ‘polemical,’ while The Federalist Papers is relegated to being an obsession of ‘right-wing fanatics,’ though it is perhaps one of the greatest works on political philosophy in the history of mankind. The Declaration of Independence and The Constitution are increasingly ignored altogether, much the fate of the supposedly obsolete Anti-Federalist Papers; and although Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America is widely discussed, it is mainly for its more modern liberal merits, which arise in certain passages. Again, forget Frederic Bastiat, whose writings are often corrosive of leftism and statism at their very cores. Along with “false choices” and social justice, students should learn about “The Broken Window Fallacy” and the unintended consequences of statism. F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom is paramount in this latter regard.
Radicalism requires immorality. It is practically a non-starter to discuss the Christian Bible within school or Academia; not for its historical merits, not for its insights into the human condition, not for its positive effects on the human soul. However, alternative religions and faiths are to be lauded as reflective of “tolerance,” and “diversity,” in accordance with the nihilistic offspring of political correctness, cultural and moral relativism. An absence of ability to distinguish between good and evil, rather being “beyond good and evil,” as Nietzsche put it, is crucial to the left’s dehumanizing program, thus students are not allowed to learn about the deep-seated social causes of revolution and misery. Whether in the ancient Near East, ancient Greek city-states, the Roman republic, the medieval period, the English Civil War, the French Revolution, the 1848 revolutions, the Bolshevik putsch and Russian civil war, the collapse of society that presages tyranny is rarely explicitly mentioned, and hardly ever fully explored. Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind is a stellar modern work that explores this topic.
Radicalism requires a loss of identity, loss of confidence in one’s self, and susceptibility to be manipulated by a collectivist cause. There are certain texts that are crucial to morally girding the student to prevent his manipulation by self-interested authorities into adopting or embracing ‘altruistic,’ self-destructive causes. Students are asked to ‘sacrifice themselves’ for the greater good, instead of better themselves for the greater good. What betters a human being is pursuing personal excellence, in accordance with those virtues that make a man a good citizen. What is lost in academia completely is that market competition brings out the best in individuals, and that the market mechanism requires that one contributes to the greater good in some way in order to be compensated, and in order to become wealthy. While wealth can be gained in a capitalist society, it can also be lost; as opposed to the record of government, where elites can barricade themselves into accountable positions using fraud and force. Such wanton deception can only get so far within a market, where the free flow of information is crucial. And just as the government is choking the free flow of information in the market through currency manipulation and over-regulation, in order to cause chaos and gain economic power, those same elites are non-coincidentally choking the flow of information in our universities.
If the left is true, right, and brilliant, and its ideological competitors are wrong, anachronistic, and simplistic, why not give non-radical ideas a hearing? Wouldn’t this be a chance to demolish the arguments of the political opposition, whose ideological backing boasts over half the country in some intermixed manner? But perhaps this is too much to ask of our state-funded universities, which long ago gave up any pretenses of intellectual honesty. No, such “hearings” of the ideological opposition would become the modern embodiment of witch hunts, of the kind the radicals are so quick to lay at the feet of their Christian adversaries. Instead the left takes the cowardly route, in accordance with their morally cowardly relativist doctrine, their economically cowardly Marxist doctrine, their politically cowardly statist doctrine, and their spiritually cowardly existentialist doctrine, of silently condemning the great thinkers of history to intellectual death, or at best, purgatory on the shelves of our languishing libraries. It is ours to give these great thinkers’ books a hearing in our own minds. All it takes is reaching out, and picking them up.