We have entered an age of unreason; an age when the evidence of our senses and the sentences and words we use to convey their meaning, what we used to call common sense, has been replaced by a new sort of meaning, one entirely shaped by imagination.
In a real sense, it is the triumph of the arts, the triumph of imagination over sense, where knowledge based on our senses is replaced by feelings that are to be vented with a hyperbolic emotional language.
And what better place to observe it in action than in the main left-wing lunatic vent in the United States from where molten emotion spews daily against the President; no, not the San Andreas fault, but that millionaires’ artist’s commune, otherwise known as Hollywood.
Just observe: From their sanitary perch high above the porn centre of the universe, people like Robert De Niro (f**k Trump), Melissa Milano (Listen the f**k up), Cher (f**king idiot/Hitler), and John Cusack (Nazi) took to their artistic imagination to hurl abuse. Then there was Jim Carrey (reptilian) who decided it was all too rational to simply argue with the President and his policies and so took to cartoonish art to depict him in all manner of obscenity. Don’t you just wonder why they all seem so rational in the movies – when they assume another character and read scripts written for them by others?
We have a similar, but more political realm of emotionalism in Australia. Yes, I know, Your ABC. But think beyond that; think identity politics and the lunatic left-wing demand that you are how you feel. Think safe schools, think homosexual marriages, think human rights that only serve some humans and not the most vulnerable.
It is almost as if the lunatic left actually think identity politics is the breakthrough in mental health therapy: “just give in to those voices in your head and do your thing whatever it is.” Wasn’t it only recently that homosexual men loitered in male toilets; now you can look for the trannies in the ladies’ toilets and wonder where it will all end.
Well, you can blame the Enlightenment for it. The Enlightenment was a philosophical movement that argued for the replacement of human reason by natural science. Science had proven itself to be the master of prediction. If it could be applied to human beings their behaviour would be entirely predictable and real knowledge about humanity would be available; except, as everyone’s commonsense will show, if people can change their minds, no true science of human behaviour is possible.
So the great minds of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries assumed human reason away. Reason was not the ground of deliberate choice. Reason was just an instrument used by the passions. Or as Jeremy Bentham said, the governance of mankind is the result of “two sovereign masters, pain and pleasure.”
The only realm of intellectual freedom for the whole of mankind was that of the imagination, the realm of the artist. The artist was the creative element in society, creating values that others could adopt. The artist was suddenly the superman. Whereas Plato thought the artist mostly irrational and hence in need of strict regulation, men like Nietzsche liberated the artist from all control because of his creativity. You do remember Nietzsche, him of the blond beast, the Übermensch, don’t you? Well, the liberated artist is up there in the above quotes from that superman, artistic commune in the USA.
But, what those quotes really show, however, is not just the artists’ outrage. They show that they have no reason for their outrage. They are offended but don’t know why the offence seems so much less than their outrage. Without a reason and, some might say, quite reasonably, without too many brains, they have released the product of their outraged imagination and what did it come to? Irrational storm und drang.
The great spokesman for reason and common sense was the Greek philosopher, Aristotle. It was against his teaching that the attack by the Enlightenment, led initially by Machiavelli but most successfully by Thomas Hobbes, was made. The cure for identity politics, the cure for Democratic Party mobs, the cure for the open borders arguments of men like George Soros and Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel, the alt-left lunatics, and, yes, even the cure for the President’s vulgarity, is a return to common sense.
The course in liberal arts that St John’s College in Annapolis Maryland provides, restores Aristotle to his entitled pre-eminence. Not by an assertion of his entitlement, but by requiring careful study both of what he taught and of the criticisms made by those from the enlightenment and after.
If the Ramsay Centre can provide a similar course of study in Australia, it is quite possible that the age of unreason into which we have plunged, will slowly melt away and allow our humanity, once more to flourish.
David Long is a retired solicitor, economist and PhD candidate at Griffith University, School of Law.
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