A couple of years ago, a visiting priest to my parish gave a homily on March 7th, the anniversary of the death of St. Thomas Aquinas. Within that homily the priest paused for a second and then asked the following question, which he quoted from St. Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, (8:31): “If God is with us, who can be against us?”
After pausing for a few moments, the priest tersely answered the question: “Politicians!”
Within any culture some individuals become leaders, people with an ability to communicate to other people a sense of superiority in an area of mutual personal interest and, through personal gravitas, heft, reasoned discourse, coercion, or a combination of all these are able to persuade other people to follow them. In cultures possessed of a State form of self-governance, those people with the power to make laws—the political class (politicians and those who support their agenda)—tends to become the cultural leaders and elites. The reason for this is because, as Aristotle argued millennia ago, in practical matters, inclining the human emotions to take habitual direction from the human will, rather than teaching the human intellect through lecture, conversation, or syllogistic demonstration, is the chief form of education.
The influence of education on cultural direction and Western, Enlightenment higher education
As Aristotle’s teacher Plato had recognized, more than anything else within a culture, what most influences cultural direction are educational institutions. Plato maintained the chief reason for this is that what a culture honors and tends to consider to be higher goods, it tends also to inculcate in its schools.
For several centuries, going back to the start of the Enlightenment, Western culture and “higher” educational institutions have tended to give chief position of honor to what has falsely been called “science”, by which Enlightenment thinkers, following the lead of Sir Francis Bacon, have chiefly meant the power of the human will to employ mathematically-regulated technologies to be able to torture the physical universe to reveal its secrets.
Prior to possessing science, in a fictional historical narrative (intentionally designed by its authors to replace serious metaphysical analysis about the origin of science) leaders of the Western Enlightenment (including Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Immanuel Kant) claimed that, prior to their age of European Enlightenment, human beings had possessed no knowledge, no truth, no real principle of induction about the physical universe and its scientific principles of organization, or, strictly speaking, about anything else. Supposedly, in the strict sense of understanding truth, physical science contains the whole of truth, and anyone who questions the truth of this secularized-fundamentalistic and rationally-incoherent-and-unjustifiable claim is supposed to be intellectually unenlightened, intellectually backward (likely, also, to be an orthodox Jew, Catholic, or Evangelical Protestant).
Intellectually considered, this claim is absurd and indefensible as is the claim that the whole of truth is contained in Aristotle, the Bible, or the Qu’ran. Were one to accept it as true—since this understanding of science did not start until around the 18th century in Europe and since saying something false requires that some truth be known and lying demands that a person know a truth and intentionally not tell it—strictly speaking, no truth, falsity, lies, or lying could have existed before the Enlightenment era in Europe or anywhere else!
Nonetheless, this nonsensical proposition is one of the chief first principles of Enlightenment and contemporary Western culture, its educational institutions, and of the utopian-socialist political regimes that presently act as its sacred guardians: the metaphysical-political magisterium that gives it its sacred and unquestionable character as a self-evident truth.
Negative cultural consequences
For centuries the negative cultural consequences of accepting this blatant epistemological falsehood as a first principle of truth have been working their cultural devastation upon the West, especially within Western educational institutions. Since this proposition is not rationally justifiable by means of mathematical physics, and classical metaphysics has been abandoned by the Enlightenment West as superstition, the highest science that comes to the defense of the nature of this contemporary understanding of science cannot be classical metaphysics (as was the case in pre-Enlightenment education). It is a conflation of fairy-tale history, “social science” falsely-so-called, and “politics” falsely-so-called: utopian socialism posing as what is often labeled today “contemporary moral psychology” (such as the falsely-so-called “moral psychology” of Jonathan Haidt).
If Enlightened physical science contains the whole of truth, then outside of Enlightened physical science (in areas such as religion, fine art, politics) no truth and no principles for discovering truth would or could exist. What exist are opinions emotionally held. Outside Enlightened physical science and its methods, human reason is anarchic.
To avoid being drawn into becoming just one more anarchic way of reasoning among others, since physical science has no means of rationally justifying its claim to be the whole of truth, those who support this evidently false and secularized-fundamentalistic claim do so by reducing the whole of science to opinions emotionally held. Like Don Quixote conversing with mule drivers about the beauty of his Dulcinea del Toboso, they declare for all the world to accept without question that all knowledge consists of opinions emotionally held.
Indeed, with no sense of embarrassment, they proudly proclaim even physical science to be an opinion emotionally held, or what they like to call a “belief system.” All knowing and knowledge, they tell us, is simply one or another kind of belief system, the highest of which is the Enlightened belief system of social science (or contemporary moral psychology). This they tell us is the only belief system giving us any truth about the nature and origin of the Enlightened belief system called physical science, through which we come to know the principles of all organizations and operations within the physical universe.
Such a fundamentalistic reduction of the whole of truth to Enlightened science, and of the whole of Enlightened science to Enlightened will and emotions, means that truth no longer consists in a correspondence between the human intellect and what is. Instead, it consists in arbitrary collective feelings of enlightened elites: Enlightened wills and emotions universally shared by self-declared political elites become the measure of all truth.
But since truth no longer means being intellectually in touch with reality, and since it now consists in being in volitional and emotional touch with the Enlightened will and emotions of a group of political elites (aka “tolerance”), such people naturally incline to conceive of themselves as being infallible, immaculately conceived (or, at least, immaculately evolved); and therefore incapable of telling lies (even to themselves). Truth now, in effect, becomes for these people the most emotionally persuasive and “thrilling” lie told by people who think just like they do.
Thinly veiled anarchy
In reality and in principle, people who hold this rationally disordered understanding of the universe are anarchists. They think that outside of physical science and their social-science historical narrative about its origin, no principles of truth exist in things to which the human mind needs to conform. Instead, truth chiefly consists of laws collectively invented and promulgated by the sincere good will and Enlightened emotions of Enlightened elites: in willing the same thing and feeling the same Enlightened feelings that all people who have sincere, Enlightened emotions and wills (feelings) feel. In such an understanding, from one moment to the next, truth is totally arbitrary, anarchic, iconoclastic. What was true a moment ago can be false in the next moment, depending upon what the cultural elites promulgate. In the new, Western, Orwellian political world order, Enlightened appetites have become the measure of all truth.
Consequently, the contemporary Enlightened world has no room in it for classical, Western educational and cultural institutions and what those institutions have traditionally honored. Un-Enlightened forms of thought such as classical liberal arts, philosophy, and theology have vanished from such institutions. From now on, such courses of study must be dishonored and shamed as forms of scientific and cultural backwardness, intolerance, and causes of class distinctions, class conflict, and oppression (that is, “hate speech”).
The Enlightened college and university is a place that honors success in the new world order. The new world order promotes success in the physical universe, mathematically-regulated technologies through which to force the physical universe to reveal her secrets. It honors digital technology, social science, and Enlightened, sincere feelings, and new age religion, while promoting education for the chief aim of acquiring technological mastery, money, fame, and political power.
It celebrates no natures existing in things outside of mathematical quantities and their relations. And because all Enlightened individuals must be willing to contradict themselves from one moment to the next, this world order experiences no shame in repeatedly engaging in lying and self-contradiction as it honors being totally tolerant of all differences of opinion (except those that contradict the ones held by an elite group who legislate the meaning of Enlightenment from one moment to the next). Hence, instead of courses in traditional liberal arts, philosophy, and theology, it promotes studies in consciousness raising, sexual identity, and fostering Enlightened feelings.
Secular fundamentalism in drag
Such a college or university is little more than “secular fundamentalism in drag”: a propaganda institute that uses envy to promote class conflict and encourage anarchy within the intellect, will, and emotions of students and traditional culture at large.
Marxism is one of many forms of utopian socialism generated by Enlightenment, secularized fundamentalists so as to keep control of culture in the hands of a class of self-proclaimed intellectual elites and pandering plutocrats and politicians. It maintains its power by promoting the same false, neo-gnostic and neo-Pelagian narrative that the whole of truth is contained in physical and social science and that true justice is enlightened, or “social”, justice: liberation of a class of oppressed peoples (victims who, by nature, can do no wrong) from the exploitation by privileged classes and backward religions including orthodox Catholicism and Judaism, and Evangelical Protestantism.
It works by repeatedly fostering envy and anarchy within traditional cultural institutions (like the traditional family and schools) so as to take them over and force them to abandon their petty-bourgeois, philistine, culturally-backward view of individual freedom. To assist itself, under the guise of “falsely-so-called” liberation movements and with the help of the political class, utopian socialism posing as Enlightened science uses mass media and misnamed “educational” institutions to exploit the political inexperience and vices of youth to transform them into a class of useful idiots.
The soft Marxism that has existed within Western Europe and the United States for over a century is presently starting to reveal its secularized, fundamentalistic nature with full force. As a result, study on Western college and university campuses of traditional subjects such as classical liberal arts, philosophy, and theology—disciplines that, in the past inclined to inculcate in students intellectual skills to resist propaganda posing as science—are among today’s chief targets of utopian socialist takeover.
Since colleges and universities are the chief cultural organizations from and through which Western culture has traditionally generated its cultural leaders, including its politicians, going back to at least the 1960s (when Enlightenment propaganda started to dominate Western colleges and universities), the net effect of this takeover of American higher education on the West has been an increasing leadership deficit within all Western cultural institutions—and especially within the political class.
Since, as my late friend John Deely was fond of saying, “You cannot lead a revolution by applying the principles of the old regime,” today, except for some presently-marginalized people here and there, we have little hope of turning to administrative heads and faculty members of major contemporary Western colleges and universities to find the institutions and leaders to reverse this Western leadership deficit problem. Of greater promise are new kinds of educational institutions and nothing short of the organizational and leadership genius of St. Thomas Aquinas to extricate us from this cultural mess in which we currently find ourselves.