- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; Enlarged edition (November 4, 2013)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 022609006X
- ISBN-13: 978-0226090061
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 74 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #79,011 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Ideas Have Consequences: Expanded Edition Paperback – November 4, 2013
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Weaver meticulously describes the ailment, including the chief causes of the crisis: (1) Replacement of transcendent sentiments with utilitarianism & pragmatism; (2) Undermining senses of order and hierarchy (from liberalism/collectivism); (3) Loss of focus and an embrace of fragmentary obsessions; (4) Exercise of raw ego and self-indulgence; (5) Dereliction of media responsibility; (6) Emergence of the spoiled-child phenomena.
Despite the rather gloomy prognosis, Weaver does not leave the reader without hope. In the final three chapters, he proposes corrective actions that he believes will get America back on track away from the path of self-destruction: (1) Preserve the sanctity of private property; (2) Use of meaningful language and rhetoric; (3) Embrace notions of piety and true justice.
After the elapse of fifty years, Weaver's estimation of the crisis as well as his proposed corrective actions are as relevant and useful today as when they were first written.
I highly recommend this book to historians of American conservative thought as well as those who wish to be inspired by one of the best authors that conservatism has been blessed to have.
The philosophical loss of absolutes/universals ultimately results in the loss of truth, the undermining of knowledge itself, and the increase of societal chaos.
The modern world stands upon the precipice of chaos and anarchy, according to Richard Weaver. The journey to this brink of destruction began in the 14th Century with Occam's rejection of universals and advancement of nominalism. (Intro) Since that time, the practical effects of this errant philosophy gradually eroded the philosophical underpinnings of logic and epistemology. This erosion resulted in society's loss of civil order and moral certainty. (Ch. 1-3) Without transcendent truth and moral certainty, media and the arts glorify self-indulgence and ego, thus reinforcing a spoiled-child mindset. (Ch. 4-6) The right to private property constitutes the last available battlefield upon which Weaver urges his readers to fight nominalism. In defending this metaphysical right, he hopes to rebuild the clarity of language and an ultimate sense of piety and justice. (Ch. 7-9) Only in this way might we step back from the brutish fate awaiting the practitioners of nominalism.
Worldview determines practical beliefs, at least within a given framework. The nominalist worldview, with its lack of transcendent truth, uses utilitarianism and pragmatism to ground truth and morality. Utilitarianism and pragmatism frequently lead to undermining societal structure on account of its inefficiency. The resulting chaos leads to competing values, allowing the most egomaniacal people to determine the cultural climate. The media then quickly becomes a tool for the powerful, with little discretion as to its use. The end result of this chain comes in a society of spoiled children. There remains one area where society recognizes a transcendent right, however: the right to private property. Properly defended, this right may provide the means to combat the nominalist worldview.
Weaver develops a cogent, though not entirely infallible argument. The argument's initial weakness lies in its sudden beginning with Occam's nominalism. Weaver assumes this beginning of society's degradation. As he deftly demonstrates in the remainder of his argument, however, no philosophy emerges in a vacuum. With that said, Weaver's inductive argument requires a starting point, and nominalism provides perhaps the most convenient one. Additionally, Weaver's assessment of the arts, as exemplified by jazz and classical music, seems motivated more by preference than by evaluation. His rapid dismissal of jazz as formless demonstrates his lack of familiarity with jazz. Additionally, modern composers still produce "higher" forms of music comparable to the classical composers. Other than these oversights, however, Weaver demonstrates effectively, through historical development, that when Man severs the ties between metaphysical reality and the material world, the foundation for knowledge itself quickly crumbles. Without transcendental truths there remains no basis upon which to build an orderly society, maintain moral standards, or distinguish between competing pragmatic perspectives. Weaver is correct in his conclusion that the existence of transcendental truth must be maintained if Man desires to have any ground for achieving order and understanding in a world of chaos and ignorance.
Two companion pieces I'd recommend along with this work are: 'The Quest for Community' by Robert A. Nisbet and 'Unbelief and Revolution' by Groen van Prinsterer