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Ideas Have Consequences 1st Edition
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The idea whose consequences Weaver entails and deplores he identifies as nominalism or relativism -- the absence of belief in any source of truth outside man, the absence of universals, the reduction of all things to formless particulars.
You might have thought that such an idea was too abstract to have any impact on your life, but Weaver argues persuasively that nominalism makes impossible the "metaphysical dream" of an organized universe, leading to social chaos, formless art, virtueless individuals suckered by newspapers, movies and radio (today I imagine he would have added television to the list) into believing that life consists only of chasing ever more creature comforts and a universal "spoiled-child psychology".
He also prescribes remedies. The ownership of property, he argues, is the sole surviving "metaphysical right" our culture recognizes, and the starting point for anyone wishing to restore other metaphysical ideas. Because language is so closely tied to thought, Weaver argues for some language-oriented educational remedies (more emphasis on poetry in education, and on foreign languages, especially Latin and Greek). He also argues the case for the dying virtue of piety, which he defines as respect for nature, respect for the substance of others, and respect for the substance of the past.
There's more than a little of the grouchy conservative in Weaver. For instance, he complains bitterly about jazz, "the clearest of all signs of our age's deep-seated predilection for barbarism.Read more ›
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.
Prof. Weaver's critique of modern culture was as relevant then as it is now. His attack on jazz music might startle the modern reader, but just consider that this music influenced early rock and roll, and while I enjoy a lot of popular music, this has ultimately given us some pretty vile music that can and does influence the way kids think. Think "gangta rap" and the sexually explicit stuff on the radio. Prof. Weaver could hear the appeal to basic urges in the rhythms of jazz music.
This type of conservatism is unfamiliar to modern political junkies. This is not capitalist, semi-libertarian Reagan conservatism. His attacks on finance capitalism, industry, technology, and comfort as the basic goal of life might almost sound like the mantra of IMF protestors and people with socialist leanings. But make no mistake: Weaver extends an olive branch (probably unintentionally) to the other side of conservatism with his focus on private property as the last surviving link to a metaphysical foundation of ethics. He didn't mean this in a materialist sense, but in the sense of being tied to a home, a family, a community.
After reading this, I highly recommend "Steps Toward Restoration: The Consequences of Richard Weaver's Ideas" to get some more perspective on the man, and how some of his ideas changed towards the end of his life. (During the height of the Cold War, his stance on individualism and capitalism softened a bit.)
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I'm 24 years old, a grad student and I love reading - especially more philosophical topics - however this book was harder than most. Read morePublished 26 days ago by W.B. Bowes
A work of Prophecy. Absolute beauty woven into a rhetoric and polemic that transcends any objection against it. Much needed reading in our time.Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Weaver sets out to demonstrate that the West is and has been on a cultural decline, and to provide a solution to this problem (1). Read more
A truly thought provoking work; a profound and unique perspectivePublished 5 months ago by Amazon Customer