Nov 20 2017

Disenchantment

London - Georgian Apartments

Disenchantment

Disenchantment with rhetoric about law that ignores legal realities:

A very important think piece by Jesse Singal: “There Have Been So Many Bad Lefty Free-Speech Takes Lately,” New York Magazine, November 12, 2017.

Disenchantment with the beltway culture that ignores any reality:

A poignant reflection on Washington, D.C. and writing by Tom Ricks: “Babylon Revisited: Melancholy Thoughts After a Short Trip to Washington, D.C.,” Foreign Policy, November 17, 2017.

“Disenchantment,” in Max Weber’s (1864-1920) words, means:

The fate of our times is characterized by rationalization and intellectualization and, above all, by the ‘disenchantment of the world.’ Precisely the ultimate and most sublime values have retreated from public life either into the transcendental realm of mystic life or into the brotherliness of direct and personal human relations. It is not accidental that our greatest art is intimate and not monumental, nor is it accidental that today only within the smallest and intimate circles, in personal human situations, in pianissimo, that something is pulsating that corresponds to the prophetic pneuma, which in former times swept through the great communities like a firebrand, welding them together. If we attempt to force and to ‘invent’ a monumental style in art, such miserable monstrosities are produced as the many monuments of the last twenty years [1897–1917].

Elaborating on Weber’s term, “disenchantment,” Richard Jenkins notes:

It is the historical process by which the natural world and all areas of human experience become experienced and understood as less mysterious; defined, at least in principle, as knowable, predictable and manipulable by humans; conquered by and incorporated into the interpretive schema of science and rational government. [1]

Yet, Jenkins points out, there may not be anything necessarily “modern” about this disenchantment:

Even if we disregard the rich variety of communities and ethnies in the pre-modern world, there is every reason to suggest that the European world, at least, has been disenchanted, in the sense of epistemically fragmented, for as long as we can perceive it in the historical record.[2]

NOTES

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[1] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium,” Max Weber Studies 1 (November 2000): 11–32 at 12; Weber, “Science as a Vocation,” From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, Translated and eds. H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills. (New York, NY: Oxford UP, 1958) 55.

[2] Jenkins, “Disenchantment, Enchantment and Re-Enchantment: Max Weber at the Millennium” 15.

 


Sep 3 2015

Law, Love, and George Christoph Lichtenberg

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Law, Love, and George Christoph Lichtenberg

Over at The American Conservative, Rod Dreher challenges readers:

Traditionalist, orthodox Christians are a minority in this country, and are going to become ever more despised. The day is coming when the only protection many of us can rely on is the law, and the willingness of government officers to obey the law, even though they hate us. And so, my final question … Is the principle that the [Thomas] More of Bolt’s play powerfully elucidates really something we can afford to take lightly?

The majority of Americans, that is, those who don’t happen to be traditionalist, orthodox Christians, hate hypocrisy. And those who hate hypocrisy are the most hardhearted of hypocrites. For as the German sage taught us at the dawn of the Enlightenment:

I am convinced we do not only love ourselves in others but hate ourselves in others too.

–George Christoph Lichtenberg (1742-1799)

So America hates hypocrisy–and if Herr Lichtenberg’s dictum carries any merit it comes from our country’s evident embrace of those most notorious species of hypocrite: cheaters and liars. Tom Brady has been exonerated for flat footballs, over 300,000 U. S. died in the last 14 years (the Bush-Obama Era) because they were denied (via bureaucratic procrastination) the  healthcare promised them, and Ashley Madison appears to be the most successful ponzi scheme since Madoff.

Speaking for the minority of traditionalist, orthodox Christians over at First Things, Carl. R. Truman gets it exactly right today:

I have no reason to doubt [Kim Davis’] sincerity or the significance of her conversion. But the fact that she has only been a professing Christian for a few years scarcely defuses the power of the question. The politics of sex is the politics of aesthetic and rhetorical plausibility and a multiple divorcee understandably lacks such plausibility on the matter of the sanctity of marriage. The only way in which her defense could be deemed plausible would be if the church in general had maintained in practice, not just theory, a high view of marriage. Then the move from outside the church to inside the church would perhaps have more rhetorical power. In fact, at least as far as Protestantism goes, the opposite is the case. The supine acceptance by many churches of no fault divorce makes the ‘I have become a Christian so it is all different now’ defense appear implausible, even if it is actually true in specific cases.

But as Victor Hugo and Ronald Dworkin have pointed out, the law will not save us:

“Everything is legal.”

–Thénardiers, Les Misérables. 1860. IV, vi, 01

In fact, people often profit, perfectly legally, from their legal wrongs. The most notorious case is adverse possession—if I trespass on your land long enough, some day I will gain a right to cross your land whenever I please.

–“Is Law a System of Rules?” The Philosophy of Law (1977)

And if the law will not save us, we must then turn to love.