On the Pros and Cons of the Accessibility of Art

The Pros

For less than a hundred dollars, one can have a framed print of William-Adolphe Bouguereau’s masterpiece, Song of Angels. The obvious advantage of such a cost-affordable gem of Western and Catholic art is the price tag. For the cost of a good steak dinner for two, one can have in a room in the house nearly the same aesthetic pleasure as an aristocrat from the 1800s who would have had to pay tens of thousands.

Now, I know there are those who dispute the aesthetic advantage of prints over originals, since the differences of surfaces are different. But these differences are, well, superficial. To the artist–I humbly submit to you that I know a thing or two about art, being an amateur artist myself–these differences are more pronounced, but to the casual art appreciator, they are imperceptible.

Art has become, through commercialization and technological innovation, ever more accessible to the common man without a Rolls-Royce in the drive, and I think this is a very good thing. The only difficulty is that it is hardly appreciated and taken advantage of. Let me explain.

When one goes into a Hobby Lobby, for instance, there he is met with décor art, with seaweed mermaids and seashells and lifeless beach scenes. These are not made my man but machine and motor. They smack of a vague and lifeless landscape, devoid of personality, movement, or vibrant life-giving pigment. They are, in short, not art, but décor.

Such decorations are welcome, and I have a piece or two in my own home, purchased before I learned or was interested in art. But now, that I am no longer a child but a man, I have left off the things of children. There are those who have not, and I do not blame them. For the same forces, the mechanical and commercial, which have made art ever more accessible have also made reproductions of true art inert and irrelevant. There are whole warehouses filled with gilded framed prints of masterpieces just waiting to be purchased, but contemporary markets do not have the appetite for steak, but only hamburger, or rather tofu-burger.

But the accessibility of reproductions of fine art is a very good thing, whether it is appreciated and taken advantage of or not. Often times when I am praying the Rosary, I will look up at the Song of Angels, and my devotion is touched by filial affection, moved to feel what I express with my heart and lips. That is the power of devotional art: it incarnates the spiritual. And, for just a Franklin or two, one can have a fine gilt framed piece of religious art.

The Cons

Having offered a word or two as the advantages of having fine art works available to the masses, it remains to be said why this may prove disadvantageous, which may be stated in many reasons, but I shall confine myself to three: with respect to the art, with respect to the viewer, and with respect to art in general.

To the first, the artwork as such, the piece hanging in a museum for instance, is a work of human hands, a sub-created entity with a material reality which is quite lost upon the reproduction, which a machine produces. The oil surface, for instance, is something that very few people have ever even seen, let alone appreciated, yet this is one quality that many artists prize as the work of an authentic piece of art, the jewel-like surface, the way light penetrates the glazed surfaces (with oil paintings, there are multiple layers or surfaces which reflect back light), and glows from within. These beauties are wholly lost in a reproduction, and people are not even aware that such qualities exist, unless they have studied art and visited museums. True, like I said above, these qualities of surface are imperceptible to the casual art appreciator, but casual appreciation is not an ideal. The ideal is rather, if not expert, at least a studied appreciation of art. Reproductions make this imperfect, because they leave the living materiality of the work of art aside, and only capture its form.

Next, there is the viewer, which I have slightly touched upon. With reproductions, the viewer takes for granted the thing in itself, since it is not really the thing in itself at all, but a replica. It is the difference between meeting an actor playing Lincoln and meeting the man himself. In the first instance, one admires the words and gestures of the actor portraying Lincoln, such as in Daniel-Day Lewis’s moving performance in Lincoln. But that is only the superficial form of Lincoln. The smell of his aftershave (if he ever shaved) is not there, nor is the very being and soul of the man Lincoln, who many believe to be the savior of America. He was a walking piece of art, and all we have are replicas, either in film or photography and paintings. We do not have the art itself. We have a piece of art of art.

Finally, art for art’s sake, as it were. Art suffers from reproduction, because the whole point and pleasure of art is the uniqueness of every piece. Reproductions try to get around this pride of art by limiting prints, but that is next to impossible with the advent of ever more accessible digital prints. Art becomes just another commodity to be produced and sold, which is a kind of profanation of art. Art is the person and the world mediated through matter. Take away the matter, and the person and the world are left hollow, a mere seashell without the music inside.

Overcoming the Difficulty

As Catholics we have the richest and most fecund tradition of art of any culture or people in the history of the world. The artworks of Catholic culture are incomprehensible, and I am not one to say one should only go to museums to appreciate and cultivate an artistic sentiment. There is such a thing as a via media, which would allow for both the reproduction of the artwork while at the same time not being completely satisfied with it. If taken meditatively, one may see an allegory in the reproduction of art. All art, even original works in oil on canvas, are reproductions of earthly and heavenly realities. They are not the things themselves, the living and breathing and moving dramatis personae, but only stick figures composed in a still life for all eternity. Yet they are something still, which have the power to move us emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually, even being lifeless pigments and oil–and so too reprints. Though not the thing itself, the artwork, reproductions of fine art capture the form if not the matter of the thing and communicate that to our souls. You can cultivate an appreciation of the matter by going to the museum. But that doesn’t mean you cannot derive good in such formal beauty of the reprints.

So, if you find that you have a few bucks lying about, and want to enrich your walls and your soul with some timeless Catholic artwork, do so, and leave off the things of a child and be a man.

Three Papers of Philosophy

What therefore you worship, without knowing it, that I preach to you.

(Saint Paul to the Athenians)

I present below a compilation of three papers of philosophy I defended for my master’s degree before a panel of doctors of philosophy. I present them now for this reason, that I, and indeed my family, have been charged with intellectual incompetence and an incapacity of educating my own flesh and blood.

I am speaking, of course, of the latest tirade against this man and his family by BetrayedCatholics author Teresa Benns. She recently wrote:

“Those educated in secular colleges or universities will have the greatest obstacles to overcome in successfully operating a home school. For unless they do their best to deprogram themselves successfully from the indoctrination they received, much of which is so deeply lodged in the intellect it escapes identification and correction, they will not be able to competently instruct their own children. Understanding the deviant nature of such indoctrination and how to combat it is key to ridding themselves of its effects.” 

Now, maybe she goes on to justify this asinine presumption of another’s character and intellectual formation and piety, but, I confess I ceased reading further for risk of a brain aneurism brought on by the blindingly stupid things I was sure to read had I proceeded further.

I say I am presenting my work toward my master’s in philosophy, so as to give you, reader, critic and judge, a chance to see whether this man stood in need of any “deprograming” from the indoctrination he received while at university, whether any error of the modernist was so lodged in his brain as to escape detection, or, rather, whether the modernists were well within hand and held at an arm’s breadth from his brain and heart.

One word more before presenting the papers: I say this with moving emotions in my soul, that I was not allowed to proceed to the doctorate level of my philosophical studies precisely because I was too Catholic for the institution, and they knew it, because I let them know it in my work and in the classroom and in private discussion every single day. Everyone knew what I believed, and I was persecuted for it, and I was prevented from pursuing a doctorate, notwithstanding my near 4.0 at the graduate level. I say this because now it seems I must suffer again for my work at school, not at the hands of infidels, but from the keyboard of one who only sees evil everywhere, even in her fellow coreligionists. 

For those who have been swayed by Teresa Benns’s smear campaign, I offer these papers in defense of my sound Catholic intellect. For those interested to know the academic level at which we homeschool our dear children, and the rigor with which we form their little minds to reflect the glory of the Almighty, you may visit my wife’s website to get a glimpse.

The following is not easy or leisurely reading, but dense philosophical text. Nevertheless, you will mark the light prosaic style that you have been accustomed to in articles at the CE LOG to freshen and encourage your reading. If you have any questions about the texts, I would love to hear them in the comments section.

One last word (promise). I hold no hate in my heart for Teresa Benns. I think I have said that now like seventeen times, but it bears repeating. I think the poor old woman feeds off of controversy. I wish she would go over to OnePeterFive or the Remnant, where she can have a feast of non-Catholic controversial victuals to live on for a long while. She need not cannibalize a fellow Catholic.

Addendum

I just read a comment posted on the article of BetrayedCatholics linked to above in which Teresa Benns disparages the liberal arts. She writes:

“These teachers are imparting useful information, and as long as it is not mixed in with the liberal arts garbage, this is fine.”

This is probably the most ignorant thing I have ever heard uttered on the subject of education. If you desire to know Catholic thought in the liberal arts, read this article. If you want to be infected by bone-deep ignorance, continue to read Benns.

THREE PAPERS OF PHILOSOPHY

by 

Robert Robbins

B.A. The Catholic University of America, 2015

Three Papers

Submitted in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the 

Master of Arts Degree

Department of Philosophy in the Graduate School

APPROVAL OF THREE PAPERS OF PHILOSOPHY

by 

Robert Robbins

Three Papers Submitted in Partial 

Fulfillment of the Requirements 

for the Degree of

Master of Arts in the field of Philosophy

Approved by:

(Kenneth William Stikkers), Chair

(Randy Auxier)

(Alfred Frankowski)

Graduate School

Southern Illinois University Carbondale

AN ABSTRACT OF THREE PAPERS OF PHILOSOPHY 

By Robert Robbins, the Master of Arts degree in Philosophy 

at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. 

TITLE: THREE PAPERS OF PHILOSOPHY 

MAJOR PROFESSOR: Dr. Andrew Youpa

In “A Critical Review of Ressentiment: Why Max Scheler’s Account of Moral Transvaluation is Incomplete and Why It Must Remain So,” I present Scheler’s account of moral transvaluation, and demonstrate how such an account misses the causal mark of moral degradation to begin with, which, I argue is a matter of sin––a term conspicuously absent from Scheler’s work. 

In “Nietzsche: Philosopher?” I sample some passages of the putative philosopher of popular opinion, with the aim to disclose the fact that Nietzsche does not concern himself with what has traditionally been considered philosophical issues, such as practical wisdom, ethics, aesthetics, theology; and so I conclude that he really cannot be considered a philosopher as such. 

In “A Commentary on the First Three Chapters of Art as Experience and on the False Dichotomy between Perception and Recognition Found Therein,” I develop an expositional commentary on John Dewey’s work on aesthetics, and then draw attention to the inadequate and contradictory description Dewey has of perception and recognition. 

DEDICATION

Cordi Immaculato Mariae

PREFACE

If I were to put into a single word what these three papers of philosophy have in common, it would be heresy. Scheler, Nietzsche, and Dewey are all heretics in their own way, though that is not exactly what I mean by saying each of them have heresy in common. Heresy is but the cause of their philosophical failure, overt in the case of Nietzsche, less pronounced in Scheler, and very subtle indeed in the case of Dewey. I contend that there is a right way to look at reality, and consequently a wrong way. Scheler, Nietzsche and Dewey each look at reality ultimately in the wrong way, some more egregiously erroneous than others. I believe I have shown how this is so with each of them. 

I apologize up front if my papers of philosophy come across as dogmatic––the natural and reasonable consequence of one who actually believes in dogma. But we, all of us, have dogmas, whether we believe them or not, indeed whether we know of them or not. I both know of and believe in the dogma of Christianity. As such, I am bound by conscience and intellectual honesty to argue against and oppose any inimical ideology to that dogma. I do not know if Scheler was conscious of his humanist dogma––the one which believes man is sufficient unto himself, and can through his own effort redeem and save himself. I am almost certain Nietzsche was painfully aware of his own absurd anti-Christian dogmas, however feebly and flimsily expressed and defended, or understood. Though Dewey’s religion was self-evidently man-worship, which he was aware of, he seemed to be unaware of the dogma and heresy expressed in his Art as Experience book, which is more relevant to our paper’s purpose, that of anti-intellectualism, or a distrust of and disdain for the intellect. 

Lest it be concluded that what follows is merely the vehement defense of a religious zealot, I wish to remind the reader of the title: Three Papers of Philosophy. I have intentionally confined myself to conclusions that have been demonstrated from freely accepted premises, and not those needing an assent of faith. Thus, though the beginning of the theses of the papers may have been Christian piety to a strongly held dogma, the work and end result was philosophical through and through. Just as the heretics began in heresy and ended in philosophical falsehood, so I begin in orthodoxy and end in philosophical truth.

Robert RobbinsTABLE OF CONTENTS

                                                                                                                                                 PAGE

ABSTRACT                                                                                                                                   iv

DEDICATION                                                                                                                                v

PREFACE                                                                                                                                      vi

PAPERS

I — A Critical Review of Ressentiment: Why Max Scheler’s Account of Moral            Transvaluation is Incomplete and Why It Must Remain So                                   1

II —  Nietzsche: Philosopher?                                                                                                      18

III — A Commentary on the First Three Chapters of Art as Experience and on the False Dichotomy between Perception and Recognition Found Therein                        28

BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                                                                                         47

VITA                                                                                                                                             48

PAPER I

A CRITICAL REVIEW OF RESSENTIMENT

Why Max Scheler’s Account of Moral Transvaluation is Incomplete and Why It Must Remain So 

INTRODUCTION

I wanted to name this essay, On the Unaccountable Conduct of Hobbits and Other Such Mystical Creatures, but then I ran up against the obvious difficulty of explaining the expansive ontological terrain of that fictitious world, Middle-Earth, with its strange and staggering cosmology, history, philosophy, and perplexing social structures of hobbits, ents, wizards, dwarves, men, elves, dark lords and orcs, while at the same time representing my views and those of Max Scheler and keeping with the expectations of an academic paper in philosophy. Though I have since abandoned the hope of so noble a title, and of introducing even nobler creatures to my reader, nevertheless I do not think it a very great impropriety to at least begin with what inspired the thesis of the essay by describing my state of mind, and the contents of my thoughts, when first I began critically to think about Max Scheler’s Ressentiment.        

  I was thinking how very odd Hobbits are for Scheler. Hobbits are, in the world of Middle-Earth, handicapped by nature, being about the height of a three-year-old child. Their means are, as a rule, rural, mainly sustaining their humble existence by agriculture and manual trades, not unlike medieval European peasants. There is neither a warrior nor scholar of serious worth counted among them. They are simple folk of the shire: beer-drinking, pipe-smoking, comfort-food eating bumpkins, really. And yet, through a series of adventures, a band of these bumpkins set out on a quest to destroy a ring of power in a volcano, thwart a wizard’s war-machine, and slay a Ring Wraith Witch-King, and, after having saved Middle-earth from the oppressive slavery of a Dark Lord, are paid homage to by kings of men, elves, and dwarves. 

According to Scheler, this, though not ruled out entirely in theory––after all, because Scheler’s theory only touches on human nature––nevertheless presents some difficulties which must be addressed. Beginning with the social status and stature of Hobbits: By all accounts, Hobbits should be riven with ressentiment. They are not called “halflings” for nothing. Scheler says that dwarves (in this world, not Middle-Earth) are naturally disposed to ressentiment, on account of their visible handicap. Why not Hobbits? Also their social standing: Hobbits do not posses the elegant quality of the elves, nor their enchanting wisdom. Nor the physical power of either man or dwarf (it is complicated, but dwarves in Middle-Earth, though short, are actually very fast and strong). And how could Hobbits possibly compare with wizards, who have all these qualities and more? There is clear inequality among persons in Middle-Earth, and Hobbits, by all accounts, would seem to be the least endowed, and the most prone to envy, malice, hatred, and spite, given their inferior qualities––only they’re not. The essay which you are about to read may suggest why this might be, especially if we keep in mind that J.R.R Tolkien was a devout Catholic, and his epic fairytale a Christian allegory through and through: The Meek shall inherit the earth.                

PART I.i 

THE PHENOMENON OF Ressentiment  

Ressentiment is a self-poisoning of the mind which has quite definite causes and consequences. It is a lasting mental attitude, caused by the systematic repression of certain emotions and affects which, as such, are normal components of human nature,” (Scheler, 25). There is a conspicuous claim made within the brevity of this descriptive definition of ressentiment, which I will have space and time to deal with in the second part of this essay. Let me just mention it here, because it is important to realize Scheler is working within a philosophical anthropology, a modernist paradigm, which rejects, at least conceptually and methodologically, the supernatural origin and high destiny of man. True, Scheler is also writing out of a Christian intellectual tradition, and has many sympathetic things to say for Christianity, but his beginning and end points are quasi-modernist humanism in depth and scope. As evidence for this claim, no saint would say revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite were normal emotions or affects of human nature, but wicked and rotten fruits of a plant planted in the garden of human nature by Satan. Holiness is normal. Sin is abnormal. So, keeping this in mind, let us proceed to understand what ressentiment is. 

Ressentiment takes hold of a man when he has strong feelings of revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, or spite, but at the same time is unable to act upon these emotions, because he is self-consciously too weak, either in character, body or mind, (Scheler 27). Scheler notes that it is a sociological law that ressentiment will increase with the increase in “discrepancy between political, constitutional, or traditional status of a group and its factual power,” (Scheler, 28). And in our American society where there exists a formal equality among persons but a material inequality in wealth, prestige, education, cultural sophistication, health, physical beauty, among so many other factors, our society is ripe with ressentiment. 

But these discrepancies only become apparent through comparison, which the ressentiment man is rather fond of doing. If he be weak, the man who compares himself to others and others to himself becomes a man of ressentiment. If he be strong, he is an arriviste. This free-for-all comparison tendency, whereby men, no matter their station or actual place in society, feel free to compare themselves with any one else, no matter their station, is caused by free competition, in other words, the free market capitalistic enterprise system, (Scheler, 32). Scheler says it wasn’t always the case. Yes, the peasant compared himself with other more successful peasants, the knight with other knights, the artisan with other artisans, etc., but the peasant never compared himself with the Lord of the Manor. Everyone had their place, and was either placed there by nature or by God. (Scheler, 33). 

Scheler gives some examples of men of ressentiment, beginning with women in general. Woman are the weaker sex, and therefore more vindictive. They must compete for man’s favor. They are reactive and passive by nature and by custom in love. And when rejected, women repress their hurt feelings through pride and modesty, (Scheler, 36-37). Compare this tendency of the woman of ressentiment, in particular with her having to compete for man’s favor, with woman prior to the women’s suffrage, workplace rights, and industrialization of femininity and the rise of feminism in general, that is, when women were called upon by competing suitors, and the imposition of custom Scheler speaks of takes on a whole new spin. Women then only had to be themselves, that is, womanly, and men would literally draw swords in order to have an intimate word with her in the garden. Now women compete for men. The unmoved mover has been removed, like the Earth herself, and is now hurling through the heavens like a comet on fire with resentment for her dislodged place among the heavens, hearth and home. But more on that in the second part. Old age as compared with youth is another source of ressentiment. When the youth no longer look to the old for guidance and wisdom, because information is more accessible now than in bygone eras, the old are replaced by an iPad, and naturally resent it, (Scheler, 38). The mother-in-law is another ressentiment figure. By comparing herself to her son’s wife, she is to be affectionate and respectful of the woman who stole her son’s affections after having done nothing to merit them. The priest is also one such figure, who at once must suppress baser emotions as revenge, wrath, hatred, all the while presenting himself as peaceful and tranquil of heart, (Scheler, 40). Scheler gives other examples of ressentiment types, but the brief catalog given should be enough to get an idea of the kind of phenomenon we are talking about. 

Comparison is but one component of this phenomenon; the woman compares herself to the man; the old to the young, the priest to an idealized self. Repression is another important component in understanding ressentiment. If left unchecked by a moral corrective attitude, a repressed negative feeling toward a definite object, e.g., the boss who just thumbed his nose at me by way of an office memorandum indicting me for leaving outdated milk in the break-room refrigerator, may become detached from its original object, either partially or altogether, and take on a life of its own, (Scheler, 44). Things or persons which only have a loose relevance to the original object now become the object of negativity. Refrigerators, milk, computer paper all become colored by the originary offense.

Thus far we have discussed the formal requirements of ressentiment, that it involves negative emotions in persons who, through comparing themselves to others, are not able to act on these negative emotions, and so repress them, whereby a detached devaluation of related or unrelated objects takes place. It is to this devaluation as a part of ressentiment that must be discussed, in order to understand the movement of the phenomenon. 

PART I.ii

MORAL VALUE JUDGMENT

First things first, Scheler clearly states that authentic moral order and genuine moral value judgements are eternal and above human involvement. True, man discovers moral truths in time, and so these are historical, but the truths themselves are eternal, (Scheler, 45). It is a psychological law, Scheler says, that we overcome the discrepancy between desire and impotency by depreciating or denying that the object of our desire has a positive value. This is not ressentiment, at least not yet. It is the old tale of Aesop in the Fox and the Sour Grapes. The fox in vain tries to jump up to get the grapes, but, after a line of failed attempts, finally he stomps off, assuring himself the grapes were probably sour anyway. This is a step along the way to the full achievement of ressentiment, the inversion of moral values. As yet, the moral values remain in tact. The existence of the negative value ‘sour’ implies a positive value ‘sweet’. And the fox himself is still normal, insofar as he desires sweet grapes, and so doesn’t want these supposed sour ones. This is, what Scheler calls, a falsification of a world view, (Scheler, 48). 

The final stage of ressentiment is the perversion of the positive values themselves, such that what would have been deemed negative values, such as poverty, suffering, illness, and death, become positive values, and their counterparts, wealth, health, and fullness of life, become negative. Through his weakness, fear, anxiety and slavish character, the ressentiment man cannot even perceive these positive values as such. Through this transvaluation, the ressentiment man is liberated from the oppressive fact of his impotency and inferiority, and becomes, in his own deluded eyes, good, pure, and human, (Scheler, 48-49). Nor is this value judgement a kind of lying, otherwise it wouldn’t be delusion. Rather, the value judgements themselves are based upon the transvaluation of morals, so that, to the man of ressentiment, they are entirely consistent. The values that he affirms, e.g., poverty, suffering, etc., are positive in themselves. And it is “on the road of experience into consciousness” that these impressions of value take place, not in the conscious thoughts of the man himself. This is important to note, because it underscores the authentic nature of the inverted values themselves, quite apart from any conscious effort to mask the truth through conscious self-deception. The man of ressentiment is an honest man. 

Ressentiment leads to the perversion of value judgments, but this should not be confused with moral relativism. Scheler says that moral relativism does not constitute value relativism. That is, the moral relativist is still the moral absolutist; he just has a different preference system. Morality, Scheler tells us, is a system of preference for this or that value, and ressentiment has done its job when the whole system of preference is perverted, such that what was once called good is now called evil, and evil good. This is radically different than, say, pre-industrialized Englishmen calling cottage gardens and open green country good, and post-industrialized Englishmen calling factory chimneys and sooty streets good. Englishmen once preferred the value of the tranquil and soul-salutary countryside; now they prefer the hustle and bustle of enterprise and commerce. The rules of preference have changed, not the values themselves, (Scheler, 51-52). The perversion of value judgments is what Scheler means by the term transvaluation. 

PART I.iii

EXAMPLES OF TRANSVALUATION 

The final stage of a fully mature and rancorous ressentiment is the perversion of value judgments themselves. Let us now look at some of these that Scheler develops in his last chapter in Ressentiment: 1. The Value of Things Self-Earned or Self-Acquired; 2. The Subjectivization of Values; and 3. The Elevation of the Value of Utility Above the Value of Life.

Beginning with the first, Scheler formulates the rule of preference for modern morality: moral value belongs only to those things and acts which has been acquired by an individual’s efforts alone, (Scheler, 97). There is no hereditary good or guilt, no callings to higher life, no gifts of grace, in short, all men are created equal. This value shift takes place through ressentiment, wherein a new attitude arises in the individual who compares himself to the individual endowed by grace (in a religious context) or nature, and suffers. In a pre-ressentiment attitude, any normal person, be he of superior or inferior disposition, would welcome the individual endowed with the greater nature or endowment of grace. He would see, if he attended to the value itself, that the individual so endowed would be of an advantageous starting place, and would attain to a higher degree of perfection, even granting an equality of effort. The mechanism of ressentiment sets in, then, when this reality becomes apparent, (Scheler, 98). 

The result of this ressentiment mechanism is that work, or the effort one puts forth in developing qualities, becomes the moral value itself, quite apart and distinct from the moral qualities themselves. Thus, the moral axiom which arises from this transvaluation is that there is moral value in what everyone can do. 

Scheler speculates that this ressentiment has as its source the envy of the laboring classes for those who inherited their lands and wealth, instead of working for it. And there is an analogous relation in the value of labor, where each is entitled, according to the theory, to an equal quantity of values to labor, quite apart from whether the products of labor are valuable in themselves, (Scheler, 100). 

This kind of ressentiment attitude also has ramifications for society itself in the sphere of hereditary guilt and good. Just as man is neither good nor guilty on account of what he is but only on what he does, it follows from this that neither is he guilty or good on account of what others do. Man has no original sin through Adam and Eve, because he himself hasn’t committed any wrong; nor is he good on account of the Saints and Jesus Himself. This moral solidarity, where everyone shares in the guilt and good of everyone else, is opposed in principle to individualism, which is the cornerstone of modern morals. Where inequalities exist, as they do to an unfathomable degree, modern man chalks it up to be different quantities of work or experience, or, if that seems implausible, to innately unjust institutions, which he endeavors to destroy, (Scheler, 102). 

Let us pause on this first transvaluation, and consider briefly its consequences. In a normal or noble mind, the individual who is superior by birth is seen, according to the framework of moral solidarity, as a star for the light of the world. His birth is a benediction and a boon to all, if the moral solidarity framework is kept in tact. He understands that his gifts of grace and nature are not only for his good, but the good of his fellows, among you, the greatest of all is to be the servant of all, (Matt. 23:11). As a consequence of this normal outlook and proper view of values, he is able to live out his vocation, or calling, to bring about the common good of the community. At once, destroy the very notion of born greatness, and the moral solidarity principle is destroyed as well. Everything the man is is because of his own efforts; and, as such, why should he share? His gifts are not gifts at all, but hard-earned and toiled for spoils of his own mediocre nature and character which has risen above his humble origins, and has surmounted his brethren through his indomitable will. Thus, not only is this first transvaluation of morals a distorted view, it follows that the view distorts, corrupts, and ultimately undoes civilization at its foundations, all in the name of supposed equality of men and moral value! The stakes are high, and it is not merely a fine philosophical distinction among the sources of modern morals, although it is that. It is a stark diagnosis of the plague affecting modern society, and it demands attention. 

Another consequence of this transvaluation on a personal level is a false sense of personal guilt when one who, by nature or grace, is inferiorly endowed cannot perform up to the standards even of the moderately endowed. This poor individual is looked on by society as lazy, as a willfully inept leech on the system. According to this ressentiment view, if only the individual pulled himself up by the bootstraps, he would get on. But he doesn’t, and so he is lambasted for his natural mediocrity, and probable material poverty. We see this sorry figure in the homeless especially, where charges of alcoholism and mental illness are supposed to be the causes, if not laziness, but never because the vagrant is naturally inferior. And though society may feel somewhat responsible to these, in the event of a natural discrepancy––addiction or mental illness––it never arises to the same level of felt responsibility in a moral solidarity model, where society does not merely feel sorry for the individual but feels guilty for his plight. As a speculative aside, this may also explain the drastic rise in prison populations in the past hundred years where this morality shift has taken root in society. Perhaps because of the unbearable pressures to perform in society with this natural inferiority, persons end up in prison because they have lashed out against an unjust system. It is interesting and thought-provoking, but it does take this essay too far afield for a thorough philosophical inquiry. I only wish to draw attention to yet another possible and severe consequence of a morality shift which lays upon the backs of people the intolerable falsehood that men are created equal, when they are not. 

The next example of transvaluation is the subjectivization of values, where all value is but the product of the subjective mind and has no independent existence apart from that mind, (Scheler, 102). Simply put, values are the products of desire; a thing is good because I desire it, not because it is good. The result of this transvaluation is either uncertainty or the substitution of an objectivity of value for majority rule. The transvaluation takes place through a ressentiment attitude when a man is faced with the reality of a hierarchy of objective value, and through his own natural inability to recognize these goods and attain to them, transvalues them as merely subjective phenomena. When at first the man began with wanting to will an objective good, but through repeated failure was unable to succeed, through his envy seeing others gain ground where he did not, ressentiment set in, and so subjectivity of value replaced objectivity, (Scheler, 103). The factual condition of his debased desire becomes the criterion by which the good is determined. And being weak, he must be consoled in his subjective view, paradoxically, by appeal to other viewpoints, to a consensus of subjective views to create an objective value judgment. His personal quest for the good becomes a collective survey of what others deem good, taken, of course, from the least exulted positions in society, the opinions of the men in the street. Sight is imparted by a multiplicity of blindness, where one set of eyes which cannot see is supplemented by a million that supposedly can. 

What is good, then, becomes what is generally human, with the corollary that what is specific to a group or even a person is not valuable. This brings to nought contributions of great men, and contributions of great cultures––I am thinking particularly of Western culture, founded on the contributions of great men of art, science, and religion, Aquinas, Augustine, Boethius, Bach, Beethoven, as a small sample––and relegates their contributions to the category of mere opinion. Examples of this ressentiment tendency to subjectivize moral value abounds in our culture, where there exists no distinction in value between a Backstreet Boys song and a Bach cantata few have heard of. The popularity becomes the deciding factor of the value of the thing, not the value of the thing itself. The Billboard determines the value, how many albums it’s sold. 

What is limitedly communicable and verifiable, what cannot be explained to all is only the product of subjective imagination, (Scheler, 105). The consequence of this attitude and mindset is the dissolution of the Church as such, insofar as revelation, mystical experiences of the saints and prophets, and the Bible and tradition are not experienced by all, nor can they be in principle, either because revelation has already happened, or because mystical messages and prophecy is generally only revealed privately, with the outstanding exception of the Miracle of the Sun at Fátima. Hence the widespread agnosticism or downright atheism plaguing the world today, or, even worse, the wholesale denial of any validity or truth to religion by way of CoExist bumper-stickers. 

Modern scientific method, as I think Scheler’s philosophical position commits him to but doesn’t develop, is wrought with this same ressentiment attitude. The benchmarks of truth in the modernist scientific method are verifiability through experimentation and observation. The scientific method exists to supply the modern world with a systematic methodology which is able to recognize general validity and universal capacity of values of truth. But this is nothing more than the subjectivization of value, insofar as it is based on the consensus of scientific opinion. For example, evolutionary theory is given the value of truth, not necessarily because it enjoys an objective value of epistemological validity, but because many scientists happen to believe it to be so, and so it takes on the quality of truth or fact––notwithstanding the fact that many, though marginalized, other scientists with the same scientific method and tools believe otherwise. Another example of the same phenomenon in science is the heliocentric model and the cosmological principle. According to these views, validated merely through consensus and not objective standards of truth, the Earth revolves around the Sun, when, in point of scientifically demonstrated fact, the Sun could just as well be considered revolving around the Earth. And the Earth is not the center of it all but is merely a speck of dust in the all enveloping and arbitrary dark of the universe. This, too, has little scientifically demonstrated basis for it other than some fancy footwork by theoretical cosmologists and physicists, such as Hubble’s expanding universe theory to explain away the phenomenon of red-shift (which implies we are, in fact in the center of it all) or Einstein’s theory of special relativity (which attempted to explain away the objective results of the Michelson-Morley experiment which failed to demonstrate the Earth moves). Rather, it is considered very probably true or else fact because it has been the consensus and custom of scientists for a hundred years to believe so. An interesting topic of inquiry into the damning effects ressentiment may have on science––among all things! but this essay must proceed to the third and final example of transvaluation.

The elevation of the value of utility above the value of life is the inversion of the material values themselves, (Scheler, 106). In this chief manifestation of ressentiment, which reverses the hierarchy of values of the vital and the useful, modern morality denies in theory and practice the self-evident proposition that the useful is dependent on the vital, and not the other way, and so is preferable. Scheler defines the useful as anything that is able to be brought about that is good, pleasant, and within one’s control, (Scheler, 107). But these useful goods which bring about pleasure are useful and so pleasant for a living being, and so are dependent as such on a vital value. Further, not only are useful things dependent on the vital beings, they are to such an extent that the vital beings can be strengthened by them. So any useful thing that obstructs a vital value is bad, regardless of its intrinsic value with all things being equal––because, in fact, all do not have the same capacity for enjoying useful things, such as property, according to Scheler (107). 

The idea of control is operable here. It is not that all useful values automatically cause pleasure, but only to the degree that these can be controlled by the will. Thus, the strength to control the useful (and by means of it the pleasurable) which is the capacity of the vital value is the only criterion by which they are to be distributed among men.

Let us pause in the development of this last form of transvaluation to anticipate an objection––well, not really an objection as much as an emotional reaction. I know when I first read this, I was forming the opinion that Scheler was doing some fancy foot work of his own, in an attempt to justify capitalistic tyranny of the impoverished masses. “See,” Scheler seemed to say to me, “the rich are justified in their apparently gross and unequal distribution of wealth. The poor are too stupid and base to be given any more than they have; whereas the rich are entitled to theirs by the principle of justice, because they are smart enough to handle it.” Scheler is no friend or ally of capitalists, least of all in this final chapter. The principle is quite evident to anyone who has given it a moment’s more thought than I initially did. How many times have we read in the papers of the poor, hapless Lottery winner who gorges himself on mansions, sports cars, yachts, and every other toy and pleasure money can by, only to blow his head off? Or who is wholly ignorant to the fact that if a child is given a hundred dollars, he will inevitably purchase fifty pounds of sweets, and end his splurge in a sugar coma? Scheler, I do not think, is advocating not distributing wealth according to necessity, that is, ensuring each is given a roof, food, clothing, and the means to support a family, through an opportunity to do so through work and just compensation. I think Scheler is advocating not giving everyone the same thing, without due consideration for their capacity to handle the responsibility, which is charitable.  

In the course of this ressentiment, even pleasure, though dependent on the useful for its being, is set below the useful. The modern asceticism says that useful work is better than the enjoyment of pleasure, an essential component, Scheler says, of modern capitalism’s formation, (108). This is the result of a ressentiment that envies those who are endowed with more vital value such that they have an increased capacity for enjoyment of pleasure. 

But the greatest perversion is of the reversal of the useful with the vital itself. Through the supposed virtues of the merchants and industrialists, the reversion of values took effect, where the people with the money determined the values, (Scheler, 111). A fatal result of this ressentiment was––and is–-that the non-useful have no value, and indeed that the vital is no value unto itself at all. It has many corollaries and effects which will not occupy space in this essay. This last example of ressentiment is not only most perverse but most destructive, because it attacks life itself. To put into a neat picture the ressentiment shift of values here, what has essentially happened is that the banker has knocked the knight off his high horse. The useful values of cleverness, adaptability, a calculating mind, desire for security, and business communication have replaced courage, bravery, sacrifice, daring, high-mindedness, vitality, desire for conquest (read here perhaps adventure), indifference to material goods, loyalty to lord and land, etc., (Scheler, 111). 

To summarize Scheler’s account of the transvaluation of morals, we begin with negative emotions brought on by the discovery of discrepancies between ourselves and others through an act of comparison, which comparison is necessary because self-value only has meaning through comparison for the ressentiment figure. Naturally, these emotions are repressed, but an account or statement of the way things are must be given, in order to maintain self-continuity, or sanity, and to avoid the awful truth of one’s inferiority. I am the way I am, not because I am inferior, but because…Hence a transvaluation, or morality shift. The first discussed transvaluation was value only though self-acquisition, which stated that there is no moral value apart from individual acts. Individuals are neither good nor bad, but only what they do. The implication of this morality shift is that all men are created equal. It is only effort that accounts for inequality. The next morality shift was subjectivization of values, which stated that no value in itself is good, only the desiring of this thing or that that makes it good. Whereas the first dealt with the pervasion of the will as the ultimate source of value, this perverts the intellect as the ultimate source of value. This morality shift has implications for intellectual and epistemological activity, such that what is true or known is only what everyone thinks: Truth by majority rule. The final transvaluation dealt with was that of the value of utility with vital value. This is an assault on the material values themselves, which subjects the vital to the useful––an absurdity, just as if one were to subject the end to the means––and has far reaching ramifications for the modern world, and is indeed the ultimate source of the unmatched degree of despotism and death in this past century, among all the past the world has seen, e.g., nazism, communism, capitalism, with the death toll on the order of a billion. Ressentiment, according to this account of things, is the ultimate cause of the evils of the Modern World. It is the psychological process by which man has lost his way, Scheler believes. Accordingly, if only one were to recognize this process for what it is, perhaps those evils could be prevented. After all, what is the point of this study if it is not to unlock the door to a better future? The second part of this essay will tend to this purpose, through a criticism of Scheler’s quasi-humanist theory of transvaluation. 

PART II.i

PRIMARY AND INTERMEDIATE CAUSALITY 

IN A SUCCESSION OF CAUSES AND EFFECTS, a preceding effect is also an intermediate cause. Thus, when an arsonist burns down a barn, the fire is both an effect of ignition but also a cause of the burned barn. Likewise, when a ressentiment man represses envy for his fellow man who excels him in this or that, and through the repression transvalues strength for weakness, envy is a cause, yes, but only an intermediate cause. The emotion here is principally an effect. According to the preceding account given in part one, it is no exaggeration to say by analogy that Scheler would have us believe that the arsonist burns down barns because he lights them on fire. Scheler’s account, though very good in its descriptive methodology, attention to the phenomena, and thoroughly erudite exposition, nevertheless leaves one wanting in the same regard as with the arsonist. Why tends to implicate intentionality, not psychological, mechanistic processes. In having read cover to cover his very learned and philosophically persuasive work of Ressentiment, I am still left with this question: Why do people feel envy, or hate, or spite? Or better, why do others not feel this way? Whence evil emotions? The account given by Scheler does not address this question. He takes up the question midway, at the intermediate causal stage of the emotional wreckage, and not at the place and stage when and where the malice, hatred, or envy arose. One cannot reverse the final effect without recourse to the reversion of the primary cause. One may yet impede the final effect by removing the intermediate causes, such as taking away the arsonist’s book of matches, lighters, and flints, but if I know arsonists, they will find alternative ways to consummate their delight in seeing things burn: probably with a magnifying glass. Likewise, the ressentiment figure will not likely get on by being told that he is not equal to his fellows, or that truth and morals are quite objective apart from his opinions. He may be told that, and may even come to agree with it; but he will still have the problem of his negative emotions to deal with, for how they arose was not shown to him. He will continue to burn with these, just as the arsonist burns with a passion for fire, destruction, devastation, and anarchy. Nor indeed is the analogy accidental, for modern man may very well be likened to an arsonist, who burns down such edifices as Family, Church, Natural Law, Reason, Beauty, Goodness, Truth, Nobility, Sublimity, Mystery, and ultimately himself in an ultimate act of arson: suicide. 

I would argue that Scheler deals with the intermediate effect, instead of the primary cause, the process of ressentiment––for it is a process, and not a beginning––because he cannot come out and say in a philosophical work written in the twentieth century, “Sin is the cause of evil in the world! Repent, and believe in the Gospel!” Even for my tastes, that is philosophically insipid, however pious. But so is telling the world it is all wrong because it was made to believe that it is better than it really is. That is like trying to pop a bubble that is already popped, like kicking a man that is already down, all the while telling him to get up. The man who is brimming with envy for his coworker’s successful proposal to introduce glitter into the marketing campaign posters compared to his failed efforts, can hardly be consoled with the sentiment: “Buck up, boy, you know you aren’t as good as her anyway. Everyone is born with greater and lesser degrees of perfection. Sorry, she has it; you don’t. Don’t bother trying harder. Won’t help.” 

I do not mean to imply that this is just what Scheler is telling the modern world. He does have a very pleasing articulation of Christian love as a remedial corrective to ressentiment man: “Christian love is a spiritual intentionality which transcends the natural sphere, defeating and superseding the psychological mechanism of the natural instincts (such as hatred against one’s enemies, revenge, and desire for retaliation). It can place a man in a completely new state of life. But that is not essential here,” (Scheler, 56, emphasis added). In fact, it is so pleasing, it just happens to be quite nearly my thesis of this essay. It may not have been essential to what Scheler was saying in that particular paragraph about the condescending movement of Christian love as compared with the aspirational movement of pagan love, but the description of love taken here in Scheler’s own words, literally contradicts everything he has said up to this point in the book, and everything after, or, if contradicts is too strong, at least shows it to be quite superfluous. Ressentiment does not take hold of the man full of Christian love, because such hostile feelings of revenge, hatred, envy, and spite are transcended, defeated, and superseded, such that the intermediate cause of transvaluation of morals does not take effect, because the primary cause is removed. 

According to Scheler, then, Christian love corrects ressentiment. I agree with this, but again, Scheler has confounded the intermediate with the primary. Christian love is not a system of moral tenets, whereby one is enabled, if practiced to the letter, to be holy. That is not Christianity but legalism. Christian love, as the words imply, is the love of a Christian. Christian comes first, then love. Scheler seems to suggest that, in order to be a Christian, you must love; but the reverse is true: In order to love, one must be a Christian! And so Scheler cannot cure the world of ressentiment by telling it to love like Christians. Rather, he must tell the world to be Christian in order to love! 

PART II.ii

LOSS OF IDENTITY 

In the first section of the first part of this essay, I began with a quote which ended with the words, “[Revenge, hatred, malice, envy, the impulse to detract, and spite] are normal components of human nature.” Obviously, if these are normal components of human nature, then a natural, and not a supernatural, solution should be sought. Scheler is consistent with this. His analysis of transvaluation through the process of ressentiment is natural enough. It begins with human nature, and ends with the human nature. If the objective moral order and hierarchy is to be preserved from the perverting influence of ressentiment, an authentic view of human nature as such is to be postulated, i.e, Man is not created equal; truth is not relative; the hierarchy of material values is such that utility is founded on vital, and not the other way. Any reasonable person, who is endowed with intelligence enough can readily assent to these philosophically demonstrated propositions. But, by assenting to the above propositions, does modern man free himself from the destructive consequences of transvaluation? I argue no.  

  Transvaluation and ressentiment are the effects of a loss of identity. Ressentiment does not primarily cause transvaluation of morals, but is an intermediate effect. Identity loss causes ressentiment, which in turn causes a transvaluation of morals. Scheler’s account misses the principle cause, and mistakenly puts ressentiment in its place, which is itself only intermediate. It serves as an adequate analysis of the process whereby modern man has lost his way, but it cannot ultimately return him to himself, and cure him of his false morality, because it cannot cure the malady without reversing its original cause. Scheler’s exclusive appeal to the phenomenon of ressentiment as the moral transvaluation process fails to attain its object, because it fails to address the cause. Like a well-meaning physician, Scheler sets himself to the task of bringing down a fever with an ice-bath analysis of the process of moral transvaluation, instead of removing the infectious, poisonous ideas that man is made from mud (evolutionary theory); that he does not occupy a special place in the cosmos (Copernican principle); or that man, in a state of nature, is selfish, ferocious and warlike (Social contract theory). Fittingly, all these poisonous ideas are directly contradictory to the truths espoused in the Judeo-Christian Tradition articulated in Genesis. There we read that Man and Woman were made in the likeness of God, that indeed God breathed life into their members; that Earth preceded the sun and stars; and that, prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve lived in harmony, both with themselves and with nature. Scheler neglects the reality of this identity loss of man. To Scheler, the transvaluation of morals is not a consequence of the Fall, but a failure to see things in their proper philosophical light. All we need do, so the argument runs, is see things rightly, and all things will patch themselves up like clockwork. But that cool, Enlightenment-oriented approach has not and cannot work. If it were not so, then that Rabbi born in a stable in Bethlehem need not have spilt his blood down a ruthless piece of Wood.     

CONCLUSION   

I concede to the objection that this is an unphilosophical position to take, that transvaluation is primarily caused by a loss of Judeo-Christian identity, that, through sin, man has lost his way. I can only say that, if not sin, then what? What accounts for the malice, the envy, the hatred for our fellow man? Why did Cain slay Abel? Ressentiment? Really? That hardly explains it. Scheler begins with these emotions, not before them. I think it is very philosophically sound to point that fact out from the beginning, and through it, to call into question, at least on those philosophical and logical grounds, a problem with Scheler’s approach. Wickedness is as much a mystery as holiness. That is the fact few are willing to contemplate, or to countenance in philosophical works of morality. To Scheler, and to a host of other intellectuals brought up in this humanist paradigm, man can save himself, if only he acquire the requisite knowledge, however esoteric. But what of those Hobbits? And, what’s more to the point, those Christians who, though meek, shall inherit the earth?  

PAPER II

NIETZSCHE: PHILOSOPHER?

INTRODUCTION

In a kind of call for philosophy papers, Nietzsche puts the following question at the conclusion of his first essay concerning good and evil and good and bad: “What is revealed, regarding the history of the evolution of moral ideas, by philology, and especially by etymological investigation?” (GM, 41). The short answer is nothing. Nothing is revealed by etymological investigations of moral ideas, for the simple reason that moral ideas are not primarily or essentially etymological entities. It is true that good, bad, evil, noble, vulgar are thought as moral values, but properly speaking these are not moral values at all. They are, when read quietly to oneself, or heard aloud, mental constructs cued or conjured by visual-auditory sensibles, which may have corresponding phantasms or other intellectual information as various as the individual reading them. They are words, and as such may or may not have anything to do with reality, with moral ideas, with potatoes or space probes. Nietzsche makes the classical mistake here of holding everything to account by his own select science or craft. The shoemaker understands everything in terms of shoemaking, in metaphors relating to footwear; the painter too, in viewing his world in terms of arbitrary names of color, such that the morning sky is a cool shade of ultramarine blue. To the meteorologist, the same morning sky is a low-humidity, high-visibility, atmospheric condition. The biologist sees everything in terms of biological entities and the physicist in terms of mathematical and moving entities. Nietzsche is no different. Goodness is nothing more than a verbal entity socially evolved. 

Words may or may not resemble reality, but my emphasis above was on not resembling. Words may resemble reality, just as the words evil or good may have sprung from cultural contexts having nothing to do with intrinsic goodness or evil, in the sense of health-giving or harmful things. I can imagine a time in which goodness could have meant, to a base and senseless people, the pleasure of mutilating the corpses of their felled enemies, a people modeled after Achilles. I can also imagine a time in which goodness meant something more wholesome than all that. The point is that words could mean reality or not. In order to get to answering that question, asking after the reality behind the words, you must, well, go behind as in beyond the words themselves. Nietzsche does not do this. He stays in the words, and only, like a true philologist, pursues their supposed truth through etymological histories, which themselves are dubious. So, not only is Nietzsche working with a second-order of evidence, the mere representation of reality, the words, this order is itself the by-product of speculation. 

But does it not seem fitting that a philosopher should see the blue sky for what it is, instead of what a particular view or intellectual or practical discipline sees it as, or at least see that his philosophical view is one of many? The obvious presumption behind any critique on these grounds of Friedrich Nietzsche is that he is not being very philosophical. The question of whether Nietzsche was or was not a philosopher has been entertained before, so my proposed thesis for this paper has some precedents. That thesis, which I will in short order expound, must be preceded by a preliminary remark which I make in order not to be misunderstood. 

I am knowledgeable of the vast brilliance of mind and literary ability of Nietzsche, of his wit and penetrating locutions which have captivated, if not held spellbound, generation after generation for over a century. Nor am I motivated, as far as I am aware, of any secret yearning to retaliate for his anti-Christianity. On that score, I found Nietzsche’s anti-Christianity to be juvenile at best, Protestant through and through, by which I mean his attacks on Christianity were attacks on an artificial chimera, and so did not touch upon the true nature of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Faith, which, preceding his Lutheranism by a millennium and a half, is about as different from a typical Protestant sect as a Cabernet Sauvignon is from cough syrup. Had Nietzsche spent more time around good, wholesome, God-fearing, life-loving, beer and wine drinking, dancing catholics, he wouldn’t have succumbed to the preposterous notion that Christians hate life, and are somehow antagonistic to the Dionysian spirit––any historic sense of Catholic festivals, from carnival and mardi gras, to Christmas and Easter, among the innumerable smaller celebrations, would put that nonsensical notion straight from Nietzsche’s head. True, Christians are not known for their licentiousness and debauchery, but then again neither was Nietzsche. And I doubt that was what Nietzsche had in mind when he put Dionysus against Apollo. The opposite or contrary of Apollonian is not the unlawful, but the playful, in the sense of play, or drama, or dance and ritual, or, (and this may come as a surprise to my reader), the Holy mass or the Greek drama––they are the same in form and essential structure, though not in object. There is such a thing as a choir (or chorus) loft in a church. Had Nietzsche not been blinded by his childhood Lutheranism, I think he himself would have recognized the parallels between Roman Catholic worship and Dionysian drama, and at least qualified his disdain for Christianity, or perhaps even converted. 

Nietzsche may have been a poet. He most certainly was (by all accounts) an accomplished philologist. He was a social critic, for sure. Perhaps even a fairly perceptive art critic for his part. But I emphatically protest that Nietzsche should be associated with philosophy or referred to as a philosopher. My reasons for thinking so are presented in what follows. A word though about the structure of that presentation. I have adopted a very unsystematic approach to commenting on Nietzsche, by which I mean that one thing in one section does not follow from nor depend logically on what preceded it. This approach was necessary, because I wanted to sample Nietzsche’s work, to give an overall impression of his approach to his subjects, and how he related to the object of his inquiries, whether it was in truth philosophical, or merely something less exalted. The form, then, will be a quotation, and a judgement whether it should be considered philosophical. 

DEFINITIONS   

Let’s get one thing straight. By philosophical, I do not mean infallible. Every great philosopher, from Aristotle to Descartes made a mistake or ten in their investigations. By philosophical I mean a certain spirit of inquiry, not whether one hit the nail on the head every time he swung the hammer. That spirit I shall call the spirit or virtue of sublime veracity, or the habit whereby one is disposed to think and speak the truth, but not just in matters of daily living, such that one tells no lie to the waitress or banker, but rather that one is so disposed by this virtue so as to be truthful in matters as high as heaven and as low as dirt, no matter the consequences or undesired effects of the inquiry. Socrates had that spirit of sublime veracity. St. Justin Martyr had that spirit. Misotheists, like the one I read recently who said, if it were mathematically proven to him that God existed, he still wouldn’t believe; or the literati who get their giggles by blaspheming the Deity they sincerely believe in, do not have this spirit of sublime veracity. Even if it was proven that I, you, and the world and everything in it were just the electromagnetic projections of a holographic simulation supercomputer, I would still worship the super geek who created it, for the simple reason that reason and justice demand my worship, just as I render honor unto my father and mother, though they be imperfect beings, because I wouldn’t be at all were it not for them, and further, because whatever the supposed short-comings of the super geek god who created the computer, it also created me, and so must have a considerable portion of knowledge, wisdom, and guidance greater than my own. Hubris, pride, is not only a moral failing; it is an intellectual failing as well–-it is a failing in the intellectual and moral virtue of sublime veracity. 

The question is whether Nietzsche had this spirit, or if he had another habit of mind, be it to entertain with his writings, to promote kinship with himself and his readers, to be a self-professed spiritual leader or prophet, or any number of other motives other than that of truthfulness in sublime veracity. I argue in what follows that, whatever else he was doing, he was not doing philosophy. 

CONFIRMATION 

Let me now sample some of Nietzsche’s words, discern their meaning and motivation, and ask the reader whether they constitute that spirit of sublime veracity which I said marks the philosophical soul, or not.

I have a stack of Nietzsche’s books before me, and taking one up and flipping it open at random, Human, All Too Human: A Book for free Spirits, I read this: 

258

The statue of humanity.— The genius of culture does as Cellini did when he cast his statue of Perseus: the liquefied mass seemed to be insufficient, but he was determined to produce enough: so he threw into it keys and plates and whatever else came to hand. And just so does that genius throw errors, vices, hopes, delusions and other things of baser as well as nobler metal, for the statue of humanity must emerge and be completed; what does it matter if here and there inferior material is employed? (Human, 121).    

According to Plato, it matters a good deal whether inferior material is employed. It also just so happens that it matters a good deal to the metallurgist. If I may change up the analogy, imagine that humanity is shipwrecked on an island. She must come together and build a ship that will brave the terrible seas, if she hopes to return to the Fatherland. There are a variety of woods that grow on the island, from hard, dense, oily, water-resistant woods, to porous, flimsy, and thin woods. The problem, if it is a problem, is that the inferior woods (inferior for shipbuilding, but pretty good for firewood burning) grow twice as fast as the superior woods. The island has two warring shipwright factions: the one says, humanity must build as soon as possible, and so throw the inferior material into the mix, get the ship seaworthy so that the present generation of Islanders do not die before seeing the Fatherland. The other side says that the ship that will best bear the people over the terrible seas is one built up with only the best woods, which take time to grow. 

Now it made sense to Plato, as it does to me, and seemingly doesn’t to Nietzsche, to let philosophy decide the matter. In the Republic, the man of gold, the guardian, the philosopher would have decided. The question is, how, according to the passage above, would Nietzsche have decided the matter? The analogies are essentially similar, I think, so what Nietzsche thinks is a good course in the one would seem to suggest itself as a good course in the other. What does it matter if here and there inferior material is employed? The answer to that question with our predicament above is that more than likely the ship will spring a leak and sink to the sea floor before ever reaching home.

What is Nietzsche’s motivation here? Why does he not think to question the practical disadvantage of building up humanity with vice and error? Vice, like alcoholism which almost led America to silent civil war, or illicit drug use which has led to silent civil war today? Or error, which tears out the bottom of an enterprise, and brings to ruination everything it touches, from baking muffins to building bridges? The only answer I can surmise is that Nietzsche was not so much thinking as feeling. He was feeling out his thoughts, without bringing them to fruition and logical conclusion. The logical conclusion of building a statue out of error and vice is disintegration, so what was the point in the first place getting it erected as soon as possible? Sit down, slow down, and think out what it is you are doing, then act. An axiom of practical intelligence is that the means ought not to contradict the end. Nietzsche is so shallow a thinker, this axiom, or commonsensical notion, doesn’t even occur to him––and here we have the paragon of genius and culmination of Western philosophical thought? I humbly submit we do not. 

When Nietzsche is not building up statues that fall down, he is trying to disparage true men of mental genius by the merest of weaponry: sentimentality. For instance, in his Genealogy of Morals, Nietzsche quotes Aquinas as saying “‘Beati in regno coelesti’” he says, meek as a lamb, ‘videbunt poenas damnatorum, ut beatitudo illis magis complaceat.’” In this, Nietzsche says, is what Christians believe to be what bliss in Paradise consists, and insists that Paradise itself was created out of hatred. But, had Nietzsche not been motivated by sentimentality, but rather by true philosophy and reason, he would have read on in the Summa Theologiae to this passage: 

A thing may be a matter of rejoicing in two ways. First directly, when one rejoices in a thing as such: and thus the saints will not rejoice in the punishment of the wicked. Secondly, indirectly, by reason namely of something annexed to it: and in this way the saints will rejoice in the punishment of the wicked, by considering therein the order of Divine justice and their own deliverance, which will fill them with joy. And thus the Divine justice and their own deliverance will be the direct cause of the joy of the blessed: while the punishment of the damned will cause it indirectly. (ST, III Supplementum, Q.94 Art. III Emphasis added).                

Aquinas already anticipated Nietzsche’s objection of Article I by this distinction in Article III. Aquinas further notes that to rejoice in another’s evil is hatred itself, and so if the saints in paradise were actually rejoicing in the punishments of the damned being submerged in pitchy tar and shanked with pitchforks, then obviously paradise would be created out of eternal hate, and would be a veritable playhouse of horrors to which only a psychopath would want go. 

Why the charge of sentimentality, though? Well, the sentimentality charge sticks, or else willful misrepresentation of another’s thought, or scholarly sloth––I will let the reader decide. The passage quoted above from Aquinas is but two articles away from that which Nietzsche quoted. So I assume, assuming it was only sentimentality that was motivating Nietzsche, that he read that passage in Aquinas, dropped the book in utter horror and disgust, and ran out of the room ripping his waistcoat. Had he been more possessed by a philosophical spirit, he would have read on, and considered the vital distinction Aquinas made a few lines later. But, seeing as how he misquotes Aquinas in a simplified version, what was most probably the case was that he heard that passage being kicked around the tavern one night where he’d take his bread and beer. Had he encountered Aquinas in the raw and unfiltered by public opinion, he probably would have come across more sensible, or at least less sentimental. 

And when Nietzsche is not disparaging churchmen, he is disparaging the Church: “The Church certainly is a crude and boorish institution, one that is repugnant to an intelligence with any pretence at refinement, and offensive to the genuinely modern taste,” (GM, p. 24). Dust and nonsense of the highest order. What Church is Nietzsche referring to here? It would have been possible, prior to the tenth century, to speak in such generalities, when the Church was unified under pontifical rule, and worship and custom were loosely the same worldwide. After the Protestant vandalisms, that generalization itself became crude and boorish, signifying nothing. Perhaps Nietzsche is speaking of some faint and half-forgotten memory of a Lutheran chapel service of his youth, the existence of which was most certainly predicated upon the denial of the Popish pomp and ritualistic refinement of the mass. Whatever he refers to here, he is not referring to Roman Catholic worship in the manner of art, sculpture, poetry and liturgical music, otherwise he represents himself as a buffoon and ignoramus of high art. And what does Nietzsche mean by refinement? Why could it not mean a veritable vision of Heaven painted on a ceiling of a Church, or stoned figures that seem themselves to cry to heaven ? Why not an ancient, undulating melody that transports to a timeless dimension? Why not the choreographic disciplined dance of a priest offering mass? That is easy to answer for Nietzsche. These things could not be considered refined, because the Church is not refined, and anything coming from or related to the Church is unrefined. The circular logic is obvious and odious.

Thus Nietzsche is infected with a Protestant prejudice which precludes him from seeing the reality of the artistic refinement of the Church, which made David and the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the Missa de Angelis, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Dante, Shakespeare, Eliot, and so much and many more works and names that I could fill a backyard swimming pool with. But I am not writing this essay to catalogue the great men and works of art the Church suckled with her sacraments. Had Nietzsche even an inkling of the vast aesthetic riches of the Church, he would have been a little more cautious in claiming that the Church is repugnant to refined intelligence. One can only conclude that Nietzsche did not have a refined intelligence for beautiful things, since he mistook transcendent beauty for the boorish and crude. And what is sublime veracity but refined intelligence for transcendent beauty? 

And when not disparaging the Church, Nietzsche is disparaging reason itself: 

If one needs to make a tyrant of reason, as Socrates did, then there must exist no little danger of something else playing the tyrant. Rationality was at that time divined as a savior; neither Socrates nor his ‘invalids’ were free to be rational or not, as they wished —it was de rigueur, it was their last expedient. The fanaticism with which the whole of Greek thought throws itself at rationality betrays a state of emergency: one was in peril, one had only one choice: either to perish or—be absurdly rational…. The moralism of the Greek philosophers from Plato downwards is pathologically conditioned: likewise their estimation of dialectics. Reason = virtue = happiness means merely: one must imitate Socrates and counter the dark desires by producing a permanent daylight—the daylight of reason. One must be prudent, clear, bright at any cost: every yielding to the instincts, the the unconscious, leads downwards…(Twilight of the Idols, 10).             

I wonder what it would look like, a world absurdly rational, by which every action of means would seemingly have a perfect and efficient correlation to its end of action, where men would judge each according to right reasons and principles of axiomatic surety, where indeed men acted from reason to virtue and attained happiness. Then I wonder how that could possibly be construed as tyrannical, as Nietzsche says. Tyranny, in my experience anyway, implies the converse of reason. To take an example. As a husband and father of four children, I am a kind of ruler. On good days I am a good ruler. On bad days, I am a tyrant. But it is precisely on those bad days that I am being a tyrant because I am being irrational, not because I am being reasonable. I overreact to a milk spill caused by a little girl who has dexterity issues or insist that the children not run in the house when it has been rainy for two days and they haven’t been able to exercise their little legs. Were I more reasonable, I would have taken all things into account, and judged them according to principles of conduct, safety, health, human flourishing, etc. It is so easy for Nietzsche to look at the Greeks and sneer at their love of reason, while he sits back in his easy chair and merely manages his personal finances or typewriter ink stores––which, by the way, he does with reason. The Greeks, those of the Academy, were concerning themselves with the welfare of an entire state and people, just as I am concerning myself with my own state and people I have brought into the world. Do I allow my children to yield to their instincts, to the unconscious desire of my two-year-old daughter to rip out her older sister’s hair, because she covets paternal affections all to herself? to my eldest son’s instinct to shoot squirrels out of a tree, even though he has no intention of eating them, because he has a taste for blood? A household, a kingdom or polis, can prevent falling a thousand ways with the rule of reason, and fall a thousand ways without. Indeed, as a father, I must be prudent and clear at any cost, because the livelihood, peace, and happiness of my family demands and depends upon my being so. The only alternative is the path that leads downward. The Greeks must be forgiven if they didn’t desire to go insane, and so invoked reason as an antidote. Nietzsche apparently didn’t have the same regard for reason.                

I could continue and offer many more random quotations which express similarly this apparent disregard for reasoned discourse, but the exercise is tiresome and I am afraid wouldn’t demonstrate more than what has been demonstrated already. Further, I have knowingly avoided treatment of any key doctrine or passage from Nietzsche’s corpus, not because I think it would prove difficult for me. On the contrary, the Ubermensch, eternal return, perspectivism, Death of God, eternal return, and transvaluation of morals, Nietzsche’s core insights and doctrines, are easily enough dealt with as argument fodder. I have no interest, according to the confines of my thesis, to disprove Nietzsche on these grounds but rather to show or hint at how Nietzsche tends to be or has a habit of being very unphilosophical. My reasons for not focusing on these main passages and themes, but on the back alleyways and corners of his discourse, as it were, are because a man shows what and how he really thinks when he gives his opinion quick and unpolished over his supper than when he gives it in carefully crafted prose. I have no doubt I could find very insightful and even truthful sayings within his aphorisms or within that great book, Thus Spoke Zarathustra, which captivated my imagination as a kid, but all that would show is what I already conceded, that Nietzsche was a powerful rhetorician. But I wanted to demonstrate, through statistical probability, I suppose, the likelihood of hitting upon an unphilosophical opinion at random, to show that Nietzsche’s habit of mind is in itself unphilosophical, however many brief flashes of brilliance there may be in his writings. I believe I have shown that, and so have given ample evidence for my thesis, that Nietzsche was not doing philosophy, at least not, it seems, throughout the entirety of his writings. I have said that philosophy entails what I called the virtue of sublime veracity. That may be arbitrary, and there may be no such thing, but then neither could their be wisdom or philosophy, and my thesis should still stand. If there is no truthfulness, as I believe Nietzsche believed there was not, then there would be no veracity of any kind, let alone about ultimate reality, and so one could not more be wise (and a philosopher) than one could be a fisherman in the Dead Sea.   

PAPER III

A COMMENTARY 

ON THE FIRST THREE CHAPTERS OF ART AS EXPERIENCE 

AND

ON THE FALSE DICHOTOMY BETWEEN 

PERCEPTION AND RECOGNITION 

FOUND THEREIN 

We had the experience but missed the meaning,

And approach to the meaning restores the experience

In a different form, beyond any meaning 

We can assign to happiness.

*       *       *

“Recognition is too easy to arouse vivid consciousness,” Dewey tells us. This essay is in large measure a working up of the intellectual momentum to challenge the epistemological assumptions behind this statement. I say a work up, because before I get too heavily into my thesis’s defense, I would like to summarize, synthesize, and demystify Dewey’s exposition of the aesthetic in the first few chapters leading up to this point in the discussion where we read the above. Art as Experience is a massive body of philosophical text, which could not be covered in a graduate term paper, even cursorily. Dewey’s writing is the most dense I have ever read. Each page drips saturated with erudition and penetrating speculation and observation, such that I find myself often having to reread what I had already reread, because it just didn’t all soak in. I should think I am not alone in this experience, and so would like to offer, in addition to my ultimate thesis and its defense, this paper as a commentary companion to the first three chapters of Art as Experience.   

Let’s face it: Dewey demands demystification. This is necessary, not because Dewey is unclear. Dewey is as clear as a traffic jam. You see the swath of colors extending off into the infinite horizon, but only with difficulty do you discipline your eyes to select for intense inspection each and every vehicle, be it a sedan, semi, sports car, pickup truck or motorcycle that may make up the motor menagerie. One of the main reasons for this need, in addition to Dewey saying so much in so little space, is because Dewey tends to prefer the universal to the particular, the abstract to the concrete. It will be my duty, as commentator, to supply, for those key but obscure passages and motifs, particular, concrete examples where Dewey has been less than forthcoming. 

The structure of this paper will be in two parts, the first presenting a commentary of the first three chapters of Art as Experience, “The Live Creature”, “The Live Creature and ‘Etherial Things’”, and “Having an Experience”, the order and title of subsections corresponding thereto. The second part of this paper is purposed with zeroing in on a peculiar and philosophically intriguing idea found in the third chapter, which deals with this dichotomy between recognition and perception, why Dewey maintains the distinction, and some possible epistemological drawbacks for doing so. Because this paper is principally a commentary on Dewey’s aesthetics, I will reserve the exposition of the thesis for the second part, because I am not interested in burdening the reader with those considerations, prior to first delving into Dewey’s thoughts on aesthetic experience, supplemented with my examples. I am interested in demonstrating a working knowledge of Dewey’s aesthetic philosophy, while also displaying a modest amount of original thinking; not going at the throat of John Dewey like a spiteful rattlesnake, with much noise and venom. The dissenting thesis is but an appendage to a commentary; not the impetus to it. 

PART ONE

A Commentary on the First Three Chapters of Art as Experience      

The Live Creature 

We open a book entitled Art as Experience, and expect the first words or chapter title to say something about what we have been told is culturally, traditionally, and socially concerned with art. There’s the rub. This is what Dewey means by the common conception of artworks, which identifies, recognizes, these artifacts in a building or book, painting, or statue, often times set apart in a museum, or placed off somewhere out of the way of everyday business, on a shelf, on a wall, or on a lawn no one walks on.

Instead, what we get is a chapter title that conjures up the idea of a biological or ecological treatise. For us, who have been perhaps a little too conditioned by culture, the connection between live creature and art is not as apparent as it should be. But art, whatever else it may be, is fundamentally concerned with the aesthetic, or, in the everyday pleasures of existence and experience. The live creature is the aesthetic creature, the art-oriented creature. It is only through sociological-political forces that have removed art from the common life that this truth often is neglected or even shunned. Because art, and by extension the aesthetic, is considered by cultural influence today to be of the museum, the common people starve, as it were, for being in want of daily necessities like intense and meaningful aesthetic experience, and so often turn to what is intense, perhaps meaningful, but most often cheap and vulgar.     

It wasn’t always so. Once, not so long ago, people glorified in artistic artifacts of hearth and home, sword and plow. Cleaning, bathing, cooking, hunting, warring, all the everyday, humdrum comings and goings were punctuated with a sense of the delicately wrought and intentionally adorned that today art enthusiasts and collectors seek out such things as ancient oven mitts or rug beaters for fresh stock in the museum. Thus compared with today’s counterparts of factory made Target line kitchen utensils, these ancient artifacts probably do look like veritable masterpieces of the eternal artistic spirit. But whether they be truly fine and sublime art or no is not in question. Dewey is here drawing our attention to the fact that art has been removed from the sphere of everyday living, and the consequences of the removal is that it obfuscates or confuses us and our notions about what it means to be a piece of art, but also what it means to appreciate or let art be a piece of us and our lives. 

The causes of this removal are varied. Nationalism, imperialism, capitalism, and a community’s desire to portray itself as sophisticated and not wholly mercantile, trade mobility, and industrial changes in production have all contributed to the coffer of the museum or helped to alienate the live creature from art. If you want to know the who’s who in the arts of a given region, you go to the capital museum. These also hold the loot of past conquerors, so museums are imperial storehouses; and the same is the case for either militaristic or capitalistic imperialism. The effect of either the Napoleon or Rockefeller is the same as it relates to art. Mass production helps to exaggerate the emphasis placed on the individual in artworks, because of its propensity, or essential structure to make every single damn thing look, feel, smell, taste, or sound the same: think Starbucks. Works thus removed from everyday living are given a sense of glory, nobility, sublimity, etc, that simply is foreign to what the thing is in itself, and in its natural environment, and so the aesthetic theorist tends to believe that these attributes are of the works themselves instead of their artificial habitat. 

A theory of art cannot begin, therefore, with celebrated artworks, at least not if the theorist wants to have an accurate theory of the facts of the subject. The celebration is assumed, without questioning its origin. Dewey calls us back to the beginning, the birthplace of the works of art, calls us down to earth. Art theory has for the most part missed the mark, because it either focuses on the spiritual, contemplative aspects of art, or it begins with a false compartmentalization already expressed above. If the theory is to shed light on the practice, it must be engaged with the practice itself, to identify and clarify art’s development, valuation, and appreciation. Such a theory, based on the birthplace of artworks in everyday experience asks questions that are essential to the philosophical understanding of the phenomenon: When does the useful, beneficial, or expedient making process of routine life become genuinely artistic? At what point does sensory experience become aesthetic experience? 

To answer these question, the theorist must ask the question of what makes for an ordinary experience. Dewey identifies two places where that question is answered: the body and the environment, or the organism in his habitat––properly speaking, though, not in his habitat, but as an extension or a part of his habitat. The organism and the environing condition constitute a unity of possibilities, successes or failures, both for the organism and the environment. The organism acts on and is acted on the environment as much as the environment acts on and is acted on the organism. 

Equilibrium between the organism and his environment is reached out for through desire. Life itself is marked by phases, the ebbing and flowing of desire and satiation of needs derived from environment, and growth or death are functions of this interplay of an organism’s desire and the environment that supplies it. And here we find the fundamental germs of aesthetic attributes: balance, tension, harmony, and rhythm––and we haven’t even left the biology classroom. The mechanism by which an organism is capable of growth is through adaptation, and this is made possible when the environment is not accommodating. The tree bears fruit, but on limbs as flimsy as spider legs unfit for climbing. A projectile is invented to harvest the fruit. A projectile which can selectively knock down a piece of fruit may be used to shatter an enemy’s skull: Hence a boomerang-like object is born, its origin understood in terms of adaptation. Form and order follow from a reached, achieved stability in the equilibrium of the organism and his environment through adaptation. When this process takes place through a series of conflicts, difficulties, or obstacles, then the experience starts to look a lot like an aesthetic experience. 

In man does this disintegration and unification between environment and organism body become evident, through the sign of emotion, as objects become charged with meaningful potential to reunite or harmonize man’s desire with his environment. Disharmony is not only a fall, but a flight, wherein man rises above his unconscious self into the realm of actualization, becoming more than what he was through trial by fire. This phase of becoming, the tense and resistant moment, the hour at which failure looms, death knocks, is the fitting time for the artist. The artist rests in the resolved tension, the dynamic rhythms of life’s dramatic episodes, of loss-gain, fall-rise, whereas the man of science, the intellectual, merely uses these dramatic phases as material to form problematics for further investigation. These dramatic dynamics are not infused with emotional meaning by the artist––perhaps as the scientist would insist––but rather excavates their signification in the phases themselves, which are not only temporally but also spatially situated: the cloud form comes into being and passes through time, but in a moment, it may have a balance and tension of brilliant highlights as well as dread-inspiring darks and shadows. Through direct experience, aesthetic values are unearthed by the sensitive organism, the reflective, contemplative type, the artist and mystic, who sees things as they are, not as he would have them be. The artist is the the anti-idealist, because he sees things, not through preconceived, imposed values, but through the matter of their very existence, the half baked, half soaked clay mud clot, the sour-sweet tang of the early spring strawberry, The bitter apple and the bite in the apple. These are what they always were, realities we either come to terms with and overcome, or in the very least appreciate and understand, or neglect and are destroyed by. 

We happily reside in a world that is imperfect, imperfect at least from our weaker, slothful estimations, not aesthetically informed. A world where this dynamic phase of problem-resolution would not be possible if we either lived in a perfectly problematic world, where nothing made sense or added up or work out, and equally so in a world where everything was resolved, where no one had to strive, to overcome, to achieve in adversity. Though a paradox, this world is precisely perfect because it is imperfect. And this imperfect world, our imperfect lives, rest upon time and memory, which the artist, the fully live creature, adapts. Its past recalled, memories of failure and success become worthy guides in each their own right to direct a present course by. The future, too, has a place in the present of the live creature, as a possibility formed from the present reality. An organism’s environment is thus conceived, not only spatially, the green woods, the rocky paths and running brook, the gritty city street, but also temporally, through the present in constant relation to its past and future. Art’s emphasis and concentration on this reality intensifies our experience of it. 

The aesthetic experience is sourced through the sensed environment of the live creature. The senses testify to our place within the cosmos, within our environing world, through an interactive, penetrating commerce with it. Art, the aesthetic experience realized, rests upon and is founded by this interactive commerce of sense and world––otherwise it is mere fancy, imbecility, or lunacy: the first is the child, the second the second-rate artist, and third the madman. Each are fundamentally united in their error of failing to base their aesthetic ideal or artistic production on its natural and essential source, the sensed environment. Any art theory, therefore, that rejects or ignores experience (the sensed world) as properly the source and situated meaning of art, is fundamentally flawed from the beginning. 

Dewey has led us out of the cave of the typical art gallery or museum, where the flickering shadows of mere appearance can no longer do us injury. The quest for a theory of art doesn’t stop with the live creature in experience but gets its beginning and direction therefrom. Let us follow Dewey where he may lead, into the realm of the etherial and back again.

Live Creature and “Etherial Things”     

The etherial things of this world are composed of this world, as Keats and Dewey draw our attention to. What does Dewey mean by etherial? The eternal, universal significations of things in things, which society or culture, critics and dualistic philosophers have supposed are separate from and inaccessible by sensed experience. This was the problem dressed up in other garb, with which Dewey began the book: the problem of compartmentalization and the separation of the arts, in theory and practice and appreciation, from the live creature and the raw ore of experience from which the arts were made. In this chapter Dewey is concerned with the live creature in the context of the etherial, or experience impregnated with sense-meaning, and the paralysis induced by dualistic philosophies and socio-cultural habits. 

We have accepted the artwork as an artifact of the gallery or museum, instead of our own lives and immediate experience, because the imposed order and compartmentalization of our lives by institutional structures makes it so easy to do so. Even the senses themselves are compartmentalized, perhaps through the pervading and imposed alien structure of our lives, both in relation to each and each, such that we see without the corresponding sense of touch, and hear without the sense of sight, and in relation to the object of sense. When the latter happens, the etherial becomes inaccessible and hinter-worldly, and the senses and objects of sense become devalued, and disparaged as base, such that the Kingdom of Heaven is sought for in the clouds, nirvana or spiritual bliss in self-alienation and annihilation, and, what’s ultimately worse perhaps, bad art. 

But, when once man becomes ever more aware of meaning’s dependence on his sense-organs, of man as spirit-animal composition, then a wide vista of possible experiences opens up. Man does not become simple, the more he embraces his animalistic powers. On the contrary, the sensory data, as it were, of his experiences, when much attuned to, become the material out of which he invents a new complex of significations, which go to enrich his life, not debase it. And this invention, which man as live creature and aesthetic oriented, that is, sense-oriented, takes place in time, and is conditioned by past actions, past experience, lived out and brought to fruition in the present. Dewey uses an illuminating example. The landscape is shrouded in shadow but for the momentary burst of electric fire from the sky, which brings all to life, light and form. Suddenly, you realize and recognize a mailbox, garden gnome, and looming evergreens off in the distance. But do you really realize it suddenly? No. Your perception of the evergreens, the gnome and mailbox are the culmination of a long maturation process of sense and meaning over the course of years, perhaps the course of your life. Such things do not become apparent to you in an instant. Instantaneous recognition is impossible, because recognition is based in perception, which is based in sensory experience, which unfolds in time, not in a momentary flash of existence. The philosopher or poet who loses sight of this connection, loses sight of this context of recognition and meaning, is expressed in an inadequate and unconvincing theory or an unmoving and shoddy artwork. This unwanted result, Dewey would say, is the result of stopping at recognition, without realizing recognition historically situated and preceded by perception, or the cumulative acts of the senses which gathered enough data, as it were, to make recognition possible in the first place.

Thus perceived and recognized, relationships between cause and effect in nature become in the consciousness of man means and ends, in an artistic or productive sense. In art, in the conscious capability of restoring the meaning of the union of sense of the pattern or rhythm of desire and fulfillment, man eventually achieves his greatest feat, the very idea of art. Man not only understood and reproduced his understanding of experience, but could now reproduce the effects of the primal matter out of which those experiences came. Thus, man could not only write poetry about the fire that came from heaven, he could reproduce that fire itself, through his powers of useful scientific praxis. On that note, the distinction between the fine arts and the useful arts is artificial. The distinction is not intrinsic to the object, be it a spoon or a sword or a button from a blouse. Products will lack an aesthetic quality, and so be deemed merely useful, to the degree that they are not infused with this union of sense-meaning, and when they are not enjoyed because they lack pleasant, harmonious attributes. The spoon will be just a spoon and not an object of fascination and admiration if it lack that elegantly impressed, winding, whirling vine shape, with its soft verdant curves contrasted against the cool-to-the-touch, sterling silver metal handle, emphasizing symbolically (which is to say sensorily) the relationship between one’s broccoli soup and the spoon one eats it with. 

Those who try to maintain a dualism between spirit and matter, art and everyday living, lead lives of quiet desperation, to be sure, but also miss the point of the continuity of man’s achievements within his environment and the environment itself. The so-called etherial realm (perhaps Plato’s eternal ideas), divine inspirations, and such things, either real or illusory, do not fall from the sky into man’s head, but flow directly from his sensory experiences with his environment. Poetic sentiments and testimonials attest to art and science’s dependency on sense-experience of natural environments. The ideal, the spiritual, perceived eternal or universal truths are embodied in experience, in the sense of harmony of movement, which touches us to the core. The religious ritual is an extension, or exemplification of this. The religious experience ought not to be thought of as existing apart from the body, from sense experience, but in and through it. Ceremony is bedecked with colorful vestments of bright gold, perhaps symbolizing divinity through the very earthy notions of the purity of the yellow metal. Incense, which is taken to be a sign of the mysterious, is a rather organic, crude thing, derived from smashed tree bark, and other plant matter. Religious experience, the ultimate of the etherial things, appeals, not so much to the heart or intellect but to the eyes and nose, and other sense organs. The medieval world, and Church of that time, best exemplified this dependency of sense of sense, of meaning and emotive content on the stuff of our sensory experiences. At this time, the arts lived and flourished in the dance between the spirit and the flesh, the water and tears, smoke and veil, wine and blood. The idealization of ideality, and its separation from sensual reality, has, quite literally, sucked the blood from the body of our lives.

Dewey concludes, the artist is the live creature, who has not spurned the stuff of sense for etherial things, nor yet is the live creature a skeptic who is not contented with half-truths, with unjustified speculations, precisely because he has no need to be perturbed in his musings. His poetic insights are fully informed by reality, the deepest sense of reality, the relationship and interplay of the organic body with and in its environment. These he gathers by an intuitive sense, unmediated (initially) by intellectual reflection. The great artist, the great thinker, does not let the second-hand objection of the intellect impede his expression or thought, which was given in the first place unattended by any intellectualizing in his sense-experience. Why should he question it? The Coleridges of this world do question it, and their art suffers. And the reason why is not so hard to understand. Reason itself is dependent upon sense and imagination. If the world of sense is not trusted, then reason will fail, or reason is already set up for failure insofar as it pretends to offer to the organism what it itself does not have. Art, through the re-presentation of our sensory experience gives us back ourselves as it relates to our incorporated existence with our environment. Reason attempts to be set apart from this drama, to play a lead role when it was only an auxiliary. Reason, that is, attempts to set up a false dualism between nature and spirit, the live creature from etherial things. 

Thus much for the live creature, his environment, and what are productive ways of thinking about how they are related, and not so productive ways. Our next and final stop will be in chapter three, Having an Experience, wherein we’ll see how experience may be understood from the intellectual to the practical, to differentiate and isolate it so as to identify the aesthetic experience.   

Having an Experience          

Though we are ever engaged in experience, because the word implies this dynamical shaping and reshaping of sense-perception and organic being out of our environing conditions, we only ever have an experience when certain factors are in play, such as continuity and fulfillment of action. The former factor implies there are minimal or negligible interruptions of the act, and the latter that the act does not stop prematurely. An experience is one we look back on as unique, individual, distinct from the backdrop of our lives. The breakfast on the balcony that had a definite beginning––being first served a steaming cup of espresso and cream––and an end or consummation, with the last morsel or crumb eaten. A game, a bike ride, a night of stargazing with a cheap telescope, these things could very well constitute what Dewey means by an experience, or, what is equally important and true, they could be so punctuated and pierced with interruptions, or delayed fulfillment, that they do not arise in the memory as distinct and individual experiences, but as episodes not quite defined, nor of much value. 

To understand what exactly Dewey means by an experience, perhaps a useful analogy would be the musical movement. I have in mind Franz Shubert’s little piano piece, Moment Musical No. 3 in F Minor. Dewey says an experience has continuity of movement between the whole and the parts, such that each part flows naturally into making up the whole. Music, and the charming piece mentioned, captures this so well. The parts, each measure, naturally dance rhythmically into the next, neither imposing themselves, taking up too much of the spotlight, nor feeling shy, not wanting to share in the attention awhile. And through a continuous movement and merging, there is not room for dead air, lifeless time in which one is bored, unmoved, or unmoving. This is not because the piece, and experiences generally, does not have a rest on all staves at any one time, it is because, even a momentary pause, a musical rest, would be fitting and good in that experience. An experience has a name, just as this piece does, because of a pervasive quality about it. What is it in this piece? I would say it is one of determined joy, no matter the obstacles––very much like Dewey’s philosophy. 

Thinking is yet another example, which Dewey himself supplies. Hume and Locke believed thinking was comprised of atomic units of ideas, each upon each impressing itself, distinct, separate entities that were like pieces of furniture in the living rooms of our minds. This error has been no doubt exaggerated by logical analyses that divide an experience of thinking into premises and conclusions––as if the conclusion were not the source of the premises! The only difference between intellectual experiences, those of thinking, and aesthetic experiences as such consists in the fact that intellectual material does not in itself have any quality, whereas aesthetic material does. But, insofar as the integrity, and fulfilled effort of organized movements of intellect and will are realized, understood and felt, then even an intellectual experience shares essential characteristics with the aesthetic experience, and may be understood as such to that extent. And without this aesthetic quality, there would be no intellectual experience. Hence, to divide sharply the aesthetic from the intellectual is erroneous. 

Another example is the practical experience. Aimlessness and mechanical efficiency are the two extremes of practical experience, each of which for its own part fails in the individual taking interest in his actions, and so lacks an aesthetic dimension to it. If there is an interest taken in the doing of a practical act, then there is a degree of the aesthetic to it. 

Experiences in general are so identified by this interplay between doing and undergoing, and the meaning of experience suffers to the extent that either doing or undergoing are exaggerated, thereby distorting the perception of the relationship between them. Intelligence is but the perception of this relationship, so it makes little sense to distinguish artistic modes of action from intellectual. Be it the application and perception of pigments, algebraic symbols, or stresses or words, the painter, mathematician, or poet are all engaged in the same business.  

What do these distinctions have to do with art and the aesthetic? Well, art is about doing, and aesthetic about undergoing, yet Dewey points out that these should not be distinguished so sharply, because then that would do away with intelligence, which is the perception of the relationship between these two. The doing is both a skillful artistic movement, but also an aesthetic doing, and undergone, reflected and felt doing, such that, for example, the painter senses as he paints the particular strokes, which render a particular effect, with his eyes and hands, maybe even his ears, if that is how he tuned to his craft. Beethoven was nigh deaf when he composed some of his best work. He didn’t hear his pieces. He felt them. His piano’s legs were cut off so he could feel the vibrations of the different pitches and registers. This is one example of how an artist is engaged in aesthetic sense while being artistically productive. 

The truly aesthetic experience comes to the fore when the doing is guided by the pleasure of the undergoing or perceiving, such that the action taken in the doing is directed as cause is to effect. That succession of melodic notes, coupled with this rhythmic urge, produces a delightful effect, I should think, says the composer at play; or, that stroke renders these clouds quite fluffy, summery, and warm, I believe, says the painter. 

Perception and appreciation is not passive but a responsive act which is built up, one upon another, to completion and fulfillment. Dewey says that, otherwise, one is not perceiving but recognizing. Recognition is undeveloped perception. Recognition is always at the service of something else other than the object before the experiencer, whereas perception is motivated by the thing itself, to explore, understand, and feel out the thing itself, to truly encounter it. 

Recognition is schematic, based upon previous observation, conditioning, or detailing which helps to make bare identifications of the thing in question. We are struck by a detail or other of a landscape, a face, a piece of furniture which had escaped our notice before. We become aware that we were not aware before that moment of the detail of the thing. The new awareness is through perception, Dewey tells us, which replaces the facile act of recognition, which, in a way, was a stumbling block to our perceiving the thing in itself for what it really was.  “This act of seeing involves the cooperation of motor elements even though they remain implicit and do not become overt, as well as cooperation of all funded ideas that may serve to complete the new picture that is forming. Recognition is too easy to arouse vivid consciousness.” One who merely recognizes is not quite engaged in the experience, insofar as the new material no longer has a chance to develop, since the old is dominant, and arrests or prevents the new from taking shaping and becoming itself. 

Perception is pervaded with the emotional, with a commotion of energies that pervade the entire organism thus engaged in the act. Further, perception is receptive but not merely passive, because an expenditure of energy is required to really take in the object. We dive in, and become overwhelmed with the perceptive act. Perception, thus, is creative, in the sense of the form the artist created the object, or more strictly speaking, recreative. Just as the artist selected, simplified, clarified, abridged according to his interests, so too must the percipient do so, if he is to perceive the object as a work of art. Signification abstraction must take place with the viewer as it had with the artist. If this work of the aesthetic perceiver is neglected, then his artistic appreciation will be, whatever else, not of the the piece of art in front of him. 

From digging holes in the earth to cataloging the cosmos, if the experience is marked by this sense of integrity, it is aesthetic––that would explain, among so many other things, why children never really see digging in the mud as work, where as ditch-digging is often a pejorative insult to laborers, or, when a boy who is fascinated, emotionally driven to discern and disclose every minute detail of a topic or object, we call him––pejoratively, again––a schoolboy. Yet the practical and the intellectual are nevertheless not the aesthetic in the focal meaning, because either does not dwell within the experience as a whole, but always favors the end. The practical experience may be aesthetic in potential, but as soon as it becomes too focused with the aesthetic mode of the means to the end, the end is delayed or not reached. Chesterton uses an example of a man who really did have a deep admiration for interworking and miraculous invention of the telephone. He would linger and wish to remain in the means of communicating his desire to be connected to a telephone miles away uptown, thereby never actually able to fulfill that desire. The intellectual experience, too, would suffer the same fate if it tried to be a purely aesthetic experience. If an astronomer were to just stare at his images, instead of place them in a broader body of knowledge and draw certain inferences from them, thereby arriving at a conclusion, he would probably not keep his telescope subsidy time. 

The aesthetic experience, then, is the perceived interrelations between doing a thing and perceiving a thing, or the perception of how a thing was done, which involves a recreated act of the form that that thing was done in, through significant abstraction. That is to say, the aesthetic experience can be either artistically productive, or an experience of how that produced art, through a sensitivity to the way in which it was done, was made. There is no clean divide between art and the aesthetic experience, just as there is no clean divide between the practical and the intellectual experiences with the aesthetic. Both the practical and the intellectual, if they hope to rise above the mundane routine or aimless daydreams or idling about, must be aesthetic in the sense of having an integrated meaning to their movements. And when the perceived factors which are involved in the practical or intellectual become a thing in themselves to be marveled at, not in part but in their integrated totality of the whole act, then the experience becomes authentically and purely aesthetic.    

Thus concludes my commentary of the first three chapters of Art as Experience. It has been an informative journey, one which disposes me to exciting possibilities for the experience of deeper meanings and emotions in my life, whether I be digging a trench for a hedge, cooking hamburgers on the grill, or writing an essay on aesthetic philosophy. 

PART TWO

On the False Dichotomy between Perception and Recognition 

Is it really the case that recognition is so at odds with perception? Dewey makes it seem as though those who recognize are somehow aesthetically inept bookworms who just go around pointing their fingers, identifying things without seeing them, without experiencing them. The impression is that people who merely recognize do not have emotional reactions to what they identify, or to the act of identification itself. But is this the case? Does Dewey do a good job at isolating a phenomenon, distinguish it in its place and phase in a broader spectrum of the act? I argue no, though I must not give the impression that the distinction Dewey does make between perception and recognition cannot be helpful and instructive. He is signaling, identifying, recognizing himself an important phenomenon. The question is, whether that phenomenon, whatever it is in the broad landscape of experience, should be called identification or bare recognition, or if it should itself be distinguished from it as something else. I argue in what follows that perception is not the developed form of recognition but is actually the first stages, the gathering phase of the aesthetic act, which itself is only made possible, not finally through perception, but through recognition, which is itself a mysterious act.  

That recognition is inseparable from perception is obvious, even according to the language Dewey used to talk about the perceptive act. To recall, “This act of seeing involves the cooperation of motor elements even though they remain implicit and do not become overt, as well as cooperation of all funded ideas that may serve to complete the new picture that is forming.” The very ideas of, well, ideas are given in the perceptive act according to Dewey’s description. Ideas are either given or created, are recognized, are, yes seen (idea means in the Greek, as the reader well knows, the seen quality or shape of the thing). The funded idea is the idea which was given or created in experience from a time before, and as such in this phase of the new experience constitutes a kind of recognition, which is not passive but actively involved with the subject or object of the experience. The continuous act of perception is impossible without the acts of recognition, and there is no act of perception without recognition. 

But neither is there any act of recognition without perception. This is where Dewey makes his mistake. Ultimately, or primarily, recognition is not the beginning but the end of an experience of a thing. It is clear that perception must be the grounds upon which recognition is based, not the other way around. If one were to trace the personal history of a quality of thing from its conception, one would find that it is the perceived qualities that come first, then the identification of the qualities with a group of things having those qualities, but with the added differentiating quality that sets it apart, thereby justifying its inclusion in one group, or genus, but separate from other subgroups or species.

The histories of these qualities are not always apparent. Substances, like kangaroos or unicorns, are easier, because these ideas usually originate with an individual, such as a biologist or poet. But where did the straight and the curved come from whereby we distinguish between a scimitar and an Arthurian broadsword? Wherever they came from, the ideas of straightness and curvature, this much is clear, recognition of these qualities did not come before. There must have been a gathering process, of sense-perception, perhaps of the way light hits a curved surface versus a straight surface. Perhaps it is how it feels, the continuous, smooth assuring regularity of a hand gliding over a straight surface, or the somewhat uncomfortable feel of a hand over a curving surface, with the precarious movement of an uncertain climax or falling off. Wherever it came from, these qualities of straight and curved help to explain and catalog or identify phenomena as diverse as weapons to the very speculated structures of the cosmos.  But they have their origin in a pre-recognition act of the intellect. It is true, to say with Aristotle, that the universal is somehow present even in the sensed particular, otherwise how would it be distinguished from any other sense particular, and so named, but this sensed universal particular is not what I think Dewey was meaning by an act of recognition. Recognition for him suggests something far more established than what Aristotle was referring to. 

The problem we are running up against is age-old, and is based on the ancient debate between theories of knowledge, whether it be based on recognition, as with Plato, or sensation, as with Aristotle. I am not sure where Dewey saw himself in the debate, or if he even cared about it. His lack of sensitivity to the question suggests that he either didn’t know or care about it, but it is a real problem. If we think with Aristotle that things are not remembered but sensed, and the ideas of the qualities are created out of an active intellect, then it would be difficult to insist that, with Dewey, perception follows recognition. It could be that all knowing, all sensing is recognition, as Plato would say. But however it may be, based on the merits of Dewey’s account, recognition must follow, not precede perception.     

To complete the picture, to use Dewey’s language, and so complete the aesthetic experience, requires an act of perception, of course, but fundamentally an act of recognition. Funded ideas come in and complete the forming picture. But it is precisely these funded ideas that I mean by recognition. Funded ideas are not perceptions, because as ideas they have intellectual content, are differentiated species, without which no picture could form in the first place. And they are thus recognized in their act of completing the picture, the aesthetic experience. If they are merely perceived, they are merely sense-perceptions lacking intellectual content whereby they fail to differentiate themselves from anything else in the frame. Differentiation is the essence of recognition or identification. It also happens to be the essence of the artistic or aesthetically sensitive person. To differentiate pitch, color, texture, etc, is the work of the aesthetic experience, both of the artist and the appreciator. Perception merely supplies us with the raw data upon which to act in our differentiating. But differentiating itself presupposing identity, which may come to us either through an Aristotelian process of nascent universal-particulars, or fully-formed, eternal forms we remember in a Platonic process. The point is, Dewey belittles recognition, and props up perception, when it is precisely in recognition that aesthetic experience is made possible or not. 

This helps to explain why, when recognition is not possible, as in the case of most modern “art”, pleasure or enjoyment from the experience, if it can even be called an experience, is so lacking. It also explains why a child is so giddy to recognize and identify a particular bird in the backyard. The pleasure comes in the fulfilled understanding of the thing experienced. If it were merely a bird, or merely an animal, or merely a moving mass of unidentifiable color, the child would not be as moved to such glee––just as I am not moved to such glee when I fail to identify a piece of twisted junk metal someone upstairs in the art department calls lawn art. The color, the movement, the genus of animal, the species of woodpecker, these are degrees of intensified meaning, and so a movement through them constitutes an essential ingredient in the aesthetic experience. To stop at color or movement, very abstract, for close to sense-perception ideas, would be to, in effect and directly contrary to what Dewey said, arrest the aesthetic experience from happening and developing. Recognition does not arrest perception, and so experience. Recognition is the culmination and consummation of experience, be it practical, intellectual, or aesthetic. Further, were the perceptions that Dewey said perfected experience to be precisely these qualities of movement, direction, color, pitch, texture, fast, slow, freely, rigidly, dolce or melancholic, and other such abstract, non-substantial qualities, he would still be committed to the proposition that recognition consummates experience, because if one could not identity or recognize, could not differentiate between these qualities, one would not be having an aesthetic experience at all, but would be merely passive, inert, undergoing, and not fully alive––not very Dewey-like.                     

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Scheler, Max. Ressentiment. Marquette University Press. 2007. Print. 

Dewey, John. Art as Experience. Penguin Group (New York). 2005. Print.

VITA

Graduate School

Southern Illinois University

Robert Robbins

RobertRobbins3.5@gmail.com

The Catholic University of America

Bachelor of Arts, Philosophy, May 2015

Paper Titles:

“A Critical Review of Ressentiment: Why Max Scheler’s Account of Moral Transvaluation is Incomplete and Why It Must Remain So.”

“Nietzsche: Philosopher?”

“A Commentary on the First Three Chapters of Art as Experience and on the False Dichotomy between Perception and Recognition found therein.” 

 Major Professor: Andrew Youpa

Jefferey Bezos as Julius Caesar

The CatholicFamilyPodcast has released a new video entitled “A final critique of The Rings of Power” which I have not completely watched. Actually, I have only watched about five minutes of the hour-long critique, and that was enough to know the tenor and substance of everything that was to follow. I knew from the first few minutes that what would follow would be but the sniveling rants of those wholly uncultured “Catholics” who never miss a chance to bash on a billionaire, because they think money, and not the Devil, is the root of all evil.

Sour Grapes Much?

There’s a lovely little tale about as old as time, which tells of a fox who spied a bunch of juicy grapes dangling just above his reach and, as he attempted and failed to reach them, thought better–or rather worse–of the attempt and what he asserted to be sour grapes and went off scorning that which he couldn’t taste. The moral is that there are those who would despise goods because they cannot reach them. It is the canker of every democracy which, if left untreated, destroys the one who has this tendancy.

I would argue that those, like the host of CFP and his guest, are cankerous with sour grapes about rich people generally, and Amazon in particular. In a previous post, I mentioned that this is a kind of reactionary distributism, which devalues that which is in itself indispensable, namely, technology and the means to produce it, which is affluence. What interests me here, however, is the cause of that tendency to reaction against the rich, which is a plague upon our democratic house.

I mark that I left a comment on the video linked to above but which has since mysteriously vanished. Perhaps it is well that it should have, because it was a wee too harsh on the CFP guest, and on the CFP host for that matter, chiding both for not judging art by art standards but rather economical prejudices quite foreign to the discussion. A critique on a work of cinematic art must abide by the standards of that art, not the pretensions of the literary artistic standards, or rather the idiosyncrasies of Tolkien–which are quite peculiar and individual indeed–or of the fans of the books, when the show is under review. That is a consideration, however, for another post. That a book is one thing, and a television series another, should be kept in mind by any individual deciding to take up the task of artistic criticism.

Trade is War

But what does concern us is that this penchant for disparaging the emanations of the wealthy. We are somehow made to feel that it is altogether evil–like the One Ring–to be wealthy. We are told that Amazon is like Sauron, though, I think it must be conceded if reality is to hold up, not quite so destructive. With over two million jobs on tap, perhaps it would be somewhat hasty to say Amazon is a financial tyrant, enslaving the poor like the Hobbits in Frodo’s vision in Galadriel’s birdbath. Especially if one consider that the average full-time income for an Amazon employee is almost $40,000 a year, not to mention the fact that Amazon was first to introduce the $15 dollar minimum wage.

But before you start bashing Bezos for his billions, and boycotting Amazon, consider this: according to a BusinessInsider article, though Bezos’s income ratio to mean employee salary was 58:1, the CEO-to-Worker wage of CVS was 434:1 and a whopping 983:1 for the CEO of War-Mart! Bezos is on record as having said he wants Amazon to be “The world’s best employer.” Amazon is just behind two other entities for the most employees in the world, those being–you guessed it–the United States and China’s militaries.

Economics is war. Anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t have a clue as to how trade happens. Amazon is faulted for being big, yet no one faults–least of all the conservative ilk of the Neo-Catholic Traditionalists–militaries for being big–and wealthy. The US Department of Defense has an operating budget of almost $800 billion per annum, whereas Amazon’s income was a measly $12 billion in 2019. Yet Amazon employs nearly as many people as the DoD does. Now, I am not an economist, but there seems to be a big gap between operating budget of the DoD and the net income of Amazon.

Let me just interpose a reply to an objection I am hearing: I understand that discretionary spending or budgetary allowance of an governmental organization is not the same as the net income of a company, so the numbers do not quite compare, but then no one is giving Amazon $800 billion and telling it it can spend the money however it wants. Rather, after costs, Amazon is given $12 billion from its customers who exchange that money for goods purchased. We the taxpayers give the government, I mean the government takes $800 billion from us and spends it as it will on its own organization, in exchange for a potential threat neutralized by a projected military power. We get toilet paper on the cheap, and Amazon gets paid. We have to pay the government to ensure our safety, and we bury our sons in graves. Sound just?

Moving on to the money breakdown between the DoD and Amazon, of the mentioned $800 billion for operating budget, the cost for military personnel pay is only about a quarter: “Overall, the cost of military personnel pays and benefits (MILPERS), at $146 billion, accounts for 23 percent of DoD’s discretionary budget request for FY 2018,” (Source). Though I could not locate the costs of salaries for Amazon, I can tell you that the operating costs for Amazon for this year are about half that of the DoD, according to this source.

What’s the point or picture I am trying to make here? Amazon employs about as many people as the biggest militaries in the world, and does so through economical savvy, a brilliant business model, and efficiency, cutting costs by half. True, bombs costs more than books, but the company Amazon is not the Sauron many a conservative Catholic would make it out to be. Lest we forget, Sauron was raising an army of orcs, monster killers, and the costs were weighty. Indeed whole neighborhoods of trees and farmlands were decimated in the process. Now, I am the first one to wave my American flag and celebrate the armed forces, being a Veteran myself, and I would be the last one to disparage the necessity of a national military. But when it comes to the costs that military exacts on a population, without supplying an equally substantial as opposed to potential benefit in return, then there is something wrong with our costs-to-benefits analysis.

The US military costs taxpayers in excess of $800 billion dollars to operate, and to employ its citizens, whereas Amazon costs taxpayers nothing. The US military only employs 3 million to Amazon’s 2 million, yet costs over double to operate–that is, costs the taxpayer: “The average taxpayer paid $3,457 for the Pentagon and military, almost nineteen times more than for all diplomacy and foreign aid ($183),” (Source). Compare that to Amazon shelling out over $11 billion in taxes (source), and the picture is complete. The only economic despotism going on is the US government’s taxation.

So, here is a company which doesn’t cost me a dime, indeed saves me many dimes on cheaper products and lower prices, is the biggest employer in the world next to the militaries of global powers, operates at half the cost, and yet is targeted again and again by the Neo-Catholics as an evil entity likened to that of Sauron, who is a master of slaves and economic despot. Is Amazon morally squeaky clean? Of course not, nor is any country or company. But before we start pointing fingers at Bezos for being the big, bad wolf, perhaps we ought to dig deep inside and find the fox within, the one which sees great economic achievement, yet scoffs and lampoons because of a preconceived or prejudicial conception of how economics works. Trade is war. No one ever blamed Julius Caesar for his successful campaigns that brought so much wealth to Rome. True, the sour grapes bunch–those who wanted the power and prestige of his office–stabbed him to death, but not for his riches which were Rome’s own. They killed Caesar out of envy, not for fear of despotism. And, if the critics of The Rings of Power were honest, they kill the best show ever made by an unjust artistic criticism just as the envy-filled statesmen killed the most noble man ever to take the toga. And they do so to their peril.

Why, man, he doth bestride the narrow world
Like a Colossus; and we petty men
Walk under his huge legs, and peep about
To find ourselves dishonourable graves.

Julius Caesar
William Shakespeare 

Drawn into Madness: BetrayedCatholics Concocts More Error

Seems, madam? Nay, it is; I know not seems.

Dishonesty Compounded by Error

I do not like having to write article after contentious article against one who I thought was a fellow Catholic. After this series of controversial articles written against Teresa Benns of BetrayedCatholics, I have had considerable doubts as to the Catholicity of the woman. It just defies comprehension how one could a priori seek to invalidate the sacrament of Holy Matrimony based upon specious and disproven arguments in canon law by actual canonists. I am sorry, but either Benns is a non-Catholic sectarian heretic or else she is a megalomaniac who can’t help it.

In her most recent tirade against Holy Matrimony, Benns has blithely back-peddled to the effect that she actually says, of course, she was going to explain everything in due time and that we her critics (read here simply faithful and reasonable Catholics) were hasty in publishing criticisms of her position. She writes:

Marriage is a very complex subject requiring careful study and the clarification of many fine distinctions. Those critiquing this difficult canonical work would do well to let the author complete the explanation of the current situation before arriving prematurely at any conclusions. Those involved in serious research, especially, should know that one proceeds from the general to the particular. What is presented below will not answer all questions but should serve to help readers better understand points mentioned in the previous two blog posts. Because of the confusion created by our critics, we must make certain the following is understood.

First off, it is not this man, nor Laura Wood of ThinkingHousewife who has created the confusion. On the contrary, it is I, not Benns who have attempted to open a window to let in the breeze and sunshine of authentic Catholic thought on marriage, to air out and illuminate the stuffy nonsense which Benns is addicted to publishing. The canonical work that Benns is trying to do is neither necessary nor is she competent to do it, as has been demonstrated by the series of articles published last week. Nor am I trained in canon law to reason against her specious argumentation, not because she is right and I am wrong, but because neither of us have any business doing so. The whole difficulty and danger of BetrayedCatholics is that Benns relies on canon law to show that one should not go to Traditionalists, when what she should have been doing was resting her claims on what is certain and demonstrable from the scope of her competency to know, which is a catechism. She has no business fabricating arguments (and, reader, that is what she has been doing, fabricating) to advise people to stay away from the Traditionalists sacraments. The reasons why are are follows:

Teresa Benns is not a trained canonist. Indeed she is not even a college graduate. It is simply incorrigible presumption and arrogance to think one can pick up the tools and materials of a science one has no training in. Imagine if I were to presume upon my abilities and knowledge to conduct experiments in the lab with the tools and materials of microbiology, perhaps in an attempt to replicate the Bubonic plague in a Petri dish. The effects would be astoundingly tragic, since I wouldn’t know the first thing about lab protocol, biological ethics, or any number of things about biology or microbes. Likewise, the consequences of Benns meddling in a science she has no training has been astoundingly tragic, even more so than were she to attempt to replicate the Black Death, because at least then it would only be the body that comes to an agonizing end. Now it is marriage, family life, childhoods, the domestic church, and above all individual souls which are coming to an agonizing end. That is on Teresa’s conscience–if she has one.

Marriage is not complex, contrary to what Benns claims. The conditions for its valid reception can be summed up in a sentence: If you are baptized, exchange vows before two witnesses, you are sacramentally married. As I published last week the scholarly statement on the topic found in the Catholic Encyclopedia: “Hence not only the marriage between Catholics, but also that contracted by members of the different sects which have retained baptism and validly baptize, is undoubtedly a sacrament.”

Benns lists those things we should keep in mind that she believes:

  • We speak here only of marriage between two certainly baptized Catholics.
  • In cases of marriage, doubtful baptisms are presumed to be valid until proven otherwise.
  • The Church teaches that the marriages of those not Catholic are valid, but not fruitful regarding grace and not recognized by the Church as valid Catholic marriages. This would include Traditionalist and Novus Ordo marriages since these sects are schismatic.
  • The marriage of two Catholics acting in a time period when no Catholic priest is available appear to be invalid if held as a religious ceremony before a non-Catholic minister in a non-Catholic church.
  • It cannot be admitted that an after-the-fact invocation of Can. 1098 as a kind of “supplied jurisdiction” or application of epikeia can be said to validate Novus Ordo or Traditionalist marriages given the implications of Can. 2319.
  • The only situation anticipated in these discussions is that of a Traditionalist or Novus Ordo person who decides to become a pray-at-home Catholic, renounces his/her previous errors, makes a Profession of Faith, arrives at moral certainty that the marriage was not valid and now wishes to rectify matters.

To the first bullet: no, Teresa, you have spoken and passed judgment on non-Catholic as well as Catholic marriages. Indeed your whole argument has been predicated upon saying that marriages before non-Catholic ministers are not sacramental.

To the second: you presume that marriages conducted before Traditionalists are not valid.

Third: You have changed your tune. You wrote:

Here you are presuming that the marriage was validly contracted and that the spouses can possibly reconcile their differences in the future. Of course the Church has always allowed separation; this should go without saying. But we are not just talking about tensions here, but very real moral and spiritual calamities — including possible loss of faith — that afflict many of those believing themselves to be validly married. As another reader has also pointed out, the very fact that such calamities occur, that there are “irreparable divisions,” is only backhanded proof that the graces that should have been received in a sacramental unionwere never received; the marriage was not valid, hence not sacramental. The Church’s “mercy and realism” extends to the sacramental reality of things, don’t you think?

Here you call into question, not just the Catholic nature (what is this exactly?) of marriages before non-Catholics, but you even chide Laura Wood for presuming upon the validity of the contract of marriage. Further, you argue that the apparent absence of grace in a union is proof that the marriage was not valid, and “hence, not sacramental.” But this is a direct contradiction, not only to the bullet point under discussion, but to the Catholic Encyclopedia article which expressly states in no uncertain terms that even a marriage contracted in a sect is to be regarded as “undoubtably a sacrament,” and so able to give grace.

Next, as to the appearance of invalidity of those who marry outside the Catholic Church, this, too, is flatly contradicted by the Catholic Encyclopedia article oft quoted:

“As we have several times emphasized, not every marriage is a true sacrament, but only marriages between Christians. One becomes and remains a Christian in the sense recognized here through valid baptism. Hence only one who has been validly baptized can contract a marriage which is a sacrament; but every one can contract it who has been validly baptized, whether he has remained true to the Christian faith, or become a heretic, or even an infidel. Such has always been the teaching and practice of the Church.

Did you read that? It doesn’t matter if you are a heretic or schismatic or infidel, if you are baptized and marry, you are sacramentally married. This has been the constant teaching of the Church, the denial of which is at least theological error, if not heresy, since it touches upon the nature of the sacraments.

Next bullet point: It can be admitted that invocation of c.1098 is not necessary, because that is commonsense and simply a positive application of the legal maxim, Ignoratia legis non excusat. Nor is Benns ignorant as to what the Church teaches regarding the conditions of matrimony, since these articles should not have left her in any doubt.

And, finally, as to the statement: “The only situation anticipated in these discussions is that of a Traditionalist or Novus Ordo person who decides to become a pray-at-home Catholic, renounces his/her previous errors, makes a Profession of Faith, arrives at moral certainty that the marriage was not valid and now wishes to rectify matters,” I say this: How can one arrive at the moral certainty that a marriage was not valid? What are the conditions of invalidity, because the only conditions which were listed thus far have been proven specious and theologically erroneous and not found in the law at all.

Now, as to the rest of the article which Benns pens in order to obfuscate and confuse her readers and avoid stating the obvious, that she was dead wrong about all this travesty, she relies upon a funny little word in order to make her case that those who are unhappy in their marriage may have a Get-Out-of-Jail Free card in their hand it they should so happen to require one. That word is seems. Here are the instances:

“Woywod-Smith seem to be explaining above that because no latae sententiae sentence is prescribed for two Catholics marrying in a religious ceremony before a non-Catholic minister, this is only an attempted marriage…”

“This seems to indicate that both those contracting mixed marriage AND those attempting marriage do incur the excommunication.” 

“This seems to be in harmony with the decree.”

“The truth here seems to be that two baptized Catholics presenting before a non-Catholic minister and engaging in a religious ceremony only attempt marriage…”

As has been shown above, a marriage officiated even before non-Catholic ministers is considered to be undoubtedly sacramental. No amount of canon lawing can change that, and those who would attempt it, who are not themselves canon lawyers, are simply playing the part of pharisees, trying to put asunder what God hath joined. What I have quoted from does not use such Gertrudian language. And I would add that the character Queen Gertrude in the Shakespearean play of Hamlet is incapable anymore of determining in reason certainties, such that she cannot even understand the sorrow of her own son! This is because she herself is guilty of not having enough sorrow for her late husband, and so she tries to dowse the reality and darkness of sorrow with sunlight, but Hamlet has within the truth he knows so well, which will not yield. That is why, Hamlet, above all the other characters of the play, is, quite contrary to what everyone believes, the only sane man in a kingdom of lunatics. Claudius is a murderous madman; Gertrude a sorrow-less widow; Polonius a moral relativist; Ophelia a relativist and tool. With Laertes, Hamlet’s murderer, being perhaps the only other sane man of the play, but even he is ravaged by the thirst for vengeance, whereas Hamlet has been disposed to control his desire for vengeance like a saint.

The whole point of Hamlet is that he does not act or decide or think based upon what seems but rather acts according to what is. He tries everything to see what spirit it is of, because he knows the feebleness of man’s nature, not because he despairs of that feebleness. He trusts rather to what is, what can be known for sure, than to what seems to be, for it is sanity and sanctity that certainty resides in what is, whereas madness dwells in what seems. You are perfectly at liberty to follow BetrayedCatholics, but if you do, think of the consequences:

What if it tempt you to the flood, my lord, 
Or to the dreadful summit of the cliff 
That beetles o’er his base into the sea,
And there assume some other horrible form, 
Which might deprive your sovereignty of reason
And draw you into madness? Think of it.  

An Essay, Poem, and Very Short Story on Halloween

An Essay

Whether the pagan festival of Samain preceded or followed the Christian festival of Halloween is a question I shall leave to scholars and other such pedants. What concerns me at present is a memory of childhood which touches upon the deepest reality behind either festival, that of the life of the spirit.

Before I was a man, before I was a new man or neophyte, I was a child, which means I was closer to God and spiritual realities were unmixed with reason, since, being a boy, I had only fancy. But I was, as I imagine most were, a purely passive entity, allowing the world to permeate me just as an open window lets in fresh autumn air. Though I did not know what such things meant, I knew they meant something. Thus, when I was a boy, my older brother would torture me with making a cackling voice of a witch, and would tease me that he was going to call the witch. But I recall looking up at the window with utter horror at the thought of seeing that witch ascend to my windowsill and grin in at me. The point is, though I had no idea what invocation was, which is the principle of all prayer–and all devil worship–I was as conscious of its reality as I was of my own beating heart, which was considerable when my brother scared me.

The same reality for which I had no name, which was as real to me as a great big orange pumpkin on a porch, always materialized and made itself felt during the holidays which, in those days of my heathen youth, I simply knew as days off from school, holiness being a concept I had no words for, though, all the same, felt. Thus, there was something holy about graveyards, which I dared not enter without express business; there was something holy about the names of the deceased; there was something holy about a Christmas tree, an Easter egg, though I had no idea what, nor had any inkling as to the origins of those items which appeared intermittent during winter and spring break. Though I did not know it, my soul was magnetized by God to feel attracted to these things, not because they promised a break from school work, or candy and presents. On the contrary, the feeling to which I refer had nothing to do with any substantial thing at all, at least not the sense that it was satisfied or rested in those things themselves. Rather, I they always seemed to point me beyond them. Pumpkins, candles, skeletons, black cats, eerie houses, ghosts cut out of sheets, these were not the folly of a pagan culture gone mad. These were the artifacts of a people who were celebrating death but they forgot why. The ornaments of Halloween were, and are, to my youthful soul, sacramentals, which, when pondered upon are able to transport one to a realm beyond the veil of death to life everlasting.

Of course, I had no notion of sacrament at the time. But, funny enough, as school let out, and the interminable bus ride home concluded, as late afternoon closed in and evening approached, I felt a sense of dimensional shift, as if time became hallowed, set apart, made special and infused with meaning. What that meaning was was not reducible to the anticipation of candy. It was more. If I could give it expression as a man, which is a big if, I would say it was the excited anticipation of taking on the night, taking on death as it were, walking the streets in my homemade ninja costume and pillow case candy bag, and walking up to the homes of complete strangers to ask for candy where five-hundred years before I would have returned a prayer. Trick-or-Treat was to me as a young heathen boy a deeply ritualistic and religious ceremony, with the free candy an added bonus.

Now, as an adult converted to the Catholic faith, I strive to feel and to understand with a passive soul the meaning of this thing called Halloween. It is difficult, because I am hampered by my intellect being active and always wanting to jump in and fill the gaps, instead of letting skeletons be skeletons, the form of body deprived of life; or eerie houses one might call haunted, not with the dead so much as the living of what might of been, the happy home with light and laughter and little children running around playing in the leaves; or pumpkins, especially carved with candlelit grimacing, menacing faces, which are just gargoyles cut not from stone but living rind. Between me and the spirit world, the world of sense in itself, there falls the veil of adulthood. During my boyhood that veil did not exist, because I was not yet a man. Since my conversion, I have endeavored to see the world as I did as a child, to feel the Spirit of time and place, the Sanctifier move in and around and through me, making my very waking day a wonderful dream, tinted with that hue of meaning no intellect can touch, being a thing too holy, too precious, like the Blessed Sacrament itself which nothing but what is hallowed may hold.

Perhaps when I am older, I will have learned to let go and stop grasping for meaning. Perhaps, at the end of all my searching and trying to understand the truth of things, I will remember when I was a boy dressed up as a ninja with the plastic glow-in-the-dark sword, knocking at a stranger’s door with the hope and goodwill and faith in my fellow man. Then, remembering how to be a child, the door shall be opened, and I shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Poem

To My Brother Who Was My Keeper
  
Though appearing unreal to some, never to me: 
I thought your fantasy reality.
  
From my windowsill I’d see your fairies,
Dancing upon the golden-grassland prairies; 
Through that windowpane I’d hear your cackling witch,
Who’d curdle my blood and make my body twitch.

You sent me out to gaze at the canvas of glass, 
And kneel and listen to a Lady Mass,
That I might mend my adulterated sight,
And hear of how the Painter painted the night.

Now the sun shines through the stained glass today,
Bringing to life a fairytale display
Of spire-alighted, splendid seraphim, 
Suppressing the howling Dragon’s heinous hymn.      

Since these appear as real as ever to me,
Why do you think my reality fantasy?

A Very Short Story

While rising above the maple hills, a faithful but waning sun began to warm the sleepy town of Witnesston. With what seemed like automatic obedience to an unknown authority, the townspeople had bedecked the town with festive ornamentation the day before, in preparation for Halloween.  

Living alone in a hut of a house, the middle-aged Harold Ernest had taken leave of his unwelcoming dwellings by making his way down the dark main street to the edge of town and was now returning thence. On this morning, as on every morning before dawn, Harold patronized the town’s only coffeehouse, Witnesston’s Best, before returning home to write. The habit of doing so, along with his leisurely way of life, was afforded him by a small but sufficient inheritance, which subsidized his other than lucrative profession as a freelance writer.  

“What will it be, Harry?” asked Fred Barnes, the coffeehouse’s owner and tender. “But why ask you questions I know the answers to? One dark-roast coming up,” and smartly arose from his work to fetch some freshly brewed coffee.

“Thank you, Fred,” Harold sighed, after closing the door behind him, taking himself to the only table he ever knew in the place. “Am I your first?” he asked in a rehearsed manner, as the question was almost answered before he asked.   

“No one rises before you, Harry,” Fred said, pouring coffee into a cup. “You make the birds look bad.”

Harold, unconsciously cringing at the alliterative phrase, looked out on the morning street, wondering whether today would be the day the little town of Witnesston would wake up. He saw from where he sat a motley assortment of decorations, which had, he thought, been thrown up at once in the night, by common adherence to an unwritten ordinance. With the increasing brilliance of the morning light, he began to see from the coffeehouse window pale skeletons dangling from lampposts here and there, carved pumpkins loitering upon stoops, and messy spiderwebs adorning doors, from threshold to lintel, amidst the falling maple leaves. No one was yet awake.   

“Isn’t it spooky out there?” Barnes giddily inquired, handing Harold his cup of coffee.

“As compared with where I just came, it is a senseless parody,” Harold replied in a somber calm, while accepting the cup halfheartedly.  

“Harold, you are above us all,” returned Fred. “Yet, I can’t help pitying you,” and went back behind the counter to continue wrapping the chocolate candies he had been working on when his patron entered. 

While drinking his coffee at table, Harold observed Barnes from a distance. Thin and white, Barnes’ hair was neatly combed back. The aged man wore a red and white candy-striped apron around his pleasantly fat frame. The comedic contrast between the frivolous garment and stately styled hair gave Harold a moment for mirth; but, recollecting himself, he instead peered back out the window at the grotesque street.

“This town is going to hell in a handbag!” shot forth Harold out of the quiet coffeehouse. “Rather, a trick-or-treat bag!” he added. “Look at the pomp and pleasure. Look at the hanged figures, wasted gourds, and cobwebbing! Childish frenzy, I say. Death has them all by the throat; yet they throw a party in mockery of the fact.” Harold had let his coffee go to his head, for he was not used to speaking thus, at least not when their was an audience. Barnes remained behind the counter during the outburst, but soon made his way to Harold, an ice-water in hand.

“Drink this,” Barnes insisted, handing Harold the glass. “It will dilute the boldness. The first pot I make is always the boldest.” Harold took the glass of water and placed it down beside the drained coffee cup without a word.

“Am I alone here?” Harold asked, disarmed by the polite gesture of his host.

“Am I not here?” asked Barnes in like tone, sitting down across the table from Harold.

“Am I alone in thinking that all of Witnesston is asleep, that the town displays death, celebrates death, because it does not think about what it means to die?” clarified Harold.

“I suppose you know what it means to die?” Barnes retorted somewhat flippantly.

“I know the cold of a gravestone. I know the irreconcilability of pumpkins and skeletons.”

“The street is enchanting,” replied Barnes, gazing out the window. “We really outdid ourselves this year.” Vexed by the simplicity of his host, Harold began to rise to leave, but stopped.

“Do you not fear death, Mr. Barnes?” asked Harold solemnly, himself in between two worlds, sitting and standing.  

“I fear you,” said Barnes with greater solemnity, his blue eyes trained now on his motionless guest. For a long moment, the men remained in perfect silence, Barnes seated, Harold suspended. 

“May I have a candy?” Harold asked with a smile, and began to sit.  

The Fox and the Hound and the Red Herring

“The figurative sense of “red herring” was thought to originate from a supposed technique of training young scent hounds. There are variations of the story, but according to one version, the pungent red herring would be dragged along a trail until a puppy learned to follow the scent. Later, when the dog was being trained to follow the faint odour of a fox or a badger, the trainer would drag a red herring (whose strong scent confuses the animal) perpendicular to the animal’s trail to confuse the dog. The dog eventually learned to follow the original scent rather than the stronger scent,” (Wikipedia, “Red Herring”).

What follows is an attempt to follow that original scent through the confusing odor of a red herring left in our path.

Teresa Benns of BetrayedCatholics has posted a lengthy addendum to her latest article in which she attempts to cover her tracks of faulty understanding of canon law but in the process only succeeds in further showing, if not her canon law incompetency, then her capacity for seemingly willful deception.

Benns began by a defensive attack on Laura Wood, ThinkingHouseWife, a sincere and thoughtful commenter, with a refreshingly balanced mind and, yes, a thinking housewife, launching this invective:

“Your article is a grave attack on Catholic marriages!”

So wails the anti-Canon Law crowd that just “liked” the article on the need to obey Canon Law (?) They cite nary one canon in their favor, no papal or conciliar documents, not even theological opinions. But they believe they have the right to disagree, to snipe, even to condemn. Canon Law and scholastic theology require proofs to establish a credible argument, but this is apparently not something they feel obligated to do. Let them prove Traditionalists and some Novus Ordoites were never baptized; that they are not at least material heretics and schismatics and that therefore Can. 1094 does not apply to them. Maybe then their objections would make more sense. Ah, but they have no answer to this either, no proofs. They apparently love to argue, so perhaps they would like to take on the pope, or the Roman Rota below.

These are not the words of a steady Catholic woman who believes she has a duty to defend the Catholic faith against her enemies. This is the acrid response of a venomous woman backed in a corner of an argument she cannot escape. The only option she has is to either admit that she is wrong, and humbly submit to truth, or, as she rather does, throw us off the scent by leaving us to read irrelevant laws and commentaries while she retreats to her foxhole.

The fact is it has been demonstrated to anyone of goodwill and commonsense that if you were married by a non-Catholic at least before two witnesses, your marriage is valid.

Now, Benns wants us to focus on the baptized and unbaptized Traditionalists since, according to her, this is relevant to whether one comes under the law of c. 1094. But we have already seen that, whenever there is no Catholic priest available, one may validly and licitly exchange vows before two witnesses and this, whether they are baptized or not, as even Benns’s source states:

Non-Catholics baptized and unbaptized are exempt from the Catholic form of marriage whenever they marry persons similarly not bound by it.

So, I ask, why are we being told to prove the invalidity of baptism of Traditionalists, when, according to Benns, Traditionalists are non-Catholics? I thought the whole Get-Out-of-Marriage Free Card argument of BetrayedCatholics was that marriage before a non-Catholic minister was no marriage at all under c.1094? The answer is that Benns believes Traditionalists and Novus Ordos are not non-Catholics but schismatics, and this, apparently, makes them fall under the law of c.1094:

Anyone who reads this site knows that we have long considered Traditional pseudo-clerics and their followers schismatic. Schismatics are those certainly baptized in the Catholic faith who publicly joined a non-Catholic sect; they are no longer members of the Church according to Canons 2200 and 2314. They are not only schismatics but are at least material heretics for their denial of the necessity of the papacy. Material heretics are considered as outside the Church until their cases can be decided by the proper authorities (Can. 2200; Rev. Adolphe Tanquerey, others). So according to Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XII’s reinstatement of his Ne Temere decree, the marriages of lapsed Catholics and schismatics must be conducted according to the canonical form, which in the past was by a lawful pastor delegated to act as an authoritative witness in such marriages, (but in his absence today, the canonical form can only be Can. 1098). Novus Ordo sectarians and Traditionalists are married under neither.

If you are getting confused, that is the point. It is the point of Benns to make this whole affair much more complicated than it really is. Thankfully for you, that is what I am here for, to do the unravelling and untangling of the knot of confusion Benns has worked so hard to make, all in the service, ironically, of trying to untie the matrimonial knot of Catholics.

It is true that lapsed Catholics, those who where baptized in the Church but fell away from the faith in adulthood, are obliged to follow the marriage laws of the Church. This would demand that they be married before a Catholic priest with jurisdiction. Of course, we have seen that there is an exception to this requirement if there are no Catholic priests available. But now the question Benns puts before us is whether those who were fallen away Catholics actually married or not. Benns writes:

So if as pray-at home Catholics we believe validly baptized Traditionalists are schismatic, (and Canon Law teaches that they are), they also are bound by the proper canonical form to marry. Therefore, we can only say that their marriages before one who was not a lawful pastor were invalid and Can.1098 was never invoked; this is precisely what the Church teaches.

It may be that there were individuals who had been baptized in the actual Catholic Church and not the Novus Ordo sect or Sedevacantist sect, but who later in adulthood fell away from the Church and got married before a non-Catholic minister, like an Sede priest, and who, subsequently fell under the law of Ne Temere. Thus, they would be obliged to have been married by a Catholic priest for validity according to c.1094. The problem, though, is c.1098, which makes this whole discussion about schismatics fluff and stuff and irrelevant, because, quite contrary to what Benns claims, no invocation or even knowledge of law is required for it to come into effect. All that is required for the law to be effective are the conditions which come under the law. The law does not depend on one’s knowledge or will, unless, of course, they are God.

But why is Benns talking about baptism of schismatics now, instead of addressing The Jurist quotation? The answer is simple enough: obfuscation. Benns is hoping that, with the introduction of the idea of valid baptism, we are going to run after that trail instead of following the scent of the wounded animal and track it down into its lair. This is an informal fallacy known as a red herring, an irrelevant point or argument used wittingly or no but with the ultimate effect of confusing and misleading the reader.

In closing out this controversy, I would like to make a final point, not scientific but nevertheless persuasive. If you find yourself struggling to understand what Benns is writing, or, conversely, if you do not have much difficultly reading what I write here, it is not because Benns treats subjects which are more difficult to comprehend, whereas I skim the surface of things, as it were, and never do a deep dive.

The cause of confusion is rather to be found in the mind of the writer. We cannot give what we do not have. If we have no clarity of thought, we surely cannot give it. I pride myself on being simple, it is true. I try to present things in an easy to understand and casual way, to help my readers understand what I am saying. I do not overburden you with needless information, redundant or irrelevant argument, because my intention is that you understand what I am trying to say. Now, ask yourself, what is Teresa Benns’s intention based upon her not addressing The Jurist quotation and evidence I presented, indeed not even mentioning it at all, but rather taking jabs at a deeply concerned and well-intentioned fellow Catholic blogger, Laura Wood.

What is Teresa Benn’s intention in writing up an addendum at least half as long as the origin post which says precisely nothing to the purpose? I would argue, as I think I have convincingly suggested above, that Teresa Benns’s intention is to confuse and deceive There could be any number of deeply personal reasons for why she has published such scandalous and destructive articles to the detriment of Holy Matrimony. But one thing is certainly clear in this writer’s mind: Teresa Benns has not a love of the truth.

I shall leave you with this intolerably but necessarily long quote from the Catholic Encyclopedia on the Sacrament of Marriage which puts it beyond doubt that those who are schismatics are nevertheless married:

“As we have several times emphasized, not every marriage is a true sacrament, but only marriages between Christians. One becomes and remains a Christian in the sense recognized here through valid baptism. Hence only one who has been validly baptized can contract a marriage which is a sacrament; but every one can contract it who has been validly baptized, whether he has remained true to the Christian faith, or become a heretic, or even an infidel. Such has always been the teaching and practice of the Church. Through baptism one “becomes a member of Christ and is incorporated in the body of the Church“, as declared in the Florentine Decree for the Armenians; so far as law is concerned, he remains irrevocably subject to the Church, and is therefore, in legal questions, always to be considered a Christian. Hence it is a general principle that all baptized persons are subject to universal ecclesiastical laws, especially marriage laws unless the Church makes an exception for individual cases or classes. Hence not only the marriage between Catholics, but also that contracted by members of the different sects which have retained baptism and validly baptize, is undoubtedly a sacrament. It matters not whether the non-Catholic considers marriage a sacrament or not, or whether he intends to effect a sacrament or not. Provided only he intends to contract a true marriage, and expresses the requisite consent, this intention and this expression are sufficient to constitute a sacrament. But if he is absolutely determined not to effect a sacrament, then, of course, the production of a sacrament would be excluded, but the marriage contract also would be null and void. By Divine ordinance it is essential to Christian marriage that it should be a sacrament; it is not in the power of the contracting parties to eliminate anything from its nature, and a person who has the intention of doing this invalidates the whole ceremony. It is certain, therefore, that marriage contracted between baptized persons is a sacrament, even the so-called mixed marriage between a Catholic and a non-Catholic, provided the non-Catholic has been validly baptized. It is equally certain that marriage between unbaptized persons is not a sacrament in the strict sense of the word,” (Emphasis added).  

Do not be confused. Do not be deceived. If you and your partner were baptized and exchanged vows before two witnesses, no matter what your religious standing was, fallen away Catholic, schismatic, or heretic, you were validly and sacramentally married.

The Rotten Fruits of a Cult Leader: Lawless License and Eternal Death

I have said it before on this website, that I believe Teresa Benns of BetrayedCatholics to be a cult leader. At the time, and afterward, I thought it somewhat hasty even for myself to assert such, since there really was scant evidence to claim it. Now, without a shred of doubt on my conscience, I am quite certain that Benns is a cult leader of a non-Catholic sect.

Benns has doubled down on her claim that marriages performed before Traditionalists are invalid according to c.1094. I have already shown that c.1098 is the exception to it, providing that, if, after a month has transpired, an authorized priest is not available, a couple may validly and legally exchange vows before two witnesses.

Now, Benns has claimed in her most recent the following:

“…Who alone were able to administer or witness the Sacraments? Those who can be rightly identified, of course, as lawful pastors, rightly commissioned by the Church as such. Does the Church consider marriages between Catholics, (or where one party is Catholic at least), by one not delegated by the Church sacramental? Not according to Can. 1094. Therefore even if consummated, it is still not considered valid. And this same Canon offers the exception of Canon 1098. But how could Can. 1098 be invoked unless one first realized there are no lawful pastors left and they must invoke it?”

The quick and concise answer to this blathering nonsense is that, yes, the Church does consider marriages between Catholics sacramental and valid and licit, even before a non-Catholic minister, provided the conditions of law of c.1098 are fulfilled. And, no! Knowledge of the law need not be invoked like a spell book charm in order to come into effect. Law doesn’t work like magic spells. Law is the universal regulatory principle of order in a community which is effective quite apart from our knowledge. The legal maxim everyone and their brother knows–except, it would seem, Teresa Benns–is that ignorance of the law does not excuse.

Thus it is quite impossible for a marriage to be invalid which took place even before a non-Catholic minister but before at least two witnesses, when during the past several decades no authorized priests have been available.

But don’t take my word for all this. I know about as much canon law as astrophysics, which goes for the vast majority of people today. The law, and especially the body of ecclesial law, is a science which demands training and years of study under the direction of masters of the law. Teresa Benns is a hoax and a fake. She has no legal training whatever, and is so outrageously wrong on this point of c.1098 as to be sinfully wrong, because she is quite literally leading souls to Hell by her ignorance, which, if she doesn’t correct after having read what follows–which I hope you, gentle and just reader, shall share with her and blow up her email with–all may reasonably conclude is not ignorance but malice toward truth and intentionally deceiving.

These are the rotten fruits of a cult leader. If, after what I present below does not convince you of this, you might as well throw your head back and down the cyanid Kool-Aid, because, imbibing Benns one is liable to imperil their very soul to eternal death and hellfire, as one reader commented some have already done, trying to dissolve their own valid and Catholic marriages based upon the raving idiocies of BetrayedCatholics.

So, here is the evidence. It comes from an excerpt of The Jurist, a pre-1958 Catholic canon law review journal, a scholarly publication which demanded the highest legal research and expertise in the world on ecclesiastical law and jurisprudence. It was the source by which legal professionals understood more fully the laws and commentaries written on canon law. Here is what one entry said on c.1098:

“It is not necessary that those going to marry should know about c. 1098, or think of it when they marry without a priest, or know that an exception of this occurs in law. The law takes effect as soon as all the prescribed conditions have been fulfilled, independent therefore from the parties knowing it or a priest declaring it. For in these circumstances nothing more is done than applying the general principle which says: In order that someone may be said to obey a positive ecclesiastical law, it suffices that he posits and action such as is prescribed by the law. Moreover, if it is a question of a ‘lex irritans‘, the ignorance of the law has no effect on the action. Just as ignorance does not prevent an action in opposition to a ‘lex irritans‘ from being null and void (c. 36, par. 1) so there is nothing to prevent an action which complies with the demands of the law, from being valid. It suffices for the validity that the parties wish to contract a valid marriage and that the conditions of c. 1098 are fulfilled, even though the couple and others ‘ex conscientious erronea‘ imagine that they are committing a sin, or even blamed for living in concubinage. For according to c. 1085 ‘Scientia aut opinion nullitatis matrimonii consensum matrimonialiem necessario non excludit.’ It need scarcely be remarked that in these circumstances the parties are justified in going to a justice of the peace, or any other official of the government who is entitled to witness marriage, so that marriage may have the recognition of the civil law. They can also marry before a non-Catholic minister, not as a minister of religion but as official entitled by civil law to witness marriages; they must not allow him to use any religious ceremony, as may be seen from Canon 1063.”

The Jurist. “The History and Application of Canon 1098.” John De Reeper, M.H.F. (1954), p. 168-169).

Anyone of good will can see the glaring contradiction between what the legal scholar De Reeper says in the The Jurist concerning c.1098 and what Teresa Benns says, a mere high school graduate without a shred of university education to her name, let alone post doctoral research expertise in ecclesial law like De Reeper.

It is high time people start heeding the warnings I have made on this website about BetrayedCatholics and Teresa Stanfill Benns. She is a false prophet, a false teacher, and a false Catholic, since she promotes what one friend and reader of this blog has called a pharisaical approach to canon law. I do not claim knowledge of canon law or even theology for that matter. I do, however, have extensive training in philosophy at the graduate level, which makes me capable of identifying error and of making proper distinctions. Armed with a catechism, I am simply applying what I am expected to know and defend against those who dilute or distort the teachings of the Church.

Benns is distorting the law, adjudicating cases she has utterly no business adjudicating, and cunningly like a Pharisee trying to use law in the service of lawlessness–and divorce is lawlessness, because it denies the bonds of law, both civil and Divine. Just as much as a thief denies the rights of property, just as a murderer denies the rights of person to live, so a divorcee denies the marital rights of his or her spouse. The fruits of BetrayedCatholics is self-evident to anyone who has eyes to see: lawless license and eternal death.

May Heaven have mercy on the Cult Leader Teresa Stanfill Benns.

Post Script

For those who are struggling with their marriages, and are in need of some advice or counsel, or just an ear to talk into, I am more than willing to be there for you. I speak with some authority, as my wife and I have sustained a happily marriage for almost fifteen years, are raising six children, have endured chronic illnesses, and a host of battles both spiritual and temporal which try any family of faith, and have emerged thus far happier than ever and are solid in our Matrimonial life together. If you are a woman needing to talk to a woman, my wife Laura would be willing just as I to be a shoulder to lean or cry on.

The answer to marriage difficulty is not to escape, not to run away to start a new, happy life with someone else, but to stand firm, to hold the line and fight for your family. The war Satan wages is not only against the hierarchical Church, but also against the domestic Church. Don’t let him win. The battle is hard, and talking to a fellow Catholic for moral encouragement is very helpful. Please reach out if you need help. God bless you and keep you in your marriage!

Requested Clarification of BetrayedCatholics Application of Canon 1094 in Light of Its Exception of Canon 1098

I was quite enjoying my respite from publishing on CatholicEclipsed, but I am afraid something has happened that has forced me from my cryogenically induced coma to write to you today.

You see, Teresa Benns of BetrayedCatholics has written an article, “What does the Church really teach about: woes today,” which seems to be so unthinkingly wrong and scandalous as to cause my wife to quite literally gasp and exclaim, “Oh my goodness!”

The remarks in question are as follows:

“Those already praying at home who now are seeking release from marital situations or suffering from anxiety about the validity of their marriages will be surprised to learn that they are not considered validly married under Canon Law if they were married by a Traditional or Novus Ordo minister whom they believed to be true priests, but who in fact had no jurisdiction over them and could not validly witness the marriage. This is stated in Can. 1094: “Those marriages only are valid which are contracted either before a pastor or the local ordinary or a priest delegated by either and at least two witnesses…” 

Further on, she writes: 

“Those truly unable to remain in marriages apparently invalid under Can. 1094 may today consider themselves free to leave or divorce civilly, if married in the Novus Ordo or by a Traditionalist cleric.”

This is so bizarre a conclusion based upon Canon. 1094 that I am hard pressed to conceive of a motivation founded in anything reasonable or Catholic. For a Catholic blogger to say that a man and woman who exchange vows in good faith before a non-Catholic minister do not actually marry validly and are thus free to divorce civilly is as unconscionable as it is un-Catholic.

And it must be kept in mind that, just as any Novus Ordo wedding requires at least two witnesses, the requirement of Canon 1094 is always met, but more on that in a moment.

Perhaps in my simplicity (I am no canon lawyer), I am misunderstanding what Teresa Benns is claiming here. I ask her to clarify publicly what she means by the above statements, and the justification for these in law and religion on her website or in the comments here–Teresa Benns, you are always welcome.

On which point of welcome and good will, this post has nothing to do with launching a vendetta against Teresa. I am argumentative by temperament, but I am never quarrelsome. I love Teresa, and I would have enjoyed a long and friendly and cooperative relationship in the spirit and fight for authentic Catholicism with her for many years; but, alas, differences of understanding of Church teaching and law have made that impossible. But what is at stake at present is beyond any dispute between CatholicEclipsed or BetrayedCatholics. What is at stake is the destruction of families and the commission of sacrilege:

BC. 1027. The evils that follow divorce so commonly claimed by those outside the true Church and granted by civil authority are very many; but chiefly: 
   1. A disregard for the sacred character of the Sacrament and for the spiritual welfare of the children;
   2. The loss of the true idea of home and family followed by bad morals and sinful living.

BC. 1024. Divorce granted by courts of justice or by any human power does not break the bond of marriage, and one who makes use of such a divorce to marry again while the former husband or wife lives commits a sacrilege and lives in the sin of adultery. A civil divorce may give a sufficient reason for the persons to live apart and it may determine their rights with regard to support, the control of the children and other temporal things, but it has no effect whatever upon the bond and spiritual nature of the Sacrament.

Let me offer an alternative interpretation of Canon 1094, not based upon my own reading, but rather in light of the exception which just follows the ellipsis Benns ends her citation with, which is so helpful and illuminating during this time of Apostasy and necessarily remaining home. It goes like this:

Canon 1094: Only those marriages are valid that are contracted in the presence of the pastor, or the local Ordinary, or a priest delegated by either, and two witnesses, according to the rules expressed in the canons that follow, with due regard for the exceptions mentioned in Canons 1098…, (emphasis added). 

Canon 1098: If the pastor or Ordinary or delegated priest who assists at marriage according to the norm of Canons 1095 and 1096 cannot be had or cannot be present without grave inconvenience:

1.°: In danger of death marriage is contracted validly and licitly in the presence only of witnesses; and outside of danger of death provided it is prudently foreseen that this condition will perdure for one month…

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry on “Moral and Canonical Aspect of Marriage” says the same thing as Canon 1098:

“The marriage law, known by its initial words, “Ne temere”, went into force on Easter Sunday, 18 April, 1908. The principal changes it made in the Church’s matrimonial legislation relate to clandestine marriages (which it makes null and void for all Catholics of the Latin Rite) and to questions incidental thereto. The law enacts that a marriage of Catholics of the Latin Rite is licit and valid only if contracted in the presence of the ordinary, or the parish priest, or a priest delegated by either, and at least two witnesses. Any priest may revalidate a sinful or an invalid marriage of those who, through sickness, are in serious danger of death, unless their case is such as admits of no revalidation — as for instance, if they are in holy orders. Again, in the case of those who live in districts where no priest resides, and who cannot without serious hardship go to one, the new law provides that, if such condition has lasted a month, they may marry without a priest, but in the presence of two witnesses, the record of their marriage being properly made as prescribed,” (Emphasis added). 

As Home Alone Catholics, this should be very consoling for those would like to marry or have married without a Catholic priest–unless you are the few likely among us who exchanged vows before an actual Catholic priest. We have certitude that the Church teaches that vows exchanged before two witnesses, where there are no impediments to the Sacrament of Matrimony, is lawfully and validly done.

I understand that there are difficult unions out there, that married people today are very much tried by fire, from infidelity, impurity, poverty, and so many numerous and nameless vices. The demonic forces converge and conspire against the family such that, next to the Hierarchical Church, the Divine institution of the Family is on the verge of near extinction. So few marriages actually exist as holy unions of husband and wife and children, not so much through impediments to Matrimony, but through divorce and remarriage. Man and woman marry, then divorce, then remarry, sometimes multiple times, and in the wake of which there are countless children who will never know normal, happy home life. It is, next to the death of God, the saddest thing in the world, because it is the death of childhood, which is the most beautiful and purest thing in the world, and the whole point and purpose of Matrimony.

And BetrayedCatholics is only making it worse by promoting divorce.

I cannot understand why Benns would say marriages officiated by non-Catholic ministers are invalid. I ask Teresa again to support this seemingly outlandish claim with sources in authentic Catholic teaching. For the love of God, for the love of men and women validly and licitly held fast in matrimonial bonds, do not armchair-theologian this one. Please. Don’t. For the love of the children.  

SV Date 710.28.3: CE Now Entering Cold Cryogenic Sleep

CE in Cryogenic Sleep

After much prayerful consideration, I have decided that CatholicEclipsed should go into cryogenic sleep mode.

It has become obvious to me these last several weeks that, no matter what kind of content I produce, or how much, the traffic here never seems to pick up, and the interaction via comments or email has been few. This is not to be unexpected, since I am targeting a very niche group: those who keep the Commandments of God and believe everything that the Church teaches, or, in other words, I am targeting Catholics.

Unless you have produced media, written articles, done podcasts, produced videos, or run a website of your own, you cannot appreciate the amount of stress this puts on one or the amount of work involved–especially when that one is myself, who tends toward laziness and the easy way out always. I did not work as hard at being a photojournalist on an aircraft carrier or a philosophy student at a university, as I do at running CatholicEclipsed.

Because of the desperately low traffic–literally less than twenty visits a day–I have decided to put CatholicEclipsed on autopilot, while I get some much needed rest from the hustle and bustle of producing content every week which is hardly seen by anyone. I leave the orbit of CE in the hands of the Almighty, to do with it what He will. I have produced solid, Catholic content here, which anyone of goodwill may use to their advantage to understand the crisis.

I must consider how my energy is spent, and how my life and the hours of my days are used, especially because my natural life expectancy is somewhat diminished on account of my chronic kidney disease. Do I want to continue to produce content very few will ever see, or, which is just repetitions or variations on an apocalyptic theme? I have time and talents which may be better spent elsewhere, like writing books for my children, producing artwork, or, above all, helping my wife classically homeschool our six children.

Forever Faithful

That is not to say I am never going to produce content for CE. I will write an article here and there as the inspiration to do so comes, and perhaps produce a Chromocast as time and energy permit me. I will poke around Galaxy Forum as well, when and if visitors happen upon it and offer a word or two. And, of course, I shall make myself available via COMMS, for anyone who would like to reach out with a question or concern.

To those who have faithfully read my articles, watched my videos and listened to my podcasts, I am truly thankful for your support. It let me know that what I was doing was at least being appreciated by some, if only a few in the entire world.

Since the visible Church went into eclipse 710,283 days ago when our Holy Father Pope Pius XII passed into eternity, the light of truth and the faith has been all but extinguished. Remember you are all the light that is left in the world now. So let your light shine on those around you, in your home where you keep Catholicism and our holy religion and faith, at work or on the internet. Draw from whatever good you find here, and pass it on, by sharing links of your favorite content.

I hope that the work I have done on this website will help people see the light and return to God.

CE Signing Off