Finally, the circus is over. For now. In a narrow 50-48 vote on Saturday, the Senate confirmed the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to serve as the next Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Even though he was eventually confirmed, many Americans are looking at the chaos over the last few weeks and scratching their heads. Sudden and vague last-minute allegations from 36 years ago paraded around as fact by Democrats, celebrities, activists, and the media? Not to mention what followed. Gang rape? Dark innuendo about high school yearbook terms like “boofing” and “devil’s triangle?” He drank beer? Threw ice?
And after all the denigration—after headlines like, “Kavanaugh, an entitled fratboy rapist or lifelong serial rapist?” appeared across the Internet; after Amy Schumer managed to intentionally get herself arrested in protest of what she called “a vote saying women don’t matter”; and after even Molly Ringwald’s failed attempt to dazzle Twitter with the sort of vituperating wit only an entitled celebrity could conjure—the argument against Kavanaugh eventually became: “Look! Now he’s too angry at us to be on the Supreme Court!”
So it should come as no surprise, now that the social media feeding frenzy has subsided, that many are left wondering: “What the heck did we just watch?” Make no mistake, what we witnessed was far from just a political “scorched Earth policy,” as has been suggested. Andrew Breitbart often observed that, “politics is downstream of culture.” What he meant by that was that political platforms, policies, and even the basic framework of how political ideas are presented and argued, is ultimately driven by our cultural norms, and that only by changing the culture can one expect to have any lasting impact on the political landscape. Sure, you may get the Feds to outlaw alcohol for a while, but if a culture of drinking persists as socially acceptable eventually the 18th Amendment will be repealed. And good ol’ Andrew Breitbart was right: politics is downstream of culture. But culture isn’t it’s own fountainhead—it’s not an independent emergent property of a society. There’s something upstream of culture, too, and it’s past time we all started paying attention to that. It’s called philosophy.
Before you stop reading, I know how it sounds to suggest that we all start talking about philosophy. I can see the eye rolls as I write this. Philosophy, it might seem, is at best mundane and useless, and at worse ridiculous and perhaps just a tad pretentious. After all, we just witnessed a major party gleefully flush the moral concept of presumption of innocence straight down the can. How useful could it possibly be for us to sit around smoking pot and fumbling for the perfect SAT vocabulary words to use in our debate about the existence of the ceiling? The problem is, you’ve been lied to about philosophy. We’ve all been lied to. Intentionally. For decades. What better way to prevent you from picking up the one weapon capable of defending Western civilization than to convince you that that weapon is nothing more than a ridiculous, impotent, masturbatory aide for elitist wonks in tweed jackets? The reason you assume philosophy is irrelevant is precisely because it’s been hijacked by…well, elitist wonks in tweed jackets. But they’re wonks with an agenda, and that agenda is to destroy the entire notion that philosophy can be a useful tool for anything practical, most especially a tool for defending Western civilization. They are called “postmodernists.”
The result of the intellectual sedition of the postmodernists has never been more publicly visible than during the recent Kavanaugh hysteria. Take, for example, the prevalence of the #BelieveAllWomen and #BelieveSurvivors trends on Twitter. Or the emphatic insistence in halls and on elevators that all survivors must be unconditionally believed, and that failure to punish one accused man is equivalent to endorsing the behavior of all rapists everywhere. Many conservatives responded by citing the allegations against Democrat Keith Ellison, which the left have conveniently ignored. Or Robert Menendez. Or Bill Clinton. Or Ted Kennedy. Of course this didn’t work, and it was never going to work, because the left doesn’t actually believe what they claim to. Only conservatives think that there is an argument happening. The left knows better. The left doesn’t actually care about believing all women, and they don’t really care what “devil’s triangle” means. Their goal isn’t to arrive at any truths or universally applicable set of moral principles; their goal is to find the right combination of phonetic sounds to shout at you in order to get you to bend to their will. They’re not arguing, they’re just leafing through their spell books looking for an incantation that might work. It may sound preposterous, but only if you haven’t been paying attention to those wonks in tweed jackets for the past several decades.
Let’s get back to basics. Instead of asking the duplicitous tweed jackets, let’s start with a simple definition of philosophy from the dictionary. Not coincidentally, even this is shaped by philosophy. Dictionary.com defines philosophy as, “the rational investigation of the truths and principles of being, knowledge, or conduct.” This is consistent with older definitions from the Oxford American Dictionary, Webster’s, and the New Century Dictionary (1952). We’ll call this the “wishful thinking,” and somewhat more traditional definition. On the other hand, Merriam-Webster now offers a jumble of meanings for the term, including, “pursuit of wisdom,” “a search for a general understanding of values and reality by chiefly speculative rather than observational means,” and “the most basic beliefs, concepts, and attitudes of an individual or group.” The difference between the more traditional, narrow, definition and the more vague, inclusive definition arose as result of those damned tweed jackets again (a particular brand of them called, “deconstructionists”). Thanks to the deconstructionists, it’s clear from the definitions that if you want philosophy to mean anything—to be practical and usable in any way—you’re better off with the more traditional definition. That’s not by accident.
To explore further, we need to understand at least three of the major branches of philosophy, described below.
Metaphysics. This is not the woo-woo kind of “metaphysics” you see next to books on astral projection at the bookstore (if you’re old enough to remember bookstores). Metaphysics is merely the study of the fundamental nature of reality. “Are we living in the Matrix, or does the ceiling actually exist? Or does it exist and not exist at the same time?” Those are metaphysical questions. For most people, the idea that we need to start questioning the existence of the ceiling is a bit absurd. But not to philosophers, and especially not to the modern tweed jacket variety. Metaphysical questions that might seem much more pertinent to most people are questions like, “does God exist?” The tweed jackets don’t really care about your answer to that question, so long as you’re not entirely sure about the ceiling.
Epistemology. This is a big word that basically just means the study of the theory of knowledge. In other words, how do we know what we know? Do we observe reality empirically with our senses and use a process of reason to arrive at non-contradictory conclusions? Or do we just feel things, and “know” them to be true in some innate way? Or are we blind to reality, impotent to ever know what’s true at all?
Ethics. This is exactly what you think it is. How should humans act? Are there universal rules? Do individuals matter equally, or should kings follow different rules than their subjects? Should there even be such things as kings and subjects?
Most of us spend our lives not bothering to think much about metaphysics, epistemology, or ethics, because to most people the answers to those questions are more or less obvious, at least in the practical sense. We assume the ceiling exists, as well as the floor. We don’t lie in bed in the morning anxiously wondering if there will be anywhere to place our feet when we get up, and we don’t fall asleep next to our spouse wondering if he or she is merely a figment of our imagination that will be lost when we close our eyes. The same is true for epistemology. For the most part, we accept that observation and reason are our primary tools of cognition. We’d be more than slightly horrified if our neighbor insisted that we undergo brain surgery simply because he really, really felt that we must have a brain tumor, even though there was no evidence for it. As for ethics, most people have a vague sense that individuals—no matter what economic, racial, sexual, political, or other buckets they may fall into—are imbued with some sort of “rights,” and that those rights prevent us from lying to each other (at least about the big stuff), cheating, stealing, or murdering. The “golden rule,” most people assume, is a pretty okay rule of thumb that can be universally applied.
But we didn’t always think this way. It wasn’t until a few hundred years ago that philosophers from the Enlightenment era gave us an often forgotten, but much needed, intellectual shove in the right direction. In terms of metaphysics, epistemology, and ethics (and other branches of philosophy), the Enlightenment changed the course of Western civilization. In metaphysics, Enlightenment thinkers concluded that there was a single, knowable world that exists independent of our wishes. The ceiling exists. Period. Of course, there was some disagreement about the nature and existence of a deity, but as for the ceiling, they were sure. In terms of epistemology, Enlightenment thinkers knew that people could perceive things differently, but believed that through a process of empiricism and reason we could all eventually come to the same objective truth. There was no “her truth” in the Enlightenment; there was simply, “the truth.” In terms of ethics, Enlightenment thinkers were particularly impactful, especially when it comes to the founding of America. Prior to the Enlightenment, there was a moral concept called “the divine right of kings.” This basically meant that moral principles were not universally applied to everyone. As George Orwell would have said, “some animals are more equal than others.” Kings could “rightfully” kill you and enslave members of your family, if they were so inclined. But Enlightenment philosophers—particularly John Locke—challenged the “divine right” of kings and introduced the concept of natural law. He argued that individuals mattered, regardless of their social, economic, or sanguine standing, and that ethical principles should be applied universally to all individuals. By knocking what today we might call “identity politics” off of its long-standing throne, Locke paved the way for the founding of America and the Bill of Rights. It is primarily to Enlightenment philosophers that we in the prosperous and relatively free Western world owe a huge debt of gratitude. They provided the metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical foundations for what has become the most successful culture in all of human history.
Which brings us to the postmodernists in tweed jackets. In between sips of cappuccino and disheartened at the failure of Marx’s predictions about capitalism (not to mention his body count), disappointed socialist philosophers came up with a devious plan: instead of thanking Enlightenment thinkers and building upon their work, what if philosophers taught people to spit in their faces and desecrate their graves? What if they used philosophy itself to destroy the philosophic progress of Enlightenment philosophers? If they could achieve that on a large scale—say, by infiltrating universities—then eventually the entire culture would follow. Kids indoctrinated in school would become teachers and journalists, who would indoctrinate more kids, who would go on to become teachers and journalists. The nerdy Enlightenment supporters were all too busy inventing things and building companies to notice what was going on in the humanities anyway. Philistines. Before you know it, the tweed jackets would have entire departments dedicated to destroying Western civilization. And then required courses that even the engineers would have to take. And once the culture was corrupt—once ordinary people started arguing against the basic, foundational philosophic concepts that built America—winning the brass ring of state power would be a cinch. It was an ambitious, brilliant, risky, decades-long plan, but there was really no other way to destroy America.
The tweed jackets were up for it, but it was going to take a lot of cappuccino. What should they call this new brand of anti-philosophy? It had to sound boring enough that no one would pay attention to what they were up to, but future-forward enough that it would look good on the college syllabus. There was already a school called “modernism” that included the enemy: Enlightenment philosophers. The tweeds didn’t want to show their hand by choosing a name like “anti-modernism,” but then again it would be nice to reference modernism as a sort-of inside joke. Hmmm…how about “postmodernism?” Yes, that has a lofty, technical ring to it and is sure to impress the attractive undergrads. Plus, it sounds even more advanced than modernism. “Postmodernism” it is. Time to celebrate with another cappuccino.
This may sound like a crazy conspiracy theory, and in truth the postmodernists were not likely as organized as I’ve made them out to be. But fast forward to 2018, and what do we observe? Have they destroyed Enlightenment metaphysics? Well, yes. One of the most blatant metaphysical confessions during the Kavanaugh carnival was the attestation that Dr. Ford was speaking “her truth.” This turn of phrase is common, especially in and around college campuses. It’s always, “her truth,” or, “his truth,” but never “the truth.” To use phrases like “her truth” instead of “the truth,” one must be operating—at least subconsciously—on the metaphysical premise that there is no such thing as objective reality. In this mindset, the ceiling can’t actually exist; it may be part of my reality, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s part of your reality. Gender is a social construct. Unless, of course, we’re counting board seats at corporations in California—then it’s a fact of biology. Go ahead and ask a recent liberal arts graduate about this. They’ll likely admit it outright. Most of the time, they’re not hiding anything: they really don’t believe in objective reality. Think about that. One point for the postmodernists.
Okay, so a large percentage of the population is confused about the fundamental nature of reality. That’s bad. Really bad. But surely they can still be reasoned with, right? What about epistemology? To answer that question, we only need look at the immediate reactions to Dr. Ford’s allegations. The Enlightenment reaction—the philosophically American reaction—is to neither believe nor disbelieve Dr. Ford (or Kavanaugh) at first glance, but to withhold judgment and scrutinize the allegations.
Were they presented in a manner that suggests a possible political motive? Did she go to the police? Why did she come to the Senate instead? Is her story consistent? Have her actions matched her assertions? Is her allegation specific enough to investigate? Do the witnesses she names corroborate her story? Is there any physical evidence to back her up? What were the conditions under which the polygraph was administered, and where is the raw data? Are polygraph tests a scientifically valid way of ascertaining deception? Are the therapist’s notes consistent with her current story? Where are the notes? Can we talk to the therapist?
Some people did withhold initial judgment and asked some of these questions, but not many, and no one of prominence on the left. Democrats, the mainstream media, and celebrities from last century immediately concluded that Dr. Ford was telling the truth. Why? Because they felt it. They took one look at Kavanaugh’s white male, Yale and prep-school-privileged, beer-loving face and they just knew. They knew. Why? Because they felt it. Or because some of them had been sexually assaulted themselves, however that might be relevant. Or for some other expedient reason disconnected from any attempt at objective analysis. And thus, #BelieveAllWomen was born, and the dwindling light of Enlightenment epistemology flickered and gasped in the shadow of Alyssa Milano’s resting bitch face. Chalk another point up for the tweed jackets.
Well, shit. Now what? Apparently, we’re dealing with people who don’t believe in an objective reality but believe that feelings are valid means of ascertaining the truth, if there even is such a thing. Let’s hope that there is some remnant of Enlightenment ethics secretly stowed away in a forgotten subroutine of their postmodernist programming, just waiting to be activated. How might we activate it? Let’s look at their mantra: #BelieveAllWomen. Maybe we can cause a short circuit by taking it seriously. What if we show them that they don’t—and can’t possibly—take this idea seriously and apply it to everyone universally? Maybe if they see that, they will reboot.
Unfortunately, no. Conservatives are continually infuriated by the fact that this principle is not applied universally to all women. But, from an ethical perspective, the left doesn’t believe in universalism at all. Take the horrendous way in which Kavanaugh was treated, his reputation utterly demolished without justification. It didn’t even matter, Senator Cory Booker eventually admitted, whether Kavanaugh was “innocent or guilty.” The horrifying truth is that left doesn’t care one iota about individuals. Only group identity matters. For them, collectivism trumps individualism, and John Locke is just some dead white punk. The divine right of kings is back, baby, but now we call it “social justice.” That’s what you get for ignoring the suspicious noises coming from the philosophy department all those years, America: the bitter nihilists with bad haircuts eat your lunch. One final point for the tweeds. The postmodernists win. Game. Set. Match. Tweed is back. Cappuccinos all around! Until, that is, they shoot all the people they don’t like and then promptly run out of cappuccino. (Turns out the people they shot were the ones who made those damn cappuccino machines.)
Okay, so right about now you’re either depressed or you don’t believe me. For the non-believers, I thought about including ample quotes from those postmodernists with the most tweed jackets: Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, Lentricchia, Lyotard, etc. But let’s face it, this piece is already too long and you really won’t believe me when I tell you that Lentricchia blatantly admits that postmodernism, “seeks not to find the foundation and the conditions of truth but to exercise power for the purpose of social change.” Or that Lyotard argues that, “reason and power are one and the same.” And not in a good way, either. They’re all straight-up Marxists, most of them explicitly. And just in case you needed a reminder, Marxist philosophy was directly responsible for the death of about 100 million people in the last century, so more funding for the Gender Studies Department is hardly their end goal.1
At that’s how we arrive at depression. It sucks, I know. And I haven’t even reminded you yet that you took out that second mortgage to send your mediocre, directionless kid to a prestigious University. Want me to tell you about how college professors explicitly describe using deconstructionism as a weapon to undermine the Enlightenment beliefs of incoming students, hollow-out their brains, and install leftist ideology? No? Okay, another time, then. Hey, what was your kid majoring in, again? Yeah, that. Nice job going into that much debt so that she can help destroy Western civilization, buddy. Thanks a million. So, now you have to deal with both depression and guilt. You’re welcome.
Relax, there is at least a silver lining to all this, and that is: now you know. Looking out at the world—watching Bette Midler tweet hysterically and Washington Post employees pretend that they’re journalists—can be confusing if you don’t understand the virus that’s been running rampant in this country for decades. It’s not so much that the postmodernists have been in hiding, but rather that we haven’t been paying attention to them. They tricked us into believing that philosophy was a ridiculous waste of time way back before Bernie Sanders was born, and then they spent the next several decades making it look so ridiculous that no outsider could possibly take it seriously. But they were serious. Dead serious. And while we weren’t looking, they brainwashed entire generations of us, and those generations grew up and brainwashed more, and by now their third and fourth-generation minions have assumed the reigns of power and influence. The good news is that now you know where they are, and you know what they’re up to. So fight them. Fight them with your dying breath, because it may be a long, drawn-out battle, but it truly is a battle of life and death. Don’t pay those bastards to indoctrinate your kids. The Internet has everything for free now anyway. And certainly don’t send money to your alma matter. Trust me, your alma matter sucks now. You’ve been duped. It’s part of the problem, no matter how much you like their football team. Stop reliving your glory days and move on. Look around you. Wherever you find the postmodern cancer surface in American culture, irradiate it with Enlightenment principles.2 Maybe you won’t convince the brainwashed, but you might convince a bystander, and that might be enough to tip the scales.
As for actually saving Western civilization, I don’t know whether it’s too late or not. But in the end, what have you got to lose? A few Facebook “friends?” Some Twitter followers? The respect of a washed-up actress you had a crush on in the ‘90s? Avoiding the consequences of postmodern philosophy is well worth it, because the inevitable result is not some post-American utopia of peace, harmony, and abundance for all. All roads lead to some form of Marxism: a collectivist, political authoritarianism with post-apocalyptic aesthetics to match its body count. Marxism, as it turns out, sucks. Big time. Especially once they run out of cappuccino.
- If you want to learn more about postmodernism and its influence on our culture, there is no better book to read than Explaining Postmodernism by Stephen Hicks.
- If you want to learn more about the Enlightenment, I recommend anything by Alan Charles Kors.