Friday, June 15, 2018

Philosophic Nub

Not relevant to the post, but expresses something of the way I feel. xkcd via an old Language Log.

Are you sick of being forced to choose between (in the words of Margarita A. Mooney, Associate Professor of Congregational Studies at Princeton Theological Seminary, from a 2012 blogpost at Patheos describing lessons she learned when she was a grad student, on a flight to Paris with the eminent political scientist Paul Sigmund, a son-in-law of Ambassador Lindy Boggs)
Marxist materialism and other forms of collectivism in which the individual is subsumed to the communal and the individual has no inherent worth
the idea that economic prosperity is the final ends of individuals and societies

Then David F. Brooks (I think there may be a David Brooks Plagiarism Watch situation with Mooney, whose post he links in today's column only after 14 paragraphs of material most of which she discusses) has a philosophy for you! As he says, "Personalism: The Philosophy We Need". Are you sick of philosophies you don't need? Me too! Those things are just taking up space! Plus, they're a fire hazard, since they're entirely made of straw, and extremely dry.
Personalists believe that people are “open wholes.” They find their perfection in communion with other whole persons. The crucial questions in life are not “what” questions — what do I do? They are “who” questions — who do I follow, who do I serve, who do I love?
Thus, who do I rely on when I'm searching for a happy medium between collectivist materialism and individualist materialism? If you're on a flight to Paris with Cokie Roberts's brother-in-law, how far wrong can you go?
Personalism is a philosophic tendency built on the infinite uniqueness and depth of each person. Over the years people like Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King, William James, Peter Maurin and Wojtyla (who went on to become Pope John Paul II) have called themselves personalists, but the movement is still something of a philosophic nub. It’s not exactly famous.
Who do I not follow? Anybody who orders that list in a random order (as opposed to the chronological Whitman-James-Maurin-King), which I regard as a sign of a diseased mind, or thinks I will be surprised and intrigued to learn that Karol Wojtyła ended up getting the Rome gig (he's done an amazing job and is getting recognized more and more), or who refers to a "philosophic nub"
  1. 1.
    the crux or central point of a matter.

    "the nub of the problem lies elsewhere"

    synonyms:crux, central point, main point, coreheart, heart of the matter, nucleusessencequintessencekernelmarrowmeatpithMore
  2. 2.
    a small lump or protuberance.

    "he pressed down on the two nubs on top of the phone"

or brags like a hipster about his personal acquaintance with it, as if personalism were a 70s band.

"Personalism" did reach its peak of fame in 1968, as a matter of fact, very near the moment when "collectivism" hit its postwar nadir. Hippies are to blame for everything.
Personalism starts by drawing a line between humans and other animals. Your dog is great, but there is a depth, complexity and superabundance to each human personality that gives each person unique, infinite dignity.
There speaks a man who doesn't have a dog. I don't have one either, but I try not to be so obvious about it.

I have no objection if you want to learn about personalism. You and I may well be personalists ourselves, if it's as multiplicitous and embracing and internally contentious as the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article suggests:
Although it was only in the first half of the twentieth century that the term ‘personalism’ became known as a designation of philosophical schools and systems, personalist thought had developed throughout the nineteenth century as a reaction to perceived depersonalizing elements in Enlightenment rationalism, pantheism, Hegelian absolute idealism, individualism as well as collectivism in politics, and materialist, psychological, and evolutionary determinism. In its various strains, personalism always underscores the centrality of the person as the primary locus of investigation for philosophical, theological, and humanistic studies. It is an approach or system of thought which regards or tends to regard the person as the ultimate explanatory, epistemological, ontological, and axiological principle of all reality, although these areas of thought are not stressed equally by all personalists and there is tension between idealist, phenomenological, existentialist, and Thomist versions of personalism.
But I'm not going to learn about it today, from the fetid and insalubrious bog of David F. Brooks's prose.

No comments:

Post a Comment