The appeal of traditionalism and progressivism

"The origin of things is the Apeiron [unlimited]... It is necessary for things to perish into that from which they were born; for they pay one another penalty for their injustice according to the ordinance of Time." -- Anaximander

Voegelin notes how strong is the resistance to the fact that nothing in the world of contingency lasts:

"The temptation to hypostatize historically passing societies into ultimate subjects of history is strongly motivated. At its core there lies the tension, emotionally difficult to bear, between the meaning of society has in historical existence and the never quite repressible knowledge that all things that come into being will come to an end. A society, one might say, has always two histories: (I) the history internal to its existence and (II) the history in which it comes into and goes out of existence. History I is greatly cherished by the members of a society; History II encounters emotional resistance and preferably should not be mentioned." -- The Ecumenic Age, pp. 231-232

The emotional appeal of both traditionalism and progressivism can be explained by keeping this emotional resistance to History II in mind: traditionalism perceives the dissipation of the fabric of the traditionalist's society, but rather than admitting that "all things that come into being will come to an end," suggests that if only history could be unwound, and we could get back to some earlier, more pure state -- "true Christianity," "the restoration of the Caliphate," "the original Constitution," "the 1950s, when the American dream worked" -- we could then prevent that decay, overlooking the fact that those earlier states were exactly what lead to the current state the traditionalist deplores!

The progressive, on the other hand, chooses to re-interpret the processes leading to the disappearance of his historical society as positive things. So, that Europe has largely abandoned the religion that formed it and gave it its vitality, is not part of the process of its disappearance: no, it is Progress! And when its birthrate falls far below replacement rate, this is not viewed, as it would be with any other living creature, a sign of its approaching extinction: no, it is Progress! This belief in continued progress leads people to make hash out of a scientific theory like evolution: the scientific theory explicitly rejects the idea of "more evolved" and "less evolved," and yet the religion of progress has turned evolution a sanctifying process: we are undergoing "moral evolution," and we have "moved beyond" certain institutions like traditional religions (never mind that progressivism is a very crude religion indeed compared to, say, Platonism, philosophical Hinduism, or the Judaism of Maimonides).

And this explains the fascination of many progressives with things like space flight and colonizing other planets: if you watch Star Trek, what you see is progressive America spread across the galaxy, so it can outlast even the Solar System.

2 comments:

  1. "And this explains the fascination of many progressives with things like space flight and colonizing other planets: if you watch Star Trek, what you see is progressive America spread across the galaxy, so it can outlast even the Solar System."

    Whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa. Rewind. This is really out there. Can you explain this correlation or point to any evidence for it? It's seems like you're turning something mundane into something significant.

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  2. Let me run a regression analysis.

    ReplyDelete