The Fallacies of Moralism
and Moral Aestheticism

(after Friedrich Schiller, Leonard Nelson, Camille Paglia, & Robert Hughes)

The Fallacy of Moralism

To imagine that the gratifying of any sense, or the indulging of any delicacy in meat, drink, or apparel, is of itself a vice can never enter into a head that is not disordered by the frenzies of enthusiasm.... These indulgences are only vices when they are pursued at the expense of some virtue, as liberality or charity; in like manner as they are follies when for them a man ruins his fortune and reduces himself to want and beggary. Where they entrench upon no virtue but leave ample subject whence to provide for friends, family, and every proper object of generosity or compassion, they are entirely innocent.

David Hume, "Of Refinement in the Arts," Essays on Economics [University of Wisconsin Press, 1970, quoted by Virginia Postrel, The Substance of Style, How the Rise of Aesthetic Value is Remaking Commerce, Culture, and Consciousness, HarperCollins, 2003, p.171]

Living a good life means realizing those excellences in our lives as best we can. Put another way, we are under a moral obligation [!] to do our best to realize the best that human beings can be. To neglect that obligation is to waste our lives.

Charles Murray, The Curmudgeon's Guide to Getting Ahead, Dos and Don'ts of Right Behavior, Tough Thinking, Clear Writing, and Living a Good Life [Crown Business, 2014, p.105, color added], noteworthy as Aristotelian moralism.

At one time, capitalism appeared horrifying because it produced misery; later, it turned out to be horrifying because it produces such abundance that it kills culture.

Neo-Marxists deplore what is called 'consumerism,' or the 'consumerist society.' In our civilization there are indeed many alarming and deplorable phenomena associated with the growth of consumption. The point is, however, that what we know as the alternative to this civilization is incomparably worse.

Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009), "What is Left of Socialism?" Is God Happy? Selected Essays [Basic Books, 2013, pp.66-67]

A few years ago, when I was talking to a group of students, one of them asked why I teach the books I do, and I replied simply that they are among the greatest ever written. Later one of my colleagues told me she experienced the thrill one hears when a taboo is broken, because it has been orthodoxy among literature professors for some three decades that there is no such thing as "great literature." There are only things called great literature because hegemonic forces of oppression have mystified us into believing in objective greatness, whereas intrinsically Shakespeare is no different from a laundry list or any other document. If this sounds exaggerated, let me cite the most commonly taught anthology among literature professors, The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Its editors paraphrase a key tenet of the dominant movement called "cultural studies," which has set the critical agenda:

Literary texts, like other artworks, are neither more nor less important than any other cultural artifact or practice. Keeping the emphasis on how cultural meanings are produced, circulated, and consumed, the investigator will focus on art or literature insofar as such works connect with broader social factors, not because they possess some intrinsic interest of special aesthetic values.

In other words, what used to be called masterpieces are worthy of study only insofar as they fit into a liberationist [i.e. totalitarian] program, and no further. If elements of popular entertainment illustrate social forces better than Pope or Proust do, then they should (and sometimes do) constitute the curriculum. The language of "production, circulation, and consumption" [i.e. Marxism] is designed to remind us that art is an industrial product like any other and supports the rule of capital no less, and perhaps more insidiously, than the futures market.

Gary Saul Morson, "Why College Kids Are Avoiding the Study of Literature," Commentary, July/August, 2015 [p.26, color added], perfect definitions of anaesthetic political moralism.

Sugar is poison.

Mika Brzezinski, "Morning Joe," MSNBC, 12 Mar 2013

The fallacy of moralism (adj. "moralistic") results from the generalization of moral imperatives and obligations into all of ethics, or at least into issues that are not properly of moral concern, what we could call "partial" moralism. Leonard Nelson defines moralism in this way:

Ich verstehe unter Moralismus eine zur positiven Regelung des Lebens hinreichende Normierung durch sittliche Prinzipien. Der Moralismus schließt, mit anderen Worten, die Möglichkeit sittlich indifferenter Handlungen aus. Nach ihm müßte jede Handlung eindeutig entweder als Pflichterfüllung oder als Pflichverletzung bestimmt sein. Er würder also für andere als aus dem Sittengesetz fließende Anforderungen keinen Spielraum lassen. ["Ethik," System der philosophischen Ethik und Pädagogik, Felix Meiner Verlag Hamburg, 1932, 1970, p.107]

I understand "moralism" to mean a system of normative moral principles sufficient for the positive regulation of life. In other words, moralism excludes the possibility of morally indifferent actions. According to it, every action must be characterized as either fulfillment or violation of duty. Thus no room would be left for norms other than those deriving from the moral law. [System of Ethics, translated by Norbert Guterman, Yale University Press, 1956, p. 89; translation modified]

Note well: Moralism is not the same thing as morality; it is a fallacy, one of having "too much" morality. The word "moralism" therefore should not be used without the consciousness that it is a mistake. There will be various forms of moralism discussed below, and all of them are fallacies. Also note: a "moralist" is merely someone with a moral theory, not necessarily a moralistic one; nevertheless, the subtlety of distinguishing morality from ideal ethics means that serious moralists tend to moralism in general, e.g. Confucius, Kant, Utilitarianism, G.E. Moore, religious commandments, etc. Moralism is the denial that there are other categories of value besides morality -- in other words, the denial of the polynomic theory of value.

ETHICS=MORALITY[Aesthetics, the beautiful and the ugly] The truly beautiful is what is morally good.
MORALITY[Ideal or Euergetic Ethics] The good is what is morally good.
Morality, right and wrong: The only real form of value, all other forms of value are derivative and subordinate.
Imperatives -- commands

Graphic Version of Table.

In the fallacy of moralism, the paradigm of obligation and duty comes to dominate ethics. All ethical goods are morally absolutized. Non-moral goods and aesthetic goods are completely devalued because they are apart from what is morally right. The aesthetic dignity of individuals -- the variety of their personal character, preferences, and self-fulfillment -- is lost; and all ethical or aesthetic rules are transformed by the moralistic advocate into moral obligations rigorously imposed on everyone and everything.

Moralistic theories can be deontological or teleological; but any teleological theory with real moral obligation (i.e. that is not morally aesthetic) will be moralistic, since an obligation to realize non-moral ends intrinsically moralizes ideal ethics. Nevertheless deontological theories are more typical of moralism, since they can simply ignore consequences as irrelevant and locate all of ethics in moral principles.

The differentiation of ethics into morality and ideal, or euergetic, ethics goes back to the great German poet, playwright, and scholar Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805), the immortal author of the Ode to Joy, the poem that Ludwig van Beethoven included in the fourth movement of his Ninth Symphony. Leonard Nelson's account of Schiller's modification of Kantian ethics also includes an important discussion of moralism:

It is usually said that Schiller's contribution to ethics was to mitigate the rigorism of Kant. The precise contrary is the truth. One way to summarize Schiller's contribution to the development of ethics would be to say that he was the first to free moral rigorism from that association with moralism which had previously been the rule in ethics -- thereby making it possible, as it had not really been before, to establish the validity of moral rigorism in its true significance.

...[Rigorism's] real meaning is that the moral law is strictly valid, without any exceptions....

Moral rigorism is, howevever, quite difference from the moralism of Kantian ethics, i.e. its peculiarity of admitting no other principle of evaluation, for judging an action, than the law of morality. Only by eliminating this moralism could moral rigorism acquire its full purity and strength, which it did not achive even in Kant's own work. As long as it was confused with moralism it was bound to seem harsh and one-sided, appearing to imply the exclusion from ethics of any aesethetic ideal of life. [Leonard Nelson, Progress and Regress in Philosophy (originally Fortschritte und Rückschritte der Philosophie) Vol. II, Basil Blackwell, Oxford, 1971, p. 34]

Μὴ ἀγαπᾶτε τὸν κόσμον μηδὲ τὰ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ.
ἐάν τις ἀγαπᾷ τὸν κόσμον, οὐκ ἔστιν ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ πατρὸς ἐν αὐτῷ·
ὅτι πᾶν τὸ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ,
ἐπιθυμία τῆς σαρκὸς καὶ ἡ ἐπιθυμία τῶν ὀφθαλμῶν
καὶ ἡ ἀλαζονεία τοῦ βίου,
οὐκ ἔστιν ἐκ τοῦ πατρός, ἀλλ᾽ ἐκ τοῦ κόσμου ἐστιν.
καὶ ὁ κόσμος παράγεται καὶ ἐπιθυμία αὐτοῦ,
ὁ δὲ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ Θεοῦ μένει εἰς τὸν αἰῶνα.

Nolite diligere mundum neque ea quae in mundo sunt.
Si quis diligit mundum non est caritas Patris in eo.
Quoniam omne quod est in mundo -- concupiscentia carnis et concupiscentia oculorum est et superbia vitae --
quae non est ex Patre sed ex mundo est.
Et mundus transit et concupiscentia eius,
qui autem facit voluntatem Dei manet in aeternum.

Do not love the world or the things in the world.
If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him.
For all that is in the world -- the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes
and the pride of life -- is not of the Father but is of the world.
And the world passes away, and the lust of it;
but he who does the will of God abides for ever.

1 John 2:15-17,
for ἐπιθυμία, see

My parents belonged to a Puritan religious group and disapproved of pleasure. To keep up with pop music, I had to stand outside a nearby trucker's cafe to listen to the jukebox. I loved Buddy Holly's "It Doesn't Matter Any More." I still do.

Ken Follett, "The Home Where Fun Fell Short," The Wall Street Journal, "Mansion," September 7, 2018, p.M4

Anaesthesia and Anhedonia

William-Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905), "A Young Girl Defending Herself against Eros," 1880; Getty Center Museum
Moralism tends to abolish the aesthetic paradigm (the mode of value outside of ethics) outright through anaesthesia [adj. "anaesthetic"], the denial of beauty and aesthetic value (not, in this case, the loss of consciousness due to drugs), and anhedonia
[adj. "anhedonic"], the inability to experience pleasure or the moral condemnation of pleasure.

I had heard the term "anaesthetic" earlier, but in this instance I take it directly from Robert Hughes (1938-2012), the Australian art critic and historian. In the Culture of Complaint [Oxford University Press, 1993], Hughes says:

...the abiding traits of American victim art are posturing and ineptitude. In the performances of Karen Finley and Holly Hughes you get the extreme of what can go wrong with art-as-politics -- the belief that mere expressiveness is enough; that I become an artist by showing you my warm guts and defying you to reject them. You don't like my guts? You and Jesse Helms, fella. [note]

The claims of this stuff are infantile. I have demands, I have needs. Why have you not gratified them? The "you" allows no differentiation, and the self-righteousness of the "I" is deeply anaesthetic [sic]. One would be glad of some sign of awareness of the nuance that distinguishes art from slogans. [p.186-187]

As it happens, the term actually goes back to Aristotle, who says:

Men erring on the side of deficiency as regards pleasures [ἡδονάς, hêdonás], and taking less than a proper amount of enjoyment [χαίροντες, khaírontes, "enjoying"] in them, scarcely occur; for such insensibility (ἀναισθησία, anaisthêsía] is not human (ἀνθρωπική, anthrôpiké]. [Nicomachean Ethics, Book III, xi, 7, Loeb Classical Library, Harvard U. Press, 1926-1982, pp.180-183].

Here "anaesthesia" is closer in meaning to modern "anesthesia" and in this usage to "anhedonia," as below. Since "aesthetic" now tends to refer to art and beauty, the sense now (as in Hughes) is for "anaesthesia" to be an insensibility to art and beauty. Aristotle, viewing such a thing as inhuman and rare, evidently did not anticipate the ideologies and religious and political systems that would be actively hostile to personal pleasures and enjoyments. The religious phenomenon is Mediaeval, the political, Modern.

Anhedonia was the original title of Woody Allen's 1977 Oscar Winning movie Annie Hall. By the end of the movie Diane Keaton accuses Allen of not being able to enjoy life enough, and he answers that he can't as long as someone, somewhere is suffering.

Pierre-Auguste Renoir,
"The Blond Bather," La Baigneuse Blonde, 1882; the favorite painting of Kenneth Clark, in his own personal collection, although he finally needed the money and had to sell it; Renoir later married the model, Aline Charigot.
Anhedonia sounds like the famous definition of Puritanism by H.L. Mencken:  "The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" [A Book of Burlesques, 1916]. Both anaesthesia and anhedonia, which collectively we might just call "Puritanism," occur because beauty and pleasure are polynomicly independent of moral evaluation: beauty and pleasure may then be seen as intrinsically immoral forms of evaluation and therefore, for a moralistic system, merely moral evils, not independent forms of evaluation.

Since beauty or pleasure occur independently of moral worth, they can be seen in the first place as undeserved, since they are not distributed as appropriate moral rewards, and in the second place as oppressive, since they misdirect us from the "true," i.e. the moral, evaluation and so burden us with adverse judgments and concerns, for ourselves and others (e.g. that we or you are ugly), that morally we shouldn't have to deal with. To say that beauty might be both undeserved and oppressive (i.e. both good and bad, a reward and a punishment) seems self-contradictory, but it is not an uncommon form of judgment.

Oscar Wilde condemns this, in his own way, by saying, "Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault" [The Picture of Dorian Gray, Preface]. Anhedonia implies the severity and humorlessness typical of moralism even in the ordinary use of the word "moralistic." The denial of anaesthesia is aestheticism proper (as opposed to moral aestheticism, described below):  that aesthetic value, the evaluation of the beautiful and the ugly, is independent of moral, religious, or political evaluation.

Camille Paglia gives us, in passing, a definition of aestheticism:

It [the novel Mademoiselle de Maupin, by Théophile Gautier] incorporates letters, narrative, dramatic dialogue, even an essay -- the infamous preface, first manifesto of aestheticism. Gautier attacks bourgeois values and asserts art has neither social utility nor moral content. Beauty alone is art's mission. [Sexual Personae, p. 409]

Oscar Wilde, in the preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray again, says, "They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only Beauty"; and he gives us the most succinct characterization of aestheticism: "All art is quite useless."

Kant and Schopenhauer on Music

Immanuel Kant, with a moralistic system of ethics, discounts the value of aesthetics into a mere "harmony of the faculties." As is actually rather common in philosophy, Kant's treatment of aesthetics looks like an afterthought, relegated to the Critique of Judgment [1790, 1793], the Third Critique in Kant's philosophical system -- although even this is greater dignity for the subject than we usually get [note].

Kant's views may be the most strikingly contrasted with those of Arthur Schopenhauer -- a philosopher who not only gave aesthetics an essential place in his system, in Book Three of The World as Will and Representation -- before the treatment of morality and religion in Book Four -- but attributed to aesthetic value a reality and a central position in human life that is almost unique in the history of philosophy. Indeed, this would really only be trumped by Nietzsche, who may be said to have retained Schopenhauer as a starting point, while dropping all the moral and religious considerations of Book Four.

A striking case concerns music, which the moralist often has found disturbing. Even Plato, whose theory involves a strong aesthetic realism (derived from his own theory of the Forms but also from the Pythagorean influence in his thought) and who appreciated the power of music, feared that power and wished to contain it within the strongest moral and political controls. With Kant, however, we get the sense that he is led to trivialize music, not just because of his lack of aesthetic realism, but also because he didn't quite understand its power and was not in fact personally moved by it. Schopenhauer, more like what we might expect from a German philosopher of his era, saw music not only as the ultimate form of art but as an expression of realities to which mere concepts are inadequate.

Kant says:

If, on the other hand, we estimate the worth of the beautiful arts [den Wert der schönen Künste] by the culture they supply to the mind and take as a standard the expansion of the faculties which must concur in the judgment for cognition, music will have the lowest place [den untersten Platz] among them (as it has perhaps the highest among those arts which are valued for their pleasantness [Annehmlichkeit]), because it merely plays [spielt] with sensation. The formative arts [bildenden Künste, i.e. "plastic" arts] are far before it in this point of view, for in putting the imagination in a free play, which is also accordant with the understanding, they at the same time carry on a serious business [Geschäft]... These two species of art take quite different courses; the first [i.e. music] proceeds from sensations to indeterminate ideas [Ideen], the second from determinate ideas to sensations. The latter produce permanent, and former only transitory impressions. The imagination can recall the one and entertain itself pleasantly therewith; but the other [i.e. music] either vanish entirely, or, if they are recalled involuntarily by the imagination, they are rather wearisome [lästig] than pleasant [angenehm]. [Critique of Judgment, translated by J.H. Bernard, Hafner Publishing Co., 1968, p.174, boldface added]

One wonders to what kind of music Kant has been listening if its recollection is "wearisome" rather than pleasant. But even at its best, Kant appears to take music as no more than "pleasant," with its origin, as in all art, trivialized as a matter of "play." While his point may be well taken that a "play" of the imagination in some sense is required for art, we lose the important distinction between truly playful art and music and the forms of each that become serious. While Kant allows that the plastic (and presumably some performing) arts can rise to a "serious business," he explicitly disallows this to music -- which leaves me to play with a scene in my imagination of someone like Beethoven giving Kant a lesson in the seriousness of music -- the Fifth Symphony is about as playful as a thunderstorm. Kant had died [1804] before the first performance of the Third Symphony [1805]; and, of course, it is not clear how long one might have waited before seeing a performance in Königsberg [note].

Yet in Kant's own day, one did not need Beethoven to derive similarly "permanent impressions" from Bach, Hayden, or Mozart -- whose 40th Symphony equals Beethoven in majesty. In general, Kant's sense of music seems consistent with the light, playful, pastel Rococo aesthetic of his time, with the Baroque weight and seriousness of Bach forgotten. Kant's attitude may be contrasted with the judgment of Kenneth Clark, that "From Bach to Mozart, music expressed the deepest thoughts and feelings of the time, just as painting had done in the early 16th century." But Kant did not think music expressed any thoughts, and he seems immune to any deep feelings from it.

Kant has missed something there -- at the very least the dimension of the sublime in music, even though the young Kant himself wrote a book about the beautiful and the sublime -- and we know why. Kant sees the aesthetic, and particularly music, as superficial, and all his descriptions reinforce this. Only concepts, which can reach to serious, i.e. moral, concerns, carry us to any higher reality, to anything germane to the ultimate nature of things or of meaning. We have nothing like the beauty of Plato's Forms here, of which any earthly beauty reminds us. In fact, music for Kant falls into a group of obviously trivial pursuits -- the "play of fortune" [Glücksspiel], i.e. gambling, the "play of tone" [Tonspiel], i.e. music, and the "play of thought" [Gedankenspiel], i.e. wit and jokes [ibid., p.176]. This gives us a possible context for Kant's own imaginative vision:  gamblers joking and jesting, with some kind of baudy music or song in the background -- something similar to the drunken and disorderly "Midnight Modern Conversation" by Hogarth, below. But it is worse than that. Kant expresses an annoyance with music and then gives us his own example:

Besides, there attaches to music a certain want of urbanity from the fact that, chiefly from the character of its instruments, it extends its influence further than is desired (in the neighborhood), and so as it were obtrudes itself and does violence to the freedom of others who are not of the musical company. The arts which appeal to the eyes do not do this, for we need only turn our eyes away if we wish to avoid being impressed. [ibid., p.174]

What on earth is Kant talking about? Was he troubled by boom boxes on the subway or neighbors with their stereos on high? But these things didn't exist in his day; and any complaint about music as a performing art in general might as well apply to the stage, which certainly obtrudes itself on its neighborhood as much as any musical performance -- or is as similarly inoffensive from an indoor venue in an otherwise noisy commercial or entertainment district. This sounds like Kant's irritation at something in his own neighborhood, which turns out to be the case, as we learn from a footnote to this very passage:

Those who recommend the singing of spiritual songs at family prayers do not consider that they inflict a great hardship upon the public by such noisy (and therefore in general pharisaical [pharisäische]) devotions, for they force the neighbors either to sing with them or to abandon their meditations. [ibid., note, pp. 174-175, boldface added]

Thus we discover that Kant was annoyed, not by drunken gamblers, but by hymns, whose character is faulted, not merely for disturbing Kant's "meditations" [Gedankengeschäft], but for the moral fault of being "pharisaical," i.e. the doing of Pharisees whose valorization of the empty forms of ritual was condemned by Jesus. But it is an extraordinary reflection to regard singing as equivalent to an empty ritual. For me, it is hard to listen to the arrangement by Michael Praetorius (1571-1621) of Luther's hymn, Erhalt’ uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, "Save us, Lord, by your Word," without thinking of the most sublime moments in Beethoven. One wonders what bothered Kant more, the actual level of sound (in the days before electronic amplification, let alone reproduction) or the character of what he was hearing.
Laurent de La Hyre (1606-1656), Allegory of Music, 1649, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York;
one of the seven Liberal Arts
In fact, it looks like it was not so much "family" [häuslich] observances that particularly bothered Kant but the services held for the prisoners at the jail next to which he lived, and about which he complained to the burgomaster [cf. ibid. editor's note, p.175]. Well, we might regard him as lucky if natural voice hymns were all that troubled him in the neighborhood of the jail.

This reveals a number of peculiar things about Kant. The triviality of music is not just of a piece with the "play" of gamblers and jokers but of the quite serious practice of religion, where song in the Protestant North of Europe had replaced the plastic arts that were thoroughly destroyed by Lutherans and Calvinists -- evidence of whose iconoclasm still disfigures old German churches. Does this mean that Kant would look more favorably upon the art of a Catholic church? Something tells me probably not. Music in Kant's estimation is not merely trivial, but its character in a religious context is positively offensive and improper -- in which he was not alone in a Calvinist tradition. To a kind of sour anaesthesia about music (without the intense religious consciousness even of Calvinism), we therefore must add to Kant's faults an idiosyncratic version of the sort of religious anhedonia that I will examine further below. In any case, Kant's example is entirely irrelevant. The disturbance of the neighborhood by music, sports, domestic disputes, barking dogs, car alarms, home remodeling, or the indoor pistol practice of Sherlock Holmes has nothing to do with the independent value of these activities; and Kant's irritation with his neighbors (or with popular religion) has improperly obtruded into the philosophical analysis of aesthetic value. The lack of "urbanity" is not in the music; it is in the neighbors -- if not in Kant himself.

Turning from Kant to Schopenhauer, we find a very different wind blowing. Where Kant believes that our relationship to ultimate meaning and value among things-in-themselves is mediated by the concepts of the Moral Law, Schopenhauer believes that the thing-in-itself is the Will, which is a blind force and drive, in a virtually Darwinian sense, for existence and survival. As Schopenhauer says in his discussion of music, "The (Platonic) Ideas are the adequate objectification of the will" [The World as Will and Representation, Volume I, §52, E.F.J. Payne translation, Dover Publications, 1966, p.257]. In other words, Schopenahuer thinks that the "Ideas" [Ideen] represent the Will as the kinds of objects found in the phenomenal world. While Kant's notion of "Ideas" is that they are the concepts that arise from our attempts to conceive of transcendent objects (e.g. God, freedom, & immortality), Schopenhauer's "Ideas" are more intuitive and concrete, like (as he says) Plato's, and in their generality they embody aesthetic value. Schopenhauer's aesthetic realism is thus found in his own theory of these "Ideas."

Discussing the notion of Leibniz that music is a kind of unconscious mathematics, Schopenhauer says,

But if it were nothing more, the satisfaction afforded by it would inevitably be similar to that which we feel when a sum in arithmetic comes out right, and could not be that profound pleasure with which we see the deepest recesses of our nature find expression. Therefore, from our standpoint, where the aesthetic effect is the thing we have in mind, we must attribute to music a far more serious and profound significance that refers to the innermost being of the world and of our own self. [ibid., p.256, boldface added]

How different is the impression we get in comparison to Kant. Nothing trivial, pleasant, superficial, or playful about this. Schopenhauer has been hearing a very different kind of music from Kant, a sublime music, as though he has detected Beethoven's Ninth Symphony in the distance, while Kant is quarreling with neighbors whose children are playing a record of "It's a Small World After All" over and over again. To Schopenhauer, music has the highest, not the lowest, place in comparison to the other arts:

Hence all of them [i.e. the other arts] objectify the will only indirectly, in other words, by means of the Ideas., since it passes over the Ideas, is also quite independent of the phenomenal world, positively ignores it, and, to a certain extent, could still exist even if there were no world at all, which cannot be said of the other arts. Thus music is as immediate an objectification and copy of the whole will as the world itself is, indeed as the Ideas are... Therefore music is by no means like the other arts, namely a copy of the Ideas, but a copy of the will itself, the objectivity of which are the Ideas. [ibid., p.257, boldface added]
Johann Strauss II (1825-1899) monument, Stadtpark, Vienna, 2018

Music as sound does not need space (although stereo is nice), and as a phenomenon of time exists in a kind of abstract space, like Leibniz's mathematics, apart from the space of the world. Yet it is also concrete, is not a matter of concepts, and expresses something much more:  "Hence it has always been said that music is the language of feeling and of passion, just as words are the language of reason" [p.259, boldface added]. Schopenhauer quotes a question from Aristotle:

διὰ τί οἱ ῥυθμοὶ καὶ τὰ μέλη, φωνὴ οὖσα, ἤθεσιν ἔοικε;

Cur numeri musici et mode, quot voces sunt, moribus similes sese exhibent?

How is it that rhythms and melodies, although only sound, resemble states of the soul? [p.260, Probelemata c.19, Greek and Latin in Schopenhauer; ἤθεσιν dative plural of ἤθος, ἤθεος, "disposition, character, manners" -- mores in Latin; ἔοικε, "it seems," from ἔοικα, perfect of εἴκω, "yield, give way"]

Schopenhauer answers that music directly expresses the essential being of all that we are. "The composer reveals the innermost nature of the world, and expresses the profoundest wisdom in a language that his reasoning faculty does not understand" [p.260].

Therefore music does not express this or that particular and definite pleasure, this or that affliction, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety, meriment, or peace of mind, but joy, pain, sorrow, horror, gaiety, merriment, peace of mind themselves, to a certain extent in the abstract, their essential nature, without any accessories... [p.261]

Here we see something apparent to Schopenhauer to which Kant seems postively blind (or deaf), that music covers the entire spectrum of emotion. The good composer can take any human experience and write music to accompany it:

This close relation that music has to the true nature of all things can also explain the fact that, when music suitable to any scene, action, event, or environment is played, it seems to disclose to us its most secret meaning, and appears to be the most accurate and distinct commentary on it. [p.262]

One thing Schopenhauer has in mind is the use of music in opera; but today, of course, one of the most expressive uses of music is in film, providing one of the most haunting and memorable features of the best of movies. Indeed, this throws into perspective the nature of much of avant-garde modern music, whose atonal and dissonant nature is of a piece with the abandonment of beauty in the modern plastic arts. What would a composer use such music for in a movie? Ah, I know:  insanity. Discordant and dissociated music goes with the discordant and dissociated mind -- or with the Nihilism of trendy "Theory." Schopenhauer was lucky not to live to hear Stockhausen [note].

The metaphysics of music Schopenhauer sums up in a version of scholastic formulae, "the concepts are the universalia post rem, but music gives the universalia ante rem, and reality the universalia in re" [p.263, boldface added]. Thus, we get the concepts of universals by reflecting on the things of experience, while reality is the embodiment of those universals. But music, giving us the Will itself, is ontologically prior to phenomenal reality.

Schopenhauer's aesthetic realism thus leads to just about the strongest valorization of art and music in the history of philosophy, while in Kant, as we might expect from his moralism, we get forms of anaesthesia and anhedonia that range from the trivialization of music and annoyance at hearing it to moral condemnation of the "pharisaical" hymns. Yet even Kant is a positive aesthete compared to the attitudes that I will examine next.

"Woman With Leaves," by Pablo Picasso, 1934

Religious and Political Moralism

Anaesthesia and anhedonia most easily occur in systems of religious or political moralism, where all valuation and obligation are bent towards religious or political ends, no independent forms of evaluation can be allowed, and any purposes apart from the religiously or politically worthy are frivolous, reprehensible, or evil. While religious moralism is familiar from much of history, and political moralism since at least the French Revolution, the 20th century provided terrifying examples of both.

A good example of anhedonic religious moralism can be found with the Ayatollâh Khomeini of Irân. Khomeini never smiled in public, and he was finally asked about this by a reporter. His answer was, "Islâm is serious all the time." Khomeini actually wrote:

Allah did not create man so that he could have fun. The aim of creation was for mankind to be put to the test through hardship and prayer. An Islamic regime must be serious in every field. There are no jokes in ʾIslâm. There is no humor in ʾIslâm. There is no fun in ʾIslâm. There can be no fun and joy in whatever is serious. [quoted in Amir Taheri, The Spirit of Allah: Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution, Adler & Adler, 1986, p.259]

Khomeini also said, "Music is treason to our nation and to our youth." This is all much like stories about the religious police in Saudi Arabia, who have been known to knock on doors and warn people if they could be heard laughing from the street. Such laughing in the home, evidently, betrayed insufficient seriousness. A similar story has come from Irân again:  The World Press Review reported, in July 1999, that the magazine Adineh was banned in Irân because it had printed a story by a woman about being admonished by the "state morality police" because she was laughing while eating with her family in a restaurant. The story was entitled, "Is Joy Lost in Our City? Is Laughing a Sin?" The answer, evidently, was "Yes! And a Crime!"

However, although fundamentalism is today very influential in ʾIslâm, it would be a mistake to take these attitudes, in such extreme forms, to be necessary or universal in the religion. Any reading of The Thousand and One Nights, which contains very ancient stories but is mainly attested in manuscripts from Mamlûk Egypt, would disabuse anyone that anhedonia has always reigned in ʾIslâm. The Nights is very serious about its ʾIslâm, with discussions of Islâmic Law and stories about the Holy War against the Romans, but this doesn't stop a great deal of drinking, sexual irregularities, and the admiration of female, and male, beauty.

A device of several stories in the Nights is where the Jinn, , spot a woman and man, whom they see as the most beautiful of their kind, and put them together for one night, usually returning them afterwards, cruelly, to where they found them. In one case, which we see in "The Tale of the Wazīr Nūr al-Dīn," the couple were actually intended for marriage anyway, but then the careless disposition of the man results in the separation of the lovers for many years. Indeed, their son will be well grown before they are reunited. The woman in this case has the evocative name of , Sitt al-Ḥusn, the "Lady of Beauty" -- a name that gets used for some flowers, the morning-glory (and then, more ominously, belladonna or "deadly nightshade," but not in the Nights) [The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus, by Powys Mathers, Volume I, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, 1972, 1986, pp.127-173]. These kinds of stories, and the striking name of Sitt al-Ḥusn alone, contradict the anaesthesia that we tend to get in a lot radical ʾIslâm. Indeed, the element of emphasis on male beauty is a feature with homoerotic overtones that otherwise echoes the Greek aesthetic.

This range of attitudes, of course, from ascetic to aesthetic, is familiar from most religions. India, where some temples, Hindu and Jain, are decorated with pornographic sculptures, and where Classical painting and sculpture always showed bare breasted women, and more (usually looking like they've had breast implant surgery, as at right or in the popup image -- see more discussion of Indian dress elsewhere), nevertheless until recently didn't even allow male and female stars to kiss in the movies. Hence the Bollywood tradition of large dance numbers, to compensate, with separate male and female dancers. The leads sing and dance their love, without touching.

The very words "Puritan" and "Calvinist" bespeak episodes of the public enforcement of asceticism in the history of Christianity -- where many Christians still shun alcohol, despite the statement of Jesus, "This is my blood," τοῦτο γὰρ ἐστιν τὸ αἷμα μου [Latin hic est enim sanguis meus; Matthew 26:28], referring to his cup of wine. Many Protestants, who pride themselves on the textual foundations of their faith and practice, substitute grape juice to commemorate the Eucharist -- and argue, incredibly, that Jesus was actually drinking grape juice, which is called the τὸ γένημα τῆς ἀμπέλου, "the product of the vine" [Latin, generatio vitis; Luke 22:18], despite the absence of a grape juice industry in the ancient world -- not possible before the introduction of Pasteurization and refrigeration. Ancient "grape juice," if not Pasturized or refrigerated, is what ferments into wine. Perhaps the Protestants think they can get away with this because the word "wine," οἶνος, isn't used there. But the word οἶνος is used when Jesus changes water into wine, "good wine," καλὸς οἶνος [John 2:3-10]. Was Jesus corrupting the wedding party at Cana with alcohol?

Although religious moralism has now revived as a geopolitical threat, political moralism was more widespread and more destructive in the 20th century. Although common in totalitarian regimes, from Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia to Communist China and Cuba, the most horrifying and monstrous example comes from Cambodia, where the Communist Khmer Rouge murdered perhaps a third of the population of the entire country, more than two million people. Not just beauty and pleasure, but even ordinary human sentiment and affection were prohibited and punished as "counter-revolutionary" activity. The following passage from R.J. Rummel's Death by Government [Transaction Publishers, 1994, pp.186-187] tells the terrible tale:

Of course, love between people could not be allowed -- it interfered with work. Not only was sex between the unmarried absolutely forbidden, but in some places boys and girls were threatened with execution for as little as holding hands.

Normal family life, including love and sorrow, was impossible in some villages. Children were taken away from their parents to live and work in labor brigades. If they died of fatigue or disease, which many did, their parents would eventually be informed. At this point what emotion the parents showed could mean life or death. If they wept or displayed extreme unhapppiness, this showed bourgeois sentimentality. After all, their children had sacrificed themselves for the revolution and the parents should be proud, not unhappy. Similarly, a wife expressing grief over an executed husband -- an enemy of the revolution -- was explicitly criticizing the Khmer Rouge. This unforgivable act of sentimentality and individuality could mean death.

The tale of Bunheang Ung vividly illustrates the danger of normal feelings. In December 1977 his work group was sent to work in Phum Maesar Phrachan hamlet. Coindidentally, his aunt of which he was very fond, lived there and he had not seen her for some time.

When he met her suddenly one day he impulsively took her hand. "I forgot, you see," Bun later explained. "I missed her, and I was pleased to see her." Immediately a Khmer Rouge cadre shouted at him. Bun dropped his aunt's hand and jumped away, but the crime had been committed. A meeting of Bun's [work] group was immediately called to deal with this serious breach of the rules. Bun was several [sic] criticized for his failure to develop a revolutionary morality. His action proved that he had failed to change his mode of thinking and failed to renounce the corrupt morality of the old regime. It was a most serious charge. Bun apologized. His group leader advised him to change his ways, or he would be punished most severely. Bun had no need to ask what that punishment would be....

Even calling one's wife by some term of endearment was forbidden. Haing Ngor had been overheard doing this by spies who also reported that he had eaten food he picked rather than bringing it in for communal eating. Interrogated about these sins, he was told, "The chhlop [spies] say that you call your wife 'sweet.' We have no 'sweethearts' here. That is forbidden." He then was taken to a prison where he was severally [sic] tortured, had a finger cut off and an ankle sliced with a hatchet. He barely survived [note].

Although the brutality and evil of these events almost defies belief (and were not believed by many, until the Vietnamese exposed them for their own purposes), they differ only in degree, not in kind or in principle, from the regime established by Lenin and Stalin in Russia. The word for such politics -- Terror -- is borrowed from similar policies during the French Revolution, when Robespierre forthrightly asserted that the Terror was the direct manifestation of Virtue:  "Terror is naught but prompt, severe, inflexible justice; it is therefore an emanation of virtue" [note]

Anaesthetic Feminism

An example of similar principles invading a liberal society, and of a clash between political moralism and aestheticism, is the continuing debate in feminism over its longstanding tendency to reject any personal or traditional cultural emphasis on female beauty, regarding it as a devaluation, belittlement, or "objectification" of women, or at least as a distraction from worthy purposes. The opposite sides of the debate have been argued in The Beauty Myth by Naomi Wolff, who saw the celebration of beauty as part of a misogynistic conspiracy and a recent anti-feminist political backlash (though she changed her mind somewhat about this in a later book, Fire with Fire), and Camille Paglia [as in Sexual Personae, above], who defends politically free art, aestheticism, fashion, advertising, pornography, and so, in effect, the polynomic independence of beauty and pleasure.

Even more disturbing than feminist anaesthesia is the now established principle in "sexual harassment" law that sexual images and innuendo in the workplace, even in one case a man merely keeping a picture of his wife, wearing a bathing suit, on his desk, constitute a "hostile environment" to female workers. Sexual images may be unwelcome or disturbing to some, or at least distracting, like Goya's Naked Maja in a classroom, to which some feminist professor objected; but this is a matter of aesthetic and personal preference, like the Disneyland policy against beards (which, come to think of it, sounds like a hostile environment for males), not hostility. The very idea that sex means "hostility" to women is a level of anhedonia that, not surprisingly, comes from the extremist fringe of feminism, people like Catharine MacKinnon and Andrea Dworkin, for whom ordinary heterosexual sex is not just oppressive, but already rape. That such views end up being accepted as the Law of the Land, without a general hue and cry, and without recognition that MacKinnon and Dworkin were emotionally disturbed persons, is testimony to some deep confusions in public debate and political values [note]. It is the workplace of tortured sexlessness and unnatural inhibitions that displays evidence of hostility -- hostility to life itself.

There was a remarkable volte-face by many feminists in much of this rhetoric, and even in previously stated and existing legal principles, once President Bill Clinton was credibly accused, not just of sexual harassment by Paula Jones, but even of forcible sexual contact and rape by others. It cannot be expected, however, that this is any more than a politically expedient and hypocritical exception to previous theory. None of the Clinton apologists have suggested reforming any of the applicable laws or principles.

While it is the tendency of Wolff and others to present emphasis on beauty as a recent and Western phenomenon -- as part, indeed, of the conservative blacklash of the 80's (although this is rather strange considering the alliance of anti-porn feminists with anti-porn conservatives) -- this does not explain historical and cross-cultural cases like the name of the famous ancient Egyptian Queen Nefertiti, , which means "The Beautiful One Has Come," or a traditional Hawaiian girl's name like "Haunani," which means "Very Beautiful," or the Chinese character that writes the character for "woman" twice to mean "handsome" or "pretty."

A striking example of contasting the beauty of women with the martial vocation of men may be found in the great Indian epic, the Mahâbhârata. Here the princess Draupadî, for whom the hero Arjuna will compete in the "bridegroom choice," and her brother Dhṛṣṭadyumna, both of whom were miraculously born from an altar fire, are described:

The spirited maiden with eyes like lotus petals and a flawless body, lovely and delicate, is the daughter of the great-spirited Yajñasena Drupada, and she was born from the middle of the altar. She is the sister of the mighty and majestic Dhṛṣṭadyumna, the foeman of Droṇa, who was born, wearing armor, sword, bow, and arrows, from the blazing fire and is resplendent like the fire. His sister Draupadî of the flawless limbs and slender waist, whose blue lotus [, utpala] fragrance wafts as far as a league, Yajñasena's daughter, is holding her bridegroom choice.

The Mahâbhârata, Vol. I, The Book of the Beginning, University of Chicago Press, 1973, p. 347; photo is of stunning supermodel Yasmeen Ghauri, who is a half Pakistani and half German Canadian.

To anaesthetic, moralistic feminism, this passage is a classic example of sexism: what is remarkable about Draupadî is her physical perfection and even fragrance, while her brother is "resplendent" in association with his unusually substantial, and military, birthday suit.

On the other hand, classical Greek sculpture, presumably at the source of Western civilization, focused almost entirely on the beauty of the nude male; and it is arguable that later female nudes were inspired by Egyptian or other Middle Eastern sources. The Thousand and One Nights is notable for the equal emphasis it puts on both male and female beauty. There are stories where the Jinn, , discover the most beautiful youth and the most beautiful maiden and put them together (see discussion of the use of such a noun for a group in Arabic). Thus, female beauty is hardly something exclusively recent or Western. Instead, in the Western tradition, the kind of erotic, indeed pornographic, depiction of male nudes, which can be found on Greek plates and jars, has recently been revived in a vast output of gay pornography, even while many feminists have been arguing that all pornography (which they seem to assume only depicts women, or gay men conforming to misogynistic stereotypes) should be considered a "civil rights" offense against women.

At the same time, some of the most striking recent "pin-up" artwork of female nudes has been done by women, like Olivia de Berardinis (e.g. Let them Eat Cheesecake, the Art of Olivia, Ozone Productions, 1993). As models, Olivia has often used women like Pamela Anderson and Julie Strain, who are hardly feminist role models (Anderson even used the surname "Lee" when she was married to her sometimes abusive husband), but who do, undoubtedly, look good.

In an artistic or professional context, it is ironically noteworthy now that many of those who are the most concerned with female beauty, in the fashion industry, and the vast majority of those concerned with male beauty, in whatever context, are usually expected to be homosexual men (as Whoopi Goldberg, dressed in white-face as Queen Elizabeth I, joked at the 1999 Academy Awards, "I think we've all had our hair done enough times to know that you cannot rush a Queen"). At the same time, radical lesbians, and moralistic feminists who hardly seem distinguishable from them, often seem to be some of the most militantly anaesthetic and anhedonic people in the civilization -- as Joan Rivers says, "Lesbians don't fucking laugh" ["Joan Rivers: Don't Start With Me," stage show & Showtime, 2012]. There has been a reaction to that even in the lesbian community, where we now have the phenomenon of "lipstick lesbians," who indulge in all the traditional paraphernalia of feminine beauty -- and a pair of such women can make a decent living now simply selling videos of their own lovemaking to male fans [a formula that even works at the level of non-pornographic light comedy -- see Kissing Jessica Stein].

The distaste for this, and for flamboyant drag queens like RuPaul, of the anaesthetic feminists and lesbians, however, must pale beside the discomfort they must feel with some kinds of gay art:  The only place in recent culture where misogyny is generally beyond feminist criticism is in art with a gay male theme. A striking example of this was the celebrated 1992 movie The Crying Game, where the only likable female character turns out to be male. The real women in the movie were faithless, treacherous, or positively murderous and evil. Ordinarily, this would have raised howls of protest, even demonstrations and boycotts, but reviewers and critics hardly seemed to notice that aspect of the film. Because of its gay theme, it was above reproach, whatever else it may have been saying or doing.

There is also the curious case of late artist Robert Mapplethorpe, whose photos of homoerotic bondage, sado-masochism, humiliation, and even blood-letting are counterexamples to the feminist thesis that these expressions of male sexuality, when involving women, are simply motivated by misogyny. Real misogyny is thus overlooked, while evidence that male sexuality is not, in general, misogynistic also escapes notice. The political alliance (called "intersectionality") between feminism and gay "rights" (which is all about ending property rights and voluntary association), it seems, trumps feminist doctrine about art, patriarchy, and even misogyny, especially in ʾIslâm, but also shuts down the evaluation of anything else that gay sexuality might reveal.

Heels are popular with women because they do much more than add inches. Model Veronica Webb put it bluntly:  wearing heels is "like putting your ass on a pedestal." Balancing precariously on the balls of their feet, wearing heels forces women to throw back their shoulders and arch their backs, making their breasts look bigger, their stomachs flatter, and their buttocks more rounded and thrust out. And this is just an aside from what they do to the shape of the leg, which appears more toned, elongated, and recalling the shape of a leg tensed by arousal. [Nancy Etcoff, Survival of the Prettiest, The Science of Beauty, Doubleday, 1999, p.195]

According to Harper's Index, the average increase in the protrusion of a woman's buttocks when she wears high heels is 25 percent. [Linda O'Keeffe, Shoes, A Celebration of Pumps, Sandals, Slippers & More, Workman Publishing, New York, 1996, p. 127.]

Not just feminism, but much broader principles of political correctness now have strong influence on law and education. The Language Police, How Pressure Groups Restrict What Students Learn, by Diane Ravitch [Alfred A. Knopf, 2003], details the effects of politicized standards in education, particularly the
language that can be used, the issues that can be addressed, and the truths that must be distorted in order to avoid political offense. Among many marvelous examples, there is a passage that specifically addresses the political anaesthesia to be found in literature anthologies:

Censorship distorts the literature cirriculum, substituting political judgments for aesthetic ones. Because of the bias and social content guidelines, editors of literature anthologies must pay more attention to having the correct count of gender groups and ethnic groups among their characters, authors, and illustrations than they do the literary quality of the selections. State education officials carefully scrutinize the former and ignore the latter. Once literary quality no longer counts, almost anything can be included in literature anthologies, such as television scripts, student essays, advertisements, and other ephemera, while indisputably major authors share equal billing with authors whose work will never be known outside the textbook industry. Quietly but inevitably, what we once considered our literary heritage disappears from the schools. [p.160]

The tendency of political moralism is to political orthodoxy, in whose terms aesthetic value is secondary to irrelevant -- or even improper. As Ravitch notes, this produces works that are not only aesthetically bad, but simply boring. Students not only find the material stupifying, but the sharper ones are usually aware of its tendentiousness and dishonesty. After winning the Cold War, the United States now manages to reproduce, perhaps not accidentally, the Soviet vision of education as political indoctrination.

The epigraph by Gary Saul Morson on this page illustrates how the politicization of the American academy has stripped the teaching of literature of any aesthetic value, substituted a Leftist and totalitarian political project, and in fact has left literature with no particular reason why it should be taught at all, except as political propaganda, in preference to what are thought to be factual treatments of politics and economics -- i.e. straight Marxist dogma. Since modern English departments are no longer really interested in literature, and the substantive content they offer is really no more than Marxoid "Theory," which is generally not only ignorant of actual economics but even of proper Marxism, they probably should just be eliminated for the time being. Falling enrollment and disillusionment with "higher education," especially among the politically targeted "gender," namely men, may accomplish that naturally.

Even though many years have passed, anaesthetic moralism in feminism is alive and well. In 2011 we have The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Appearance in Life and Law, by Deborah L. Rhode [Oxford University Press]. Rhode is actually a law professor at Stanford and believes that "lookism," discriminating on the basis of appearance, should be a civil rights offense. The Economist says about her book:

Ms. Rhode clearly struggles to see why any woman would willingly embrace fashion (particuarly high heels). She is outraged that virtually all females consider their looks as key to their self-image. She cites a survey in which over half of young women said they would prefer to be hit by a truck than be fat. Her indignation is mostly moral. Billions of dollars are now spent on cosmetic surgery -- up to 90% of it by women -- at a time when almost a fifth of Americans lack basic health care [?]. The more women focus on improving their looks, Ms Rhode argues, the less they think about others. [August 27th-September 2nd, 2011, p.72]

In other words, Deborah Rhode knows better where the money people earn should be spent. Probably it should be taken away from them, in order to finance socialized medicine. Clearly, Rhode's intense, self-righteous moral indignation is that these women are not sufficiently self-denying, don't properly devote their efforts to the welfare of others, and, of course, are victimized by their own false consciousness, which creates "social" injustice both for themselves and for others. Rhode is said to believe that the "Beauty Bias" actually "restricts self-expression," which of course is not going to mean aesthetic self-expression -- that is in itself unworthy.

This is where a little bit of Nietzsche (we don't want more than that) would go a long way. Nietzsche's remark about Christian anaesthesia is far more appropriate here:  "I had always sensed strongly the furious, vindictive hatred of life implicit in that system of ideas and values; and sensed, too, that in order to be consistent with its premises a system of this sort was forced to abominate art" [The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, 1872, Golffing translation, Anchor edition, 1956, p.10]. Rhode abominates the art of female beauty.

More distrubing than Rhode's moralistic philosophy is the fact that she is teaching on a prestigious law faculty, inculcating a new generation of activist lawyers with a totalitarian political agenda. This problem has recently been examined in Schools for Misrule: Legal Academia and an Overlawyered America, by Walter Olson [Encounter Books, 2011]. Despite the subtitle, the alarming issue in Olson's book is not just "overlawyering," which is probably something of which people are generally aware, but the agenda of the aging Sixties Radicals who have worked their way into these institutions -- an agenda that is anti-American, anti-Capitalist, anti-individual rights, and otherwise simply engages in propaganda for unlimited government, the abolition of privacy and free speech (where these conflict with leftist social engineering), and the centralization of all political power, i.e. the program, sometimes openly expressed, but usually hidden from public view (with the cooperation of the "mainsteam" media), of the modern Democratic Party.

Americans began to get a taste of the full meaning of this with 111th Congress (2009-2011) and the Obama Administration. The November 2010 election showed the reaction of most of the country, if not in places like New York or California, although it was mainly issues of debt and spending that turned out the vote.

In 2020, with the election of the senile Joe Biden, the totalitarian program is now on overdrive, with the "systemic racism" (i.e. capitalism and freedom) of America and everything in it used to justify totally destroying the Bill of Rights and Republican government. Since the Democrats also have mature plans to steal elections, it is not clear that the American people will have the opportunity to reverse this process.

For the time being, people can flee New York, California, Illinois, etc. for properly American States, like Texas and Florida, but the current 117th Congress, controlled by the Democrats, seeks to crush State governments and impose corrupt election laws in all the States. Packing the Supreme Court would also enable them to protect their ill-gotten gains and create the slave/police state of their dreams.

Just as dramatic is the way people vote with their money. Fashion and beauty are in no danger, except from sour and intolerant moralists like Deborah Rhode. Yet I bet that she votes for the same politicians favored by the people who will not be inviting her to Fashion Week in New York.

Egyptian Women and Beauty

Varieties of Moralism

The Morality of Laughter, by F.H. Buckley, University of Michigan Press, 2003

Le déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1862-1863, Édouard Manet

The Erotic as an Aesthetic Category

Logical Relationships of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism

Pages on Feminist Issues
Confucius on WomenIrene of AthensAnna ComnenaLe déjeuner sur l'herbe, 1862-1863, Édouard Manet
Gender Stereotypes and Sexual Archetypes Abortion Defense of Christina Hoff Sommers published in The Proceedings and Addresses of the American Philosophical Association, 66:7
Against the Theory of "Sexist Language" Feminism Pornography Women in the Apology Letter in defense of Christina Hoff Sommers sent to the Los Angeles Times


Value Theory

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 1

The furor over Karen Finley is now drifting into ancient history, and many readers may not recognize her name. Finley will live in infamy among Conservatives for using her grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, back in the '80's, to do a performance art piece:  She appeared on stage in the nude, smeared chocolate syrup on her body, and invited audience members to lick it off. The quite reasonable objection, of course, was why taxpayer money should be spent on something like this, which many people would consider offensive or obscene. Finley's own purpose in the piece was muddied when she later appeared in the July 1999 issue of Playboy magazine. The original act seemed to be a standard angry feminist parody or send up of the "objectification" of the female body or, as the Playboy article itself said, "a symbol of degradation." However, appearing in the nude in Playboy magazine, especially with Bill Maher personally licking the chocolate off her himself, would hardly be interpretated by the standard angry feminist as sending the "right message"; and Finley compounds the problem by appearing, not just in her trademark chocolate, but without it also, in some standard Playboy nude poses. She doesn't look particularly angry or feminist and indeed is a very good looking woman -- wholesome and enjoyable -- little inferior to any Playmate. This was a curious development in the history of political performance art.

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 2

The Critique of Judgment is an essential part of Kant's system in so far as it is supposed to supply a bridge and a synthesis between the First Critique, the Critique of Pure Reason, and the Second Critique, the Critique of Practial Reason. This sort of thing in Kant is the origin of the practice in Hegel and other Idealists of the "dialectical" progression from thesis, to antithesis, to synthesis. What Kant ends up with, however, is not much of a bridge. Since the transcendent is closed to theoretical reason but practical reason gives us a clue about transcendent realities (i.e. God, freedom, and immortality), we might expect a theory of aesthetic value to give us something a little more concrete to flesh out the clues, especially when part of Kant's aesthetics is the "teleological judgment," which even from Kant's ethics (the "Kingdom of Ends") we expect to have some kind of transcendent resonance or application. Kant's aesthetics, however, is subjectivist. This is particularly odd when Kant's most effective formulation of the Moral Law involves the dignity of a person (to be treated as an end also and never as a means only), which is not obviously derivable from the rational universality (of the first formulation) of the Moral Law (that Kant's system requires), while it does look more like an aesthetic good-in-itself. Indeed, Kant seemed to be moving in this direction in his Observations on the Feeling of the Beautiful and Sublime (1764), which I have discussed under Psychological Types. The formalism of the Critique of Practical Reason is really a reductionistic abstraction that is inconsistent with his better instincts, and pursuing the instincts of the Observations would have made for better aesthetics also.

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 3;
Beethoven's House

Beethoven lived in Vienna for more than thirty years, and he moved so frequently that he lived at at least sixty different places. A restless guy. The rooms we might expect to be preserved, where Beethoven died, happened to have been demolished in the 19th century. Otherwise, two of the apartments have both been identified and made into small museums.

One is the Pasqualati House (Mölker Bastei 8), named after its builder, Josef Benedikt Freiherr von Pasqualati, who was a friend of Beethoven. The composer lived there at least twice, and Pasqualati supposedly kept the rooms available should the man wish to return. The location is fairly dramatic. The apartment was on the 4th floor of the building, which itself was set on a clifftop. As we see at left. The site is a little difficult to find from the back. One can come up steps from the Schottengasse, or up a steep cobblestone way from the Schreyvogelgasse. Either way, one must pass around the building on the left and come around to the front door. These routes are not well marked. Below the front of the building there is a switchback ramp, with warnings, that goes down to the Liebenberg-Denkmal monument, whose gilt summit statue is visible.

It seems to be known that while living there, Beethoven composed the music for his only opera, Fidelio (originally Leonore, Op. 72, 1805, 1814). Beethoven never liked the opera, whose plot is a bit silly. This is probably why this was his only such effort. Nevertheless, we find Kenneth Clark taking the piece, whose themes are freedom and liberation, seriously, with an extended treatment of it in his Civilisation video series. There is certainly nothing wrong with the music.

There is nothing, of course, of Beethoven's original effects or furniture in the rooms now, but there are some items of interest. We see a life mask done by an artist, Willibrord Joseph Mähler, commissioned for a bust of Beethoven. The bust itself is also present, which is regarded as probably the best likeness of Beethoven that survives. Other images of the composer, such as in the text above, may be based on the death mask that was done, where he looks a bit different, as we might expect.

The appeal of the location for Beethoven seems to have been the view. Looking out a window in the photo at right, we are looking down on the Ring Road (Ringstraße) around the Inner City, with the University of Vienna across the street. This looked a lot different in Beethoven's day. The Ring Road is where the City Walls were originally, and the Pasqualati House seems to be atop part of the bastions (Bastei). The University was not there. Instead, there was a green, cleared space beyond the Walls, which is what you want for a proper defense structure. So Beethoven could look off into the distance. In the photo we also see the spires of the Votivkirche, but this was not built until 1853.

The view, of course, suggests some interpretations. We might think that it may have been required, or at least been agreeable to, Beethoven's soaring spirit. Even looking up from below, the sight impresses to an extent. That sounds a little silly, especially when few of the other apartments he occuped in Vienna are likely to have afforded anything of the sort. The city is not exactly San Francisco. But we may wonder. This would certainly be more commensurable with Schopenhauer's view of music than with Kant's, who wouldn't have had much of a view of anything in Königsberg. The only thing "wearisome" (lästig) here might be the hike up the stairs or the hill, particularly if the cobblestones are slick.

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 4

Before I knew anything about modern music, I saw Karlheinz Stockhausen (1928-2007) himself in concert at the Jeita Caves in Lebanon in 1969. I wasn't exactly carried away with the music and was certainly in no position to appreciate whatever musicologists might appreciate about it.

Years later I attended a concert at Royce Hall at UCLA. A variety of music was performed, mostly Classical. After a while, however, some modern music was featured, which, of course, lacked melody, tone, harmony, and rhythm. But I had a moment of revelation. I asked what kind of movie scene this music would be used to accompany. And the answer was obvious:  a scene where someone has lost, or is losing, their mind. Since the parts of such music do not fit together aesthetically, this can represent the confusion, dissociation, and fragmention of mind that goes with insanity. So there is a meaning and a use for modern music after all, if to be sure a narrow and disturbing one. But it also represents, appropriately, the nihilism of the modern intellectual who produces, consumes, and values such music.

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 5

Haing Ngor (1940-1996) was a Cambodian physician who experienced some of the worst of the Cambodian Terror, fled Cambodia in 1979, wrote books about his experience, and then won an Oscar for best supporting actor for the 1984 movie The Killing Fields. Sadly, on February 25, 1996, Ngor was murdered by Asian gang members while leaving the carport of his Los Angeles apartment. The killing appears to have been part of a robbery, but rumor attributed it to a hit by Communist sympathizers. It is hard to believe that there would be Communist sympathizers operating in such an expatriot community, but it is obvious at American university campuses that a generation that never knew what Communism was really like back home can easily supply recruits for campus radicals from the Left.

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 6;
The Fairest of Them All,
Snow White and 21 Tales of Mothers and Daughters
by Maria Tatar, Belknap Press, Harvard University Press, 2020

Political and anaesthetic moralism are alive and well in 2020, where we have Maria Tatar, the John L. Loeb Research Professor of Germanic Languages and Literatures and of Folklore and Mythology at Harvard University, turning her attention to Snow White and related stories in movies, literature, and folklore. We don't get an academic heavy hitter any heavier than that, or a stronger commitment to political correctness and "progressive" academic narratives, the kind of thing that, as we have seen, seeks, paradoxically and defamatorily, to blame something like slavery on those who uniquely abolished it [p.26].

While there is a lot to consider in this book, much of it salutary, my interest is in how it provides pure examples of political and anaesthetic moralism. Not surprisingly, we get this when Tatar turns to a Communist like the Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) and Frankfurt School Marxists like Theodor Adorno (1903-1969). So Tatar begins with Eisenstein's reaction to the movie Snow White [1938] by Walt Disney (1901-1966):

The renowned Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who improbably actually knew Walt Disney ("we met like old acquaintances"), was one of the first to develop what could best be summarized as a love/hate relationship with Disney and his animated films. On the one hand, Eisenstein saw in the films "a joyful and beautiful art that sparkles with a refinement of form and dazzling purity." But the filmmaker was also quick to perceive a dark side to Disney's cult of beautiful forms, for much as the cinematic artworks produced in Hollywood seemed remote from politics, their very commitment to pure entertainment and their promotion of a culture of distraction raised a red [!] flag and made them deeply suspect in ideological terms. [p.31, Eisenstein was in Hollywood in 1930]

Tatar seems to write this without irony. The "dark side" of Disney films is a lack of a poltical message or program, which in itself becomes a political program, if it is meant to distract from the evils of capitalism, or patriarchy, racism, etc. This makes any such art ideologically "suspect."

We could hardly hope for a better example of the introduction of political and aestehetic moralism into the evaluation of art and entertainment. In the background here, of course, is the Marxist abolition of Civil Society and private life, whereby everything becomes a matter of politics and the right "social" message and representation. Not much "socialist realism" in Snow White. "Joyful and beautiful" are not enough. Part of the thesis, at the same time, is that all art is political even when it apparently is not. Walt Disney has an agenda, and it goes far beyond joy, beauty, and entertainment. He is sustaining the economic and social order of capitalism. Thus, the only proper form of evaluation of Snow White is a political one, where mere aesthetics, the proper point of a work of art, let alone entertainment, is dismissed as irrelevant, deceptive, or covert propaganda for sinister politics. This is paradigmatic political and anaesthetic moralism.

Next, Tatar moves on:

The American filmmaker, he declared, bestows on viewers, "through the magic of his works," a strong dose of "obliviousness, an instant of complete and total release from everything connected with the suffering caused by the social conditions of the social order of the largest capitalist government." Suddenly the impish charms of Mickey Mouse and the compelling drama of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs collapse, and we learn[!?] from the Russian filmmaker the degree to which Disney has created pure entertainment in its most sinister[!] form, a "drop of comfort" in the "hell of social burdens, injustices, and torments, in which the circle of his American viewers is forever trapped." Art has become a narcotic, an opiate for the masses as powerful as what Marx saw in religion. In the end, Eisenstein cast his lot with the revolutionary vector of communism rather than what he condemned as the narcotizing pleasures of capitalism, despite, or rather perhaps because of, the seductions of Mickey Mouse and Snow White.

Eisenstein was undoubtedly onto something big. It was precisely the power of Disney flims to entertain, distract, comfort, and soothe that made them so popular in Germany during the Nazi era. [p.32]

But we are onto something big to see what Tatar is doing here. The Disney films were, of course, popular with everyone, even Eisenstein, and to bring up Nazi Germany at this point is part of Tatar's own agenda to smear Disney and popular culture by association with Nazis. At the same time, when Snow White was released, Russia had already been experiencing Stalin's Great Terror for a couple of years, since 1936. The Terror Famine against the Ukraine, 1932-1933, was already history, with millions of dead.

Eisenstein had "cast his lot," not with revolution, which was long gone, but with dictatorship and mass murder. Thus, his complaint against Disney or Hollywood is that it was not promoting Stalinist propaganda. We might have a similar complaint, that Hollywood was concealing the realities of Soviet life; but then we properly have no expectation that this is what Walt Disney should have been doing. We might have expected the New York Times to do that, but, to its eternal shame, it had not. It had helped conceal the reality of mass death, slavery, concentration camps, and torture in the Soviet Union -- practices for which Adolf Hitler already admired Lenin.

As a stooge of Stalin, Eisenstein avoided being purged or murdered. He ultimately fell out of favor, however, by making a cycle of epic movies about Ivan the Terrible. Stalin liked the first movie, but not the second. The film stock of the third movie was actually destroyed. Eisenstein was on the shelf the rest of his life, until his death in 1948, at the age of only 50.

Many people, of course, had reasonably believed that the Great Depression discredited capitalism, even while glowing reports from Russia made it sound like Soviet Communism was marvelously successful. By 1938, everyone should have known better. Meanwhile, the Depression had been slowly healing, until President Roosevelt was re-elected in 1936 and he quickly instituted programs that pushed the country into what has properly been called the "second" Depression. In fact, unemployment had never dropped below 13%, and it then jumped up to above 20% [cf. The Forgotten Man, A New History of the Great Depression, Amy Shlaes, HarperCollins, 2007]. The result of this was that New Dealers lost control of Congress in 1938 to Republicans and conservative Democrats.

Since all the distinctive economic measures of both Herbert Hoover and Franklin Roosevelt had been socialist in nature, the truth is that the "hell of social burdens, injustices, and torments, in which the circle of his American viewers is forever trapped," was the result of abridgements of capitalism, especially market prices, with the qualification that "American viewers" certainly weren't "forever trapped" in that, while to a much greater extent Russian citizens were -- until 1989, and now again under Vladimir Putin. We do not hear from Maria Tatar about the falsehoods and distortions of this presentation. Instead, we might gather that she believes it, despite the evidence of history. This is not unusual with American academics, who generally subscribe to English Department Marxism and are ignorant as posts about the economics and history of Communism.

Following the introduction of Eisenstein, Tatar moves on to expand her reference to Nazi Germany. Hitler, Goebbels, and all the chief Nazis loved Snow White, and Tatar says:

It is hard to imagine that ideals of Aryan purity did not play into both Hitler's and Goebbel's appreciation of a flim with an innocent white-skinned heroine as the "fairest of them all. Ironically, Disney's "skin white as snow," more than Grimms' "white as snow," was an ideological bonus for Nazi leaders, who also applauded the revival of folktales from agarian "Volk" cultures. [p.33]

Tatar dwells again and again on the whiteness of the skin of Snow White. This is a "red flag" of racism that Tatar does not fail to run up the pole constantly. We already got a good dose in the Preface:

"European standards of beauty are something that plague the entire world: The idea that darker skin is not beautiful, that light skin is the key to success and love," Lupita Nyong'o once declared in an interview. [p.x]

There are two serious, tendentious distortions in this treatment. First, Tatar overlooks the fact that Snow White does not conform to Nazi "ideals of Aryan purity." Her hair is black, very black. And we know from Nietzsche that the "black haired," schwarzhaarigen, "are the last vestiges of the pre-Aryan population of Germany (die vorarische Bevölkerung Deutschlands)." Snow White was not a blonde germanische Bestie, "blond Germanic beast." The Nazis often overlooked the hair color of people they liked (like Hitler), but it was not forgotten with people they wanted to kill. Thus, while Tatar constantly dwells on "snow white skin," she follows the Nazis with their inconsitency about hair. For the same kind of reason. She wants racism to condemn, not just Nazis, but Walt Disney and America. That is her program.

But if Tatar wants to condemn subtle racism in movies, she overlooks The Virgin Spring [Jungfrukällan, 1960], by the "renowned" Swedish filmaker Ingmar Bergman. The eponymous "Virgin" of the title is a real Aryan ideal, the blond, very white and blond, Karin (Birgitta Pettersson), who is raped and murdered in the story. The contrast is with the servant Ingeri (Gunnel Lindblom), who is a schwarzhaarig worshiper of Odin and who, no virgin, is pregnant out of wedlock, dabbles in black magic, and wishes harm on Karin. After the murder and its consequences, Ingeri repents, and we suspect canonization for Karin, who was actually rather spoiled and silly. But we cannot miss the contrast of the hair color and complexion. Andrew Young, of course, the Ambassador to the United Nations for Jimmy Carter, famously said that the Swedes were as racist as anyone. Perhaps Maria Tatar should forget about Disney and America for a moment and join in.

The second distortion we see with Tatar is made explicit by the quote from the African actress Lupita Nyong'o. "Light skin" is not uniquely a matter of "European standards of beauty." A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and in her language and folklore departments Maria Tatar is unfamiliar, despite one reference to an Egyptian story, with a lot of world history.

Thus, light skin was an feminine ideal in Ancient Egypt. A long time ago, like more than 4000 years, the IV Dynasty official Rahotep and his wife Nofret are immortalized in the statues at right. He's brown. She's, what? White? Is this one of the standards of beauty that "plague the entire world"? But I don't hear about that. Indeed, what I often hear is that the Egyptians were black, which would have to mean that the Arab Conquest in 640 AD resulted in the genocide of the Egyptians, who do not now look like Nubians. I don't hear that either.

Well, we know why we don't hear about it. "White" or even brown Egyptians, let alone a genocide by Arabs, doesn't feed into the racism of America. That is all that counts in modern "progressive" politics. And Modern Egyptians don't look like Nubians because, generally, they look like Ancient Egyptians, like Rahotep and Nofret. It is not at all hard to find full color Egyptian art, showing Egyptians, or Nubians, as they are portrayed by Egyptians.

Speaking of Arabs, In the Thousand and One Nights, Princess Splendor the Jinnîyah is described thus:

Her face is white as a happy day... Her hair is black and lies upon her shoulders like night on day... her mouth is carnelian... ["The Adventures of Hasan of Basrah," The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night, rendered into English from the Literal and Complete French Translation of Dr. J.C. Mardrus, by Powys Mathers, Volume III, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1964, 1972, 1986, p.207]

Maria Tatar does not even need to leave the present to find falsifying counter-examples to her "European standards of beauty." Japanese Geishas, in traditional costume and makeup, are not just white-ish, like Nofret. Their faces are stark, China doll white. This takes makeup. A lot of it. Not an aesthetic that appeals to me, but I certainly can see the message.

Indeed, the Geisha, like the Princess Splendor, displays the red, white, and black colors that define Snow White -- red (or carnelian) lips, white skin, black hair. Tatar dwells on these colors, not just the white, at some length, with sinister implications -- they are the colors of Imperial and Nazi Germany! [pp.21-26]. How did the Japanese get that right, centuries before the Kaiser? Or Hitler? Must have been some kind of precognition, especially precognition of their role in the racism of a Disney movie, and, more substantively, that Japan would be an ally of Nazi Germany in World War II. Similarly, the Grimm brothers, publishing their folklore in 1812 and 1815, must have known the colors of the German Empire from 1871. Both brothers, born in Hesse-Cassel, had died by then -- Jakob in 1863, Wilhelm in 1859. Precognition again.

Thus, in her desire to generalize "the Beautiful Girl" stories beyond European examples, Tatar is too intent on pinning the idea of "white skin" on European, or Disney, racism. The association, not just of beauty, but of social superiority, with light skin color is widespread in world cultures, and Tatar cannot pursue her agenda without the distortion of misrepresenting this. This damages the value of her folklore study. And when we see, not just the narrative of racism, but the theoretical apparatus of Marxism and Communism, then the value framework of the whole enterprise turns negative. One wonders if the envy of the beautiful girl, the cross-cultural theme of all her folktales, reflects some of sort of jealousy or envy in Maria Tatar, not just for beauty, but for the goodness of America. On top of the problematic of anaesthetic and political moralism, we have one of the guilt and self-hatred of the "liberal" elite who turn out this kind of poisonous, illiberal scholarship.

From her detour through Nazis, Tatar returns to comfortable Marxists:

It took Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer to recognize just how tightly controlled and agenda driven Disney's "magnificent artistic achievements" really were. They believed that the films made by the Hollywood studio were as much about social engineering as what the Walt Disney Company now calls Imagineering. For the two German [Marxist] sociologists from the Frankfurt School, mass culture exists only to distract, soothe, and appease, offering "the freedom to choose what is always the same." In Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), Adorno and Horkheimer made a compelling, if reductive, case for the US film industry operating in much the same way as the entertainment arm of fascist regimes in Europe, with monopoly capitalism creating passive viewers who mindlessly consume cultural products created by hegemonic institutions. [p.33]

It probably would have surprised the 27-year-old Walt Disney, when he created Mickey Mouse in 1928, that he was part of "monopoly capitalism" and the beneficiary of "hegemonic institutions." In fact, of course, there were no "passive viewers" to his cartoons. Walt could easily have been ignored and rejected, with his company failing, as most entrepreneurial start-ups actually do. It didn't fail, just because it wasn't "always the same." Much of the delight was in its novelty.

But Frankfurt Marxists -- who are never identified as Marxists by Tatar, only as "sociologists," an evasion that may tell us something -- and tenured, elite Harvard professors, do not operate in the real world. They see no entrepreneurial start-ups, or their frequent failures, but only monopolies and hegemony (like the universities where Marxists generally work) because they can then argue that governmental, dictatorial control over business and entertainment is really no different from the situation under capitalism.

Marx, by contrast, thought that capitalism was a process by which monopolies were created and the "petite bourgeoisie" eliminated, before the few remaining monopoly capitalists could simply, and seamlessly, be replaced with revolutionary workers. People like Adorno and Tatar like to think that the monopolies are already there, despite any flourishing of small business. Tatar actually says it. Walt Disney's fragile little company in 1928 was just like the State propaganda ministry of Nazi Germany.

We see Tatar confusing the marginal business of 1928 with the later successful, institutionalized corporation that had the "Imagineering" motto. That being the case, a Stalinist bureaucrat is actually just as good as any revolutionary workers in taking over economic power. Marxists want a police state whatever the conditions and whatever the theory was that Marx had actually had. And whatever the state entertainment industry will produce, there will be no novelty or delight in its relentless propaganda message. Actually, like a lot of recent Hollywood movies -- you can always tell when the critics like them but audiences don't.

So Adorno and Horkheimer "recognized" nothing, and they did not make any "compelling... case," reductive or otherwise, for Walt Disney as a conscious agent of a fascist "entertainment arm" of "monopoly capitalism." It is nonsense; and its endorsement by Maria Tatar, however qualified, exposes her as an ideologically blinded political operative, a functionary in the program of destroying anyone who wants to be their own boss, do something new, and serve or delight the public. Instead, the kind of regime these people favor produces nothing new, delights no one, and revels in bureaucratic despotism over the citizens -- come to think of it, like the Democratic Party. Tatar cannot deny it, when her own ideology holds that everyone and everything is political. She is either for capitalism or against it. No middle ground. And everything she does contributes to one side or the other. And we know which side she is on.

But there's more:

Offering the illusion of freedom and escape, mass culture, in a series of cleverly calibrated calculations [that scheming Walt Disney!], reinforces its own power by accommodating within it resistance to its own system: "The escape from everyday drudgery which the whole culture industry promises may be compared to the daughter's [i.e. Snow White's] abduction in the cartoon: the father is holding the ladder in the dark. The paradise offered by the culture industry is the same old drudgery. Both escape and elopement are pre-designed [by that scheming Disney again!] to lead back to the starting point. Pleasure promotes the resignation which it ought to help to forget." Pleasure, in other words, has its perils, for it has designs on viewers, doubling back and perpetuating acceptance of the status quo even as it purports to offer an escape hatch from it. [pp.33-34]

This is pretty vicious stuff. The new elements here are the reference to "mass culture" and the "problematization" of pleasure. Some American teenagers forming a band in their garage and getting a hit single was to Soviet ideology illegitimate. The teenagers were part of "mass culture" and "monopology capitalism," like the Russian artists in the late 1970's who staged an unauthorized art exhibit and had their works buried by police bulldozers. This exposed that the "Helsinki Accords" negotiated by Jimmy Carter were meaningless.

Meanwhile, no one in the West was interested in whatever legitimate Soviet culture ("folk," or was it "Volk," culture?) was supposed to be producing. Soviet life was the real "drudgery," with no exit. Russians couldn't just head for California, like Depression era Okies. People who wanted to leave the socialist paradise were ungrateful, or proper psychiatric patients. Enjoy that shock therapy, like the drugs of THX 1138.

With the references to pleasure, we get to see anaesthesia passing over into anhedonia. If you are enjoying Mickey Mouse, you are particpating in your own oppression. Therefore, you better not enjoy it. You need to get out and overthrow capitalism. Or perhaps at least read Harvard Marxists or Noam Chomsky. That'll learn ya.

The folly of Frankfurt Marxists writing in 1944 can be somewhat excused by the delusions of the time. Maria Tatar does not have that excuse. She has to know about the Terror Famine, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, and the Killing Fields of Cambodia, where people were murdered for showing human affection. And at some level Tatar may understand how bad this stuff is. Thus, after the passage just quoted, she says, "The demonization of Disney as a tranquilizing agent feels in many ways exaggerated..." [p.34].

No, the problem is not exaggeration. The problem is that it is evil. And Professor Tatar, living her comfortable life in Massachusetts, has made herself part of the evil, at great expense to the rest of us, politically, economically, and morally. Professor Tatar teaches her anti-Americanism to students who then vote for Bernie Sanders, whose staffers have anticipdated "re-education" camps (just like the GULAG!) for uncooperative Americans. Unfortunately for Bernie, he decided to voice publicly some of his customary apologetic for Fidel Castro.

Anti-American Americans



Political Economy

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The Fallacy of Moralism, Note 7

MacKinnon's presence in the media seemed to suddenly disappear a few years ago, and it is only now I realize that it may have been because of her support of the Paula Jones lawsuit. MacKinnon said, "When Paula Jones sued Bill Clinton, male dominance quaked." This would not have endeared her to other feminists who, after a slight hesitation, voided (temporarily) all their long stated principles in order to protect a political ally. Indeed, at the time, I did not even hear of MacKinnon's opinion. Also, while orthodox feminists had no particular love for pornography, the open alliance of MacKinnon and Dworkin with religious conservatives (the detested "Religious Right") on the issue made many, at the least, uncomfortable. Dworkin herself gained more attention from her premature death (aged 58) in 2005 than either of them had garnered in a while.

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The Fallacy of Moral Aestheticism

The fallacy of moral aestheticism (adj. "aesthetic" or "aesthetistic") results from the generalization of ideal ethics into all of ethics. The paradigm of aesthetic judgment dominates ethics. Truth = Beauty. All ethical goods and imperatives are relativized into aesthetic preferences, with an emphasis on human "creativity" instead of on a concern for what is right -- e.g. Richard Rorty:  see Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature, where Rorty argues that it is more morally responsible to make up one's own morality than to worry about whether what one does is objectively right or wrong. Moral preferences cannot be "imposed" on others, and so the force of moral obligation is lost. A deontological ethical theory becomes impossible where there can be no ethical principles with any force. Only consequences count, and none of them absolutely.

ETHICS=ARTAesthetics, the beautiful and the ugly: theory of art & beauty, the value of all things, the worth of nature, the relation of value and being, things good-in-themselves.
MORALITY=ART[Ideal or Euergetic Ethics, the good and the bad] creativity in human life, happiness, fulfillment, self-realization and individuation, ideals created and chosen by individuals or cultures.
[Morality, right and wrong] moral goodness created and courageously chosen by individuals, according to their personal ideals; no one should be limited by moral standards "imposed" by others -- that is the "bad faith" of not being true to one's self.
Optatives -- wishes

Graphic Version of Table.

Although Camille Paglia defends aestheticism, she does not defend moral aestheticism and is aware of the difference. In aestheticism proper art is merely independent of morality. In moral aestheticism it replaces morality. It is true, however, that, just as moral rigorism tends to moralism, aestheticism tends to moral aestheticism. Thus, Paglia says:

Mademoiselle de Maupin demonstrates how the aesthete's infatuation with the visible is at the expense of the invisible or ethical. The aesthete is an immoralist....He [D'Albert, a character in the novel] says, "It is a real torture to me to see ugly things or ugly persons."....Here are the origins of Wilde's aesthetic, with its arrogant exclusiveness. The old or ugly are valueless to the poet of the visible world. D'Albert makes the high Greek claim, "What is physically beautiful is good, all that is ugly is evil." The Apollonian is always cruel. Only Dionysius gives empathy. Aestheticism invests in art objects the affect withdrawn from persons [Ibid. p. 410.]

Paglia's frequent moral judgments in Sexual Personae can be confusing unless it is kept in mind that morality and aestheticism do not exclude one other -- only morality and moral aestheticism do that. In practice, morality or its discourse may be rejected by moral aestheticism to different degrees. For that, see:

Varieties of Moral Aestheticism

Aestheticism and Moral Aestheticism in Nietzsche's The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music


Value Theory

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The Fallacy of Moralistic Relativism

Sharp fluctuations of moral absolutism and moral relativism are also among the attitudes of intellectuals revealed in this study. The moral absolutism is reserved for the stern judgments of their own society, while a pragmatic moral relativism appears when they give the benefit of the doubt to certain dictators and their political systems as long as they find them fundamentally praiseworthy and well intentioned. It follows that the centrality and consistent use of the critical faculties of intellectuals has often been overestimated.

Paul Hollander, From Benito Mussolini to Hugo Chavez, Intellectuals and a Century of Political Hero Worship, Cambridge University Press, 2016, p.14.

But the philosophy that killed off truth proclaims unlimited tolerance for the 'language games' (i.e., opinions, beliefs and doctrines) that people find useful. The outcome is expressed in the words of Karl Kraus:  'Alles ist wahr und auch das Gegenteil.' 'Everything is true, and also its opposite.'

Leszek Kołakowski (1927-2009), "Our Merry Apocalypse," 1997, Is God Happy? Selected Essays, Basic Books, 2013, p.318.

The inescapable conclusion is that subjectivity, relativity and irrationalism are advocated [by Richard Rorty] not in order to let in all opinions, but precisely so as to exclude the opinions of people who believe in old authorities and objective truths. This is the short cut to [Antonio] Gramsci's new cultural hegemony:  not to vindicate the new culture against the old, but to show that there are no grounds for either, so that nothing remains save political commitment.

Thus, almost all those who espouse the relativistic 'methods' introduced into the humanities by Foucault, Derrida and Rorty are vehement adherents to a code of political correctness that condemns deviation in absolute and intransigent terms. The relativistic theory exists in order to support an absolutist doctrine. We should not be surprised therefore at the extreme disarray that entered the camp of deconstruction, when it was discovered that one of the leading ecclesiastics, Paul de Man, once had Nazi sympathies. It is manifestly absurd to suggest that a similar disarray would have attended the discovery that Paul de Man had once been a communist -- even if he taken part in some of the great communist crimes. In such a case he would haved enjoyed the same compassionate endorsement as was afforded to [György] Lukács, [Maurice] Merleau-Ponty and Sartre.

Roger Scruton, Fools, Frauds and Firebrands, Thinkers of the New Left, Bloomsbury, 2015, pp.236-237; boldface added; the insight of Scruton in this passage contrasts with the confusion and folly of his regard for Wittgenstein, whom he does not seem to understand provides the same kind of foundation of nihilism, relativism, and irrationalism provided by Foucault, Derrida, Rorty, etc.

At some point in the 1980s, not being "judgmental" became the highest form of virtue -- although the left is plenty judgmental about things they don't like, such as white males, smokers, Christianity, Wal-Mart, Fox News, talk radio and NASCAR.

Liberals are so determined not to stigmatize anybody that their solution is always to make all of society suffer instead...

Ann Coulter, "Mental health laws are trouble for Democrats," December 18, 2013

The form of moralistic relativism would be evident in an assertion like this:  "Because all values are relative, you have no right to impose your value judgments on others; but if you are not a progressive in politics, you are a fascist and so cannot be allowed to express your vicious and hateful opinions in public, or even private, discourse." These attitudes are rarely stated in such stark juxtaposition; but finding them actually held by the same persons, and voiced in separate contexts, is not difficult.

Ἐγκλινοβάραγγος (Enklinobarangus)

It is not unusual to find theories, and people, insensibly shifting back and forth between moralism and moral aestheticism. Since there actually are separate domains of value, it is difficult to deal with life from absolutely consistent moralistic or morally aesthetic viewpoints. Today this is most conspicuous in doctrines, which are often political ideologies, that present themselves in relativistic and morally aesthetic ways (i.e. "multiculturalism," with all its talk about "diversity," which may be based on ideas of cultural relativism, etc.), but then begin to dictate extremely moralistic, dogmatic, and even totalitarian political principles for behavior (the "political correctness" that follows from politicized "multiculturalism"). The heteronomous relativism of recently popular historicism -- which condemns societies that absolished slavery, e.g. the United States, but excuses it in societies that did not, e.g. in ʾIslâm -- easily leads to this. It is the fundamental paradox of trying to use the descriptive principles of relativism as absolute moral injunctions.

This phenomenon is noted, though not in the same terms, by Paul Hollander in The Survival of the Adversary Culture:

Paul Craig Roberts characterizes the resulting attitudes [of Western and American intellectuals] as a "fusion of moral scepticism with the demand for moral perfection..." He also points out that the high, moralistic demands on the part of intellectuals are almost invariably directed at their own society, rarely at those opposed to it.... In other words, the intellectuals discussed alternate between moral absolutism and moral relativism. [The Survival of the Adversary Culture, Transaction Publishers, 1991, p. 156]

It is even simpler than this. Moral aestheticism, relativism, and scepticism are used to defend what is favored by a political writer. The argument is then that whatever is favored is allowed because nothing can be morally disallowed. On the other hand, moralism, absolutism, and dogmatism are used to attack what is not favored by a political writer. This is done less often by way of argument that by deploying a battery of emotionally charged epithets -- racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, etc. -- whose status as moral evils is regarded as self-evident and whose application to specific cases is regarded as appropriate and decisive if it is merely conceivable and considered useful in a favored cause.

The irony and irrationality of these contradictory strategies is further explored by Hollander:

Another way to highlight these contrasts is to note that American intellectuals, even the most severe social critics among them, harbor high expectations about their society, and it is the frustration of these expectations which often turns into bitterness and rejection. I had argued elsewhere, that the broad historical background against which such expectations are played out is that of secularization. As Roberts put it "...the secularization of Christian moral fervor...produced demands for the moral perfection of society..."

In the final analysis alienation is, among other things a response to the frustration created by the lack of meaning in modern society. It has been pointed out often enough that politics takes on religious overtones when religion proper withers, at any rate among intellectuals. Along these lines Doris Lessing observed:

There are certain types of people who are political out of a kind of religious reason...I think it's fairly common among socialists: They are in fact God-seekers, looking for the kingdom of God on earth...trying to abolish the present in favor of some better future -- always taking it for granted that there is a better future. If you don't believe in heaven you believe in socialism.

There is a close and obvious connection between the embrace of Marxist socialism and the social critical impulse. Marxism is a philosophy of intense moral indignation -- a worldview that helps to organize and systematize moral passion and which provides a seemingly scientific foundation for protesting social injustice. Marxism performs additional religious functions by pointing towards a better future which will arrive as a combined result of both the inexorable forces of history and the freely chosen effort of individuals who achieved the proper understanding of social forces. Leszek Kołakowski concluded his monumental study of Marxism as follows:

The influence Marxism has achieved, far from being the result or proof of its scientific character, is almost entirely due to its prophetic, fantastic and irrational elements...Almost all the prophecies of Marx and his followers have already proved to be false, but this does not disturb the spiritual certainty of the faithful...for it is a certainty not based on any empirical premises or supposed 'historical laws', but simply on the psychological need for certainty. In this sense Marxism performs the function of religion....
[Ibid., p. 157-8]

The combination of moralism and moral aestheticism thus results from a secular rejection of traditional religion and its morality (the morally aesthetic aspect) together with an unconscious and unreflective revival and adaptation of the religious impulse, in its most dogmatic and irrational forms (the moralistic aspect), to political purposes. The result is an oxymoronic "secular religion" which duplicates and magnifies all the evils identified in secular critiques of religion itself. The Spanish Inquisition, usually regarded as the most monstrous example ever of religious fanaticism and tyranny, thus pales besides the tortures, brain washing, purges, murders, slave labor, concentration camps, massacres, and genocides perpetrated by Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Ho, Pol Pot, and all the other secularized and politicized Saints and Saviors of the Twentieth Century. Their own ambitions to perfect human nature and alter history justified to them the use of means that even the Inquisition, certain of the imperfections of Fallen human nature, never would have considered. The irony of Marxism being a "philosophy of intense moral indignation" is that Marx himself didn't believe it was about morality at all: The unconscious moralism is concealed behind the pseudo-scientific obscurantism of "dialectical" reasoning. A fierce, murderous moralism than cannot even call itself morality is both symbol and substance of the combination of moralism and moral aestheticism.

The Double Standard Over Slavery

A good recent example of selective moral indignation, and of a double standard in which the United States is damned for lack of moral perfection while others are excused when not even aspiring to it, is the issue of slavery. These days, the names of George Washington and other Founding Fathers are being taken off of schools just because they were slave owners. In 2019, a Democratic candidate for President has said that the names of people like Thomas Jefferson and Andrew Jackson, the founders of the Democratic Party, celebrated at a Democrat banquet (on "Jefferson-Jackson Day") every year, should be removed everywhere. This is apparently the next step after removing monuments to the Confederacy.

In the way American history is now taught, the United States is viewed as eternally guilty, stained, false, and hypocritical for having ever allowed slavery in the first place. Britain is often similarly condemned for having participated in the Atlantic slave trade, which of course brought slaves to North America, the Caribbean, and much of South America also. The weight of guilt and obligation on the United States is so heavy that there is now a movement for the government to pay reparations to the descendants of slaves, in compensation for the lost value of their labor during the centuries of slavery. In some quarters, like many University campuses, the case for reparations is taken as so self-evident that opposing arguments are dismissed and even suppressed as blatant racism.

What is curious about these arguments is the implication that the United States is somehow uniquely responsible and blameworthy when it comes to slavery, as though slavery was invented here or uniquely practiced here, or that nothing was ever done about it. Instead, slavery has been a universal human practice, what in Roman law was called the ius gentium, the "law of nations." Slavery was eventually abolished precisely because people like Thomas Jefferson argued against it, on the basis of the ideals of the American Revolution, which were new in history [note].

The African slave trade existed in the first place because, (1) slavery existed -- and still exists -- in Africa (Saudi Arabia only abolished slavery in 1963, and Mauritania in 2007), and (2) a slave trade had existed for centuries across the Sahara Desert to North Africa and the Middle East -- begun no later than by the Ancient Egyptians, and carried out in great volume in the Middle Ages by the Arabs -- a trade whose practices were protested by the Kings of Mali to the Amirs of Morocco because slavers were seizing any black people, when they were only supposed to seize non-Muslims. Mali itself was Muslim. Black slaves were supposed to come from further south, in the pagan areas along the African coast -- where they were freely sold north by the local rulers [note].

An Arab slave trade still exists, especially in well documented examples in the Sudan, where non-Moslem blacks in the rebellious (now independent) south of the country are seized and sold as slaves in the Arab north. Slavery has been explicitly revived by Boko Haram ("education is forbidden") in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria and Iraq -- now probably by the Ṭâlibân in Afghanistan.

Yet in all of this, there are no demands for reparations from Africans, where tribal organizations still exist that sold slaves to Europeans in the days of the Atlantic trade, or from Arabs, who still tolerate the surviving modern continuation of the practice. Indeed, the enslavement of black people in the Sudan is almost never protested, or even noticed, by black "leaders" in the United States -- it is really a cause célèbre only among Christians, since many of the enslaved Sudanese are Christians -- whose world-wide persecution is ignored by the "main-stream press" in the United States.

Perhaps as no more than a footnote, there is the curious case of Harry St John "Jack" Philby (1885–1960), father of the Cambridge spy Harold "Kim" Philby (1912-1988). After being fired as a British diplomat, the elder Philby became a retainer of ʿAbd-al-ʿAzîz As-Saʿûd (1875-1953), the first King of Saudi Arabia (1926-1952). Philby was on such intimate terms with the King that in 1945 he was gifted with a 16-year-old slave girl, Rozy al-ʿAbdul ʿAzîz, with whom he had three children. Philby would have been sixty. I don't see any information on what became of Rozy, not even a date of death.

There is now, as noted, an actual revival of slavery in Africa and the Middle East, where Boko Haram in Nigeria and ISIS in Syria and Iraq have been enslaving captives, including women raped and sold into sex slavery or forced marriages. This is all consistent with Islamic Law, as they remind us, even as their virtual apologists, like President Obama, and open apologists, for Islamism and the Jihad, disingenuously deny their Islamic bona fides (while accusing critics of "Islamophobia," which, if it means "fear" of ʾIslâm, is fully justified).

Even the notion that the United States is more culpable because Americans should have known better, or done something about it, is hollow. The ideals of the American Revolution, which is dismissed as hypocrisy because of the continuation of slavery, immediately had an effect in the swift abolition of slavery in seven out of the original thirteen Colonies. The Constitution anticipated the abolition of the slave trade as early as 1808, which is when it was done, in conjunction with Britain. The British subsequently employed the Royal Navy to suppress all of the slave trade, over the protests of the Africans who were selling the slaves and the Arabs who continued to trade in them. Britain abolished slavery in all its possessions in 1833 -- slavery had already been abolished in Britain itself by way of case law, i.e. legal judgments that innocent persons could not be held in bondage in Great Britain.

In the United States, the most honest description of the slavery controversy in subsequent years would be "constant uproar." This only got worse, until the Southern States seceded in 1861 rather than have even a compromising Abolitionist President. A great Civil War, in which at least 600,000 Americans died (by comparision, only about 400,000 slaves had ever been imported into the country -- as opposed to 2,000,000 into Brazil), enabled Lincoln to finally abolish slavery.

Why all this would bring the United States, or Britain, in for special condemnation or culpability over slavery is completely incomprehensible, and perverse. If slavery is wrong, with the 20/20 hindsight of the morally self-congratulatory, then the nations that abolished it, and suppressed it even in other countries, should get the credit for these deeds -- not a relentness excoriation and damnation for ever having had anything to do with it. And the double standard involved is palpable. While many Americans of African descent now see ʾIslâm as friendlier to them than Christianity, or America, they don't seem to notice that slavery was always perfectly acceptable under Islâmic Law [note]. Indeed, one of the points of harshest condemnation of American slavery is the way that many slave owners raped women slaves and fathered unacknowledged children on them. Considerable efforts have been made to hang this charge on Thomas Jefferson. Yet, under Islâmic Law, slave owners have conjugal rights with female slaves.
Be it known to you, that the Traffic in Slaves is a matter on which all Sects and Nations have agreed from the time of the sons of Adam, on whom be the Peace of God, up to this day -- and we are not aware of its being prohibited by the Laws of any Sect, and no one need ask this question [i.e. whether the trade in slaves be lawful], the same being manifest to both high and low and requires no more demonstration than the light of day.

ʿAbd ar-Raḥmân ibn Hishâm, Sultân of Morocco (1822-1859), to British Vice Consul Henry John Murray, 1842

By the same token, among the greatest horror stories of the era of slavery was the castration of black men who were suspecting of raping, or even looking wrong, at white women. Nevertheless, it was the frequent practice of Arab slavers to castrate slaves, black and white, producing the eunuchs valued for various purposes in the Islâmic world, including roles as custodians for the sacred sites in Mecca and Medina (cf. Race and Slavery in the Middle East, an Historical Enquiry, Bernard Lewis, Oxford University Press, 1990, & Eunuchs and Sacred Boundaries in Islamic Society, Shaun Marmon, Oxford University Press, 1995). What's more, while white eunuchs might only have had their testicles removed, black eunuchs might have their penises amputated as well -- as noted more than once in The One Thousand and One Nights, a eunuch with a penis could still have sex with his female wards in the harem. Castration was controversial in ʾIslâm, and Muslims were supposed to be prohibited from practicing it (Egyptian Christians, the Copts, were often employed for the African trade), but this did not prevent reliance on it, whether the surgery was done by Muslims or not.

The perversity and hypocrisy of the double standard over slavery is blatant. George Washington is condemned for having owned slaves, despite freeing them in his will, but the Prophet Muḥammad is revered, even though he owned slaves also, and slavery became a vast institution in ʾIslâm. Britain, which ended the slave trade, is damned for ever having been in it, while the modern Sudan, ruled by Moslem dictators, is given a pass and escapes controversy (except among Christians) for the rape and enslavement of blacks going on at the present moment. The practices of Boko Haram and ISIS are condemned, but in a ritual and largely ineffective fashion. President Obama will not favor Christian refugees from Iraq and Syria, despite their being the target of virtual genocide, as well as sex slavery, because he will not impose a "religious test" on refugees. Well, the U.S. didn't do that for German Jews in the 1930's, so why now either? No, he wants to allow a poorly vetted mass of refugees from Syria, who certainly contain ISIS infiltrators. One begins to wonder what he is really aiming at.

A nice example of another double standard for Muslims has recently occurred at the New York Times. In February, 2016, the Times rhapsodically editorialized that the public swimming pool in Regent Park, Toronto, Canada, had created "women-only" times to accommodate local Muslim women in the neighborhood. This represented "inclusion." On June 1, 2016, however, the Times discovered, to its horror, that a public swimming pool in Brooklyn had long reserved "women-only" times to accommodate local Orthodox Jewish women. This practice was a kind of discrimination "unmoored from the laws of New York and the Constitution" and violated "commonly held principles of fairness and equal access," so that a public resource is subjected "to the religious convictions of one neighborhood group," those pesky Jews -- problems that apparently did not apply to the pool in Toronto and the "religious convictions" of Muslim women. With Jews, but not with Muslims, we get the "strong odor of religious intrusion into a secular space." Perhaps the Times means to say that Jews smell and Muslims do not. Otherwise, what's this "odor" business? As it happened, New York's "Human Rights Commission" first got the Parks Department to end the women-only periods, but then public protest and political intervention reversed the decision. Orthodox Jewish women in Brooklyn will continue to have the same accommodation as Canadian Muslim women. The editorial board at the New York Times apparently consists of people who are insensible of their own incoherence and hypocrisy. But this is certainly not the only issue where that happens.

The only way the double standard between Christians and Muslims or Jews and Muslims makes any sense is as examples of moralistic relativism. The United States is held to a moral standard so rigorous (and moralistic) that it is blamed for practices, like slavery, that existed prior to its inception and is condemned for not having instantly abolished the institution, despite the novelty of the very idea that slavery was wrong, and the dispute of the point in theory and practice by slave owners who had centuries of practice and legal, religious, and philosophical arguments on their side. At the same time, the continued existence and morally unproblematic nature of slavery in the places of its origin is completely overlooked and dismissed -- for which the only theoretical grounds would be cultural relativism (or a moral aestheticism in which varieties of cultural practices aesthetically overrule mere moral objections). Much as Thomas Sowell has said, this incoherence is found in people who don't understand the virtues and advantages of their own land, but idealize some foreign hell hole as Utopia. They are willing to excuse crimes of the present elsewhere just to feed their own sense of indignation and wrong at something which historically is admirable and exemplary. But such is the vicious perversity of the modern Left.

We see a similar problem with the modesty of Muslim and Jewish women. This requires special provisions for Muslims, which in turn are condemned when provided for Jews. But that is only the beginning. What ʾIslâm requires is ignored in many other public debates. Where Christians are threatened and fined for not providing services for homosexual weddings, the public debate rarely considers that observant Muslims will have no truck with this either -- even as homosexuality is punished with death in Iran, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. The 2016 Diktat of the Obama Administration, which believes in ruling by Decree, that all the schools in the country must allow everyone to use the bathroom or locker room in line with their own "gender identity," expressing nothing but contempt for Christians, Jews, and others who do not want male genitals in girls' facilities, apparently have not paused to consider that Muslim women, and men, are not likely to tolerate this either. Certainly, once there is an incident involving Muslims, the bien pensants will scatter like rabbits.

It has previously been noted as a characteristic of judicial moralism that ordinary moral wrongs can become demoralized in relation to "correct" political or religious beliefs. This move is easily conformable to a relativistic moralism, where mere personal crimes can be excused in various ways, but political crimes are inexcusable. Thus, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn observed that political prisoners under the Tsars had privileges -- they were not ordinary criminals. But under the Communists, the situation was reversed, and ordinary criminals were given privileges over the politicals. They were not, after all, heretics.

A nice example of political orthodoxy overwhelming simple moral considerations, and common sense, is from Life at the Bottom, The Worldview That Makes the Underclass by Theodore Dalrymple [Ivan R. Dee Publisher, Chicago, 2001]. Dalrymple, a British psychiatrist, was interviewing a 17-year-old woman admitted to his hospital for alcohol poisoning. She nearly drank herself to death after her boyfriend had been sent to prison.

My patient was intelligent but badly educated, as only products of the British educational system can be after eleven years of compulsory school attendance. She thought the Second World War took place in the 1970s and could give me not a single correct historical date.

I asked her whether she thought a young and violent burglar would have proved much of a companion. She admitted that he wouldn't, but said that he was the type she liked; besides which -- in slight contradiction -- all boys were the same.

I warned her as graphically as I could that she was already well down the slippery slope leading to poverty and misery -- that, as I knew from the experience of untold patients, she would soon have a succession of possessive, exploitative, and violent boyfriends unless she changed her life. I told her that in the past few days I had seen two women patients who had had their heads rammed down the lavatory, one who had had her head smashed through a window and her throat cut on the shards of glass, one who had had her arm, jaw, and skull broken, and one who had been suspended by her ankles from a tenth-floor window to the tune of, "Die, you bitch!"

"I can look after myself," said my seventeen-year-old.

"But men are stronger than women," I said. "When it comes to violence, they are at an advantage."

"That's a sexist thing to say," she replied.

A girl who had absorbed nothing at school had nevertheless absorbed the shibboleths of political correctness in general and of feminism in particular.

"But it's a plain, straightforward, and inescapable fact," I said.

"It's sexist," she reiterated firmly.

And so our young girl, who must think that World War II and Disco occurred in the same era, would rather be killed by a violent boyfriend than believe that men are stronger than women. This must be a mortifying result even for feminists, who certainly have their moralistic political orthodoxies, but for whom violence against women is itself one of the supreme political crimes. Dr. Dalrymple observes that mere violence, against women or otherwise, tends to be excused among his underclass patients, by themselves and by the intelligentsia, both on the principle of "who are we to judge?" and on the reasoning that lower class crime is the result of social injustice, in which the true criminals are corporations, capitalists, financiers, etc. This is an extreme demoralization of all ordinary moral judgment, against which the lone moral certainty is something like, "It's sexist" -- a slogan that trumps the politically incorrect assertion of a factual and prudential truth about the respective physical strengths of the sexes. The foolish invocation of a political certainty in the face of indubitable moral and prudential truths is the perfect stuff of moralistic relativism.

Moralistic relativism can even be used by feminists to excuse the horrific treatment of women in many Islamic countries (e.g. genital mutilation, beatings, murders), while applying their standard condemnations to the West. Thus Jamie Glazov notes:

The double standard in the Left's cultural relativism is transparent, since such relativism always dissipates when it come time to scrutinize Western society. When the issue is enforced veiling and "honor" killings, for example, leftist feminists maintain that no one can say what is right and wrong. But if the issue is how women's bodies are "objectified" in Western advertising, cultural relativism immediately goes out the window. Such advertising is depicted as an immoral, loathsome emblem of the capitalist, patriarchal, heterosexist, homophobic power structure's attempt to marginalize women to spheres of powerlessness. [United in Hate, The Left's Romance With Tyranny and Terror, WND Books, 2009, p.206]

The complaint about advertising derives from the anaesthetic political moralism of much of feminism, which is actually a point of agreement with radical ʾIslâm, which is also fiercely anaesthetic and anhedonic. Glazov observes elsewhere in his book that Leftist politics in general is hostile to pleasure, art, and beauty (too individualistic and apolitical) -- just like radical ʾIslâm again. These commonalities apparently override the problem that radical ʾIslâm is profoundly reactionary, Mediaevalist, and totalitarian. Few feminists would enjoy a burqa, but they might actually approve of the way the Tâlibân would pull out the fingernails of women they found who were wearing fingernail polish. We know, after all, how oppressive fingernail polish is; and women would only wear it when they are suffering from "false consciousness" (internalizing the values of the Patriarchy) and are willing to cooperate in their own oppression. It's better if we don't let them do that.

Both of the great totalitarian tyrannies of the 20th century can be analyzed as forms of moralistic relativism. Both Communism and Nazism (which shook off any of the consevative restraints in Italian or Spanish Fascism) explicitly rejected any traditional moral limitations on the behavior of the State. Violence and murder to any extent were seen as justified. For Communism, traditional moral scruples were relics of "bourgeois sentimentality." Nazism would agree with that but also could explicitly invoke Nietzsche's "beyond good and evil" transvaluation of Judeo-Christian moral values. This made the relativism explicit, with Marxist historicism serving for Communism, and Nietzschean nihilism serving for Nazism. The moralism, on the other hand, was an intense political moralism, in which all personal actions are expected to serve the national political purpose. The purpose of life is not private pleasure, private achievement, or private profit, but serving the ends of the Party. Those rejecting these ends are enemies deserving of death, whether they be the race enemies of Nazism, or the class enemies of Communism. This mixture doesn't quite work for the recent phenomenon of Islâmic Fascism, however strongly influnced by both Nazism and Communism, since there is no hint of the relativistic side there.

In their moral relativism, Nazism and Communism both tried to rely on the presumed authority of science. Marxism called itself "scientific socialism." Usually, people like to think that Nazism was a system of crude prejudices unrelated to science. However, the idea of "science" in Marxism was not based on any identifible method in science itself, but on the pseudo-scientific speculative fantasies of Hegelian dialectics. Nazi racism, on the other hand, was explicitly based on the contemporary general understanding of Darwinian evolution by natural selection -- survival of the fittest. Far beyond Nazism, this was to be associated with the movement of eugenics, selective breeding of the "best," and various manifestations of racial hostility. A dirty secret of "progressive" politics was its early racism. Labor leader Samuel Gompers and communist author Jack London both fully supported legislation keeping Chinese immigrants and workers out of the United States. An early slogan of the Communist Party in South Africa was "White workers of the world unite!" The essentials of Hitler's racism, indeed, can actually be found in Marx and Engels. The latter wrote:

The universal war which [is coming] will crush the Slav alliance and will wipe out completely those obstinate peoples so that their very names will be forgotten.... [It] will wipe out not only reactionary classes and dynasties but it will also destroy these utterly reactionary races...and that will be a real step forward. [from the Neue Rheinische Zeitung]

Marx also spoke in terms of eliminating "reactionary races" like "Croats, Pandurs, Czechs and similar scum." Toss this together with Marx's anti-Semitism -- "We discern in Judaism...a universal antisocial element of the present time" -- and Hitler's crude prejudices have bona fide Marxist roots. We also see the combination of racism and anti-Semitism in comments Marx made in a letter to Engels, dated 30 July 1862, about the German social democrat and labor organizer, Ferdinand Lassalle, a Jew:

It is now perfectly clear to me that, as the shape of his head and the growth of his hair indicates, he is descended from the Negroes who joined in Moses' flight from Egypt (unless his mother or grandmother on the father's side was crossed with a nigger). This union of Jew and German on a Negro base was bound to produce an extraordinary hybrid.

A "hybrid" that Marx otherwise characterized as the "Jewish Nigger" or "a greasy Jew disguised under brillantine and cheap jewels." Marxists, of course, rarely quote passages like this. Anyone using the "N" word today would immediately be marked as of nearly sub-human moral status. Marx's kind of racism, however, he shared with people like Nietzsche (in whom it is also rarely noted by the bien pensants) and many other heroic figures of the left. Margaret Sanger, now a saint of feminism for advocacy of birth control, nevertheless advocated birth control as part of a program of eugenics! The "unfit" should be encouraged (or forced) not to reproduce. It was the Nazi use of these ideas that helped to discredit them.

Meanwhile, Communists lost interest cultivating the prejudices of Western industrial workers and turned to Third World movements of "national liberation," involving all the pre-industrial peasants who had hitherto been ignored by Marxism but who had been drawn into Marxist theory by Lenin's theory of imperialism and Mao's practical appeal to peasant support. The "scientific" nature of any of these was just a way, of course, to mask the application of unlimited and ruthless political Terror.

Logical Relationships of Moralism and Moral Aestheticism

Exchange with Ted Keller on Relativism and Marxism


Value Theory

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Moralistic Relativism, Note 1

One purpose of slavery in the Ancient World was to discharge debts. There used to be no such thing as bankruptcy -- or even debtors' prison (which is the intermediate institution). Someone overwhelmed by debt would sell themselves into slavery. In less severe circumstances, people might only have to sell their children -- East (i.e. China) and West, the supply of prostitutes was usually made up by girls sold into it by their parents. The existence of this is indirectly shown in the Bible, where Leviticus 19:29 says, "Do not profane your daughter by making her a harlot, lest the land fall into harlotry and the land become full of wickedness."

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Moralistic Relativism, Note 2;
The Word for Slave

...wir vermeinen, daß Härte, Gewaltsamkeit, Sklaverie, Gefahr auf der Gasse und im Herzen, Verborgenheit, Stoicismus, Versucherkunst und Teufelei jeder Art, daß alles Böse, Furchtbare, Tyrannische, Raubtheir- und Schlangenhafte am Menschen so gut zur Erhöhung der Species »Mensch« dient, als sein Gegensatz...

We imagine that hardness, violence, slavery, peril in the street and in the heart, concealment, Stoicism, temptation, and deviltry of every sort, everything evil, frightful, tyrannical, brutal, and snake-like in man, serves as well for the advancement of the species "man" as their opposite.

Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.50; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.51 [daß restored for dass], color added.

The enslavement of Africans was little known in Mediaeval Europe. Instead, slavery tended to be associated with Slavs, like Poles and Russians, who were captured by Steppe people, from the Huns down to the Mongols, and by the Lithuanians, and sold ahead of them into Europe. Thus, we tend to see the words for "Slav" used to mean "slave" in many European languages, obviously including English. At root, we see the word in Greek, as Σκλαβηνός, and Latin, as Sclavus/Sclavenus, with many other variations in both.

How far ahead into Europe from the Steppe slaves were sold we can see from the word in Arabic used in Spain, as , Ṣaqlab (singular), and , Ṣaqâliba (the "broken" or irregular plural). This term was used in particular for the slave army used by Spanish Muslim rulers, a tradition more familiar with the Mamlûks in Egypt or the Janissaries in the Ottoman Empire. The particular use of this word in Spain was to distinguish these white slaves from black slaves who might be brought in from Africa, but who were not used in a slave army. I failed to recognize this word for a long time because of the presence of the Arabic "q," which corresponds to no letter in the English word; but obviously English has lost the "k" that occurs in Greek, Latin, and other languages, even French -- which has esclave.

Another language that keeps the "k" is German, where we have Sklave (plural Sklaven) for "slave" and Sklaverei or Sklaventum for "slavery." The term is notably used by Friedrich Nietzsche; and this is particularly apt for our purposes because, at a time when the evil of slavery is regarded as so self-evident that no one in history can ever be forgiven for ever having held slaves, Nietzsche, a darling of leftist intellectuals and academic "Theorists," not only sees nothing wrong with it, but positively asserts slavery's importance and value.

In the epigraph above we already see slavery mentioned among examples of "deviltry of every sort," with the comment that this group "serves as well for the advancement of the species 'man' as their opposite." The casual reader might miss the meaning of that in passing. But we get a more explicit statement, parenthetically in the context of "the aspects of slavery [Sklavenhaften] and bondage that have adhered and still adhere to woman's position in society": though slavery were a counterargument instead of a necessary condition for any superior culture, for any heightening of culture...

...als ob Sklaverei ein Gegenargument und nicht vielmehr eine Bedingung jeder höheren Cultur, jeder Erhöhung der Cultur sei...

[Beyond Good and Evil, translated by Marianne Cowan, Henry Regnery Company, 1955, p.168, translation modified; Jenseits von Gut und Böse, Philipp Reclam, Stuttgart, 1988, p.155]

Thus, the disabilities of "woman's position in society" are virtues, not evils. And the same for slavery. Thus is the Left hoist on the petard of its own heroes and role models. The racism and anti-Semitism of Marx and Nietzsche are ignored, obscured, or excused, while Nietzsche's misogyny gets the same treatment. Nietzsche's endorsement of slavery, however, which should not surprise anyone honestly familiar with his thought, is something at the level of radioactivity, given the fierce self-righteousness and virulent fanaticism of the American Left about the history of slavery in America -- not that it was abolished, but that it ever existed -- and as though it had not existed anywhere else. The apparent ignorance and complacency of the modern student (and professor) about this testifies to the corruption, failure, and tendentiousness of modern "education."

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Moralistic Relativism, Note 3

One of the strongest arguments of the Abolitionists was that it was religiously unlawful for Christians to hold other Christians as slaves. This goes back to Leviticus 25:39-43:

"And if your brother becomes poor beside you, and sells himself to you, you shall not make him serve as a slave; he shall be with you as a hired servant and as a soujourner. He shall serve with you until the year of the jubilee; then he shall go out from you, he and his children with him, and go back to his own family, and return to the possessions of his fathers. For they are my servants, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt; they shall not be sold as slaves."

This applies to all Christians on the principle that all Christians are Israel under the New Covenant, to whom the Laws of Israel apply.

The slave owners, of course, could always argue that not all the Laws of Israel are observed by Christians (e.g. circumcision), and the passage following the one above (Leviticus 25:44) justified their taking slaves in the first place:

"As for our male and female slaves whom you may have: you may buy male and female slaves from among the nations that are round about you."

The argument was only settled, of course, by force, as the Union Army arrived to "bring the jubilee" -- as many Union war songs, such as Marching Through Georgia, put it.

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