I think I read the first three pages of this chapter 5 times before I could proceed with comprehension.
I do welcome comments and discussion even from those who aren’t reading along. Here is the not-as-brief-as-I’d-like summary. :)
- sentiment: an attitude, judgment, or thought prompted by feeling; a specific view or idea.
- sentimental: being governed by emotional idealism; guided by feeling rather than reason or thought.
metaphysical: relating to reality beyond what the senses can perceive; transcendent reality; abstractions.* donée: the set of assumptions that drives a dramatic narrative
heuristic: problem-solving strategies based on experience (like rules-of-thumb, intuition, and common sense) rather than exhaustive research or mathematics or algorithms.
There are three levels of cultural participation:
- Specific ideas about things. That is, what you think about particulars; the daily thoughts about immediate matters.
- General beliefs or convictions. That is, your principles and basic doctrines, acquired through tradition or reflection.
- Metaphysical dream of the world. These days, we say “worldview”; your filter for interpreting history and events and actions. It is the story you see happening when you look to the past, the present, or the future. This story, or dream, also conveys the criteria for evaluation, how you judge between good and bad or better and worse or should and shouldn’t.
Before reasoning about something or seeking understanding of something, we must be engaged, interested, drawn – having some sort of feeling, being affected, is a prerequisite to inquiry, philosophy, reasoning.
What is Culture?
- “A matter of yea-saying”: a collection of affirmations about the world
- “A way of looking at the world through [a collection of] symbols so that [experience] take[s] on significance and man feels that he is acting in a drama.”
- A true culture must be grounded in thoughtful order rather than sentimentality.
- A set of assumptions about life that give a vision for what life and man should aspire to be, giving significance to choices and actions.
- The metaphysical myth of a culture is the source of its heuristic principles that inform man’s sentiments without plunging him into either sentimentality or brutality, and also directs him away from pragmatic justification.
- It is a man recognizing the noumenal, the transcendent, the abstract, and acting upon that rather than self-interest that dignifies him.
- It is moving from particulars to universals, from particulars to principles and evaluations, rather than remaining immersed in the immediate, in passions, in facts. This is refinement, and a cultural heritage makes it easier on a man by giving him conventions and traditions.
“Culture is sentiment refined and measured by intellect.” It is style: measure, which gives structure.
The man of culture wants the idea of a thing more than the immediacy of a thing. He wants to generalize, abstract, even “fictionize” a thing. He gives a thing adornments and coverings. The barbarian rips them aside to get at the thing itself. The man of culture understands sacrilege and profanation.
Culture, then, pushes a man with affirmations about life and pulls him with conceptions of what he should be. It gives significance to the “sound and fury of his life” by putting it into a greater context and narrative. Unity in practical matters is only possible if founded upon unity of a metaphysical vision, upon a common worldview.
That it does not matter what a man believes is a statement heard on every side today. [… But] what he believes tells him what the world is for. How can men who disagree about what the world is for agree about any of the minutiae of daily conduct? The statement really means that it does not matter what a man believes so long as he does not take his beliefs seriously.
- Not only is there no widespread agreement and acceptance of a metaphysical dream, of a uniting myth, the commonality is that even individuals are often lacking such a perception. But a worldview, a set of assumptions about the purpose and meaning of life, is what gives not only unity to a nation or culture, but also identity and roots to each of its members.
Our ideas become convenient perceptions, and we accept contradiction because we no longer feel the necessity of relating thoughts to the metaphysical dream.
Disintegrating (de-unifying) barbarism because of the desire for immediacy, leading to a dissolving of forms in order to supposedly get at the reality itself behind the forms. “It is characteristic of the barbarian […] to instist upon seeing a thing ‘as it is.’ The desire testifies that he has nothing in himself with which to spiritualize it.” He has no imagination, no ideal, no vision, no transcendency. Forms do mean restraint. Those involved in culture accept restraint; those without refuse it. However, “it is [suppositions] about a matter which give it meaning, and not some intrinsic property which can be seized in the barehanded fashion of the barbarian.” Modern culture “makes a virtue of desecreation” and is “proud of its shamelessness, determined “to enjoy the forbidden in the name of freedom.”
We do not educate:
No education is worthy of the name which fails to make the point that the world is best understood from a certain distance or that the most elementary understanding requires a degree of abstraction.
- We have no manners:
Many connot conceive why form should be allowed to impede the expression of honest hearts. The reason lies in one of the limitations imposed upon man: unformed expression is ever tending toward ignorance. Good intention is primary, but it is not enough: that is the lesson of the experiement of romanticism.
- Because we no longer accept the mores of cultural sentiments, prefering here-and-now self-gratifying existence, familial and friendly relationships diminish in neglect, often meaning “persons who will allow you to use them to your advantage” [side note: that is precisely what the hot trend of “networking” appears to me to be about]. In a cultured society “the idea of a campaign to win friends must be incomprehsible.” And “the art of manipulating personalities obviously presumes a disrespect for personality.”
Discussion Question: Self-Control
The man of self-control is he who can consistenly perform the feat of abstraction. He is therefore trained to see things under the aspect of eternity, because form is the enduring part. Thus we invariably find in the man of true culture a deep respect for forms.
First off, this reminded me of a bit from the Roots of American Order book club where it was commented along these same lines that forms have authority, which I was loathe to grant (it sounding dangerously papish to my Reformed ears); however, “a deep respect” I am on board with. A tradition does not have authority in the sense that I am obliged to seek the most traditional tradition available, or seek to implement as many traditions; instead, a tradition (even one not my own) should receive respect by default (though it might prove to be a tradition to be rejected) and should not be lightly or scornfully rejected on the assumption that I am too good to need it. That is not the same thing as a tradition or a form having authority, though the sentiments are close.
However, this section primarily struck me because “self-control” is the root goal of much of our parenting. Perhaps I feel like I am having limited success because I have misapprehended what self-control consists of. Is it a synonym for willpower? Reading this section made me realize that however I might answer that definition question, I had been parenting as if having self-control meant exercising willpower.
And it isn’t.
Firstly, of course, it is a fruit of the Spirit for Christians, meaning it is something available and given to us, not something we have to muster up on our own.
Secondly, here, Weaver says it is based on a shift of perception. It is grounded on the ability to shift focus from the immediate senses and desires to stepping outside himself, visualizing how the situation ought to be, and conforming himself to that vision. It isn’t the ignoring of his appetites, which is how I have conceived of it; it is the prioritization and shifting of appetites or affections toward the eternal, the lasting, the more meaningful. It is seeing, loving, and wanting the big picture more than the moment’s allure.
Do you agree or disagree with his definition of self-control? How does that definition of self-control impact not only our own choices (food, exercise, internet use, etc.) but also our parenting tactics?
So many possible interesting discussions here! We could take weeks and not go down all the rabbit trails. :) I can’t wait to see what topics are picked and what comes up in the comment-discussions. Please do join in!