- Ideas Have Consequences Book Club Information
- Ideas Have Consequences Book Club: Introduction
- Ideas Have Consequences Book Club: Chapter 1
- Ideas Have Consequences Book Club: Chapter 2
- egoism: the habit of valuing everything only in reference to one’s personal interest; Ethics. the view that morality ultimately rests on self-interest.
- hypostatized: to treat or regard (a concept, idea, etc.) as a distinct substance or reality.
So by “egoism,” Weaver is referring to the belief or at least practice of defining good and right according to one’s own personal interest rather than anything transcendant or at least outside oneself (like societal obligation and duty). Worse yet, “personal interest” usually means one’s own economic advantage, which Weaver again blames on the rise and establishment of the middle class.
Egoism removes purpose & meaning from work
Since under conditions of modern freedom the individual thinks only of his rights, he does not refer his action to the external frame of obligation. His wish is enough. He cannot be disciplined on the theoretical level, and on the practical level he is disciplined only by [a despotic state].
Under the worldview of the medievals, growth in knowledge was also a growth in humility. Under the modern worldview, knowledge is power; therefore, “the possessors of knowledge will be [hardly] indifferent to their importance.” So now, instead of leading to humility, knoweldge leads to pride even as knowledge is being degraded into skills and trivia rather than understanding.
Knowledge today is
of the useful rather than of the true and the good, of techniques rather than of ends.
Whereas in the medieval mind, labor was a form of worship, of character, and of integrity, in the modern world it is a commodity; it is now all of economics with no trace left of the concept of honor. Men now see “profit only, not duty and honor, in work.”
The situation deteriorates because the idea that work is something apportioned out by men leaves people discontent with their portion and dubious about whether work is a good thing at all.
In the modern world, we conceive of ourselves as primarily consumers rather than workers. We work because that is how we gain the means to consume. But it is the consuming that defines our identity or status, work is the curse that makes consumption possible. Thus, motivation to work is increasingly nonexistent. There is no satisfaction, honor, and identity in a job done well for its own sake, or for integrity’s sake.
When each becomes his own taskmaster and regards work as a curse which he endures only to gain means of substistence, will he not constantly seek to avoid it?
Egoism destroys art
- Egoism in literature: Romanticism shifts the attention from a form or a mythic story to the average story of any man rather than Everyman. After Weaver wrote, what he decries becomes even more apparent in stream-of-consciousness novels. No form, no meaning, just egocentric ramblings and “raw experience.”
- Egoism in music: Weaver outlines “a declime which extends from the fugues of Bach to the cacophonous arrangements of modern jazz. He really rips into jazz, which “afford[s a] maximum opportunity for subjective and egotistic expression.
Egoism in painting: Paintings of the classical and Christian eras centered on myth, on story, on themes central and transcendent. Then it declines to portraits of individuals to scenery for the sake of scenery, to Impressionism (more emotive than ideal). Then Impressionism degenerates into abstraction.
The broad character of the movements we have been following represents a psychic urge to collapse all order, a technical effort to get something without tolerating a medium, which is but another exhibition of the passion for immediacy.
This art that abhors discipline and form, says Weaver, is “progress” for “those who neither have a sense of direction nor want responsibility. It comes of believing that man’s destiny is not to perfect himself, but to “lean back in sensual enjoyment.”
Integrity & Transcendence in Work
My mind was buzzing with connections between Weaver’s discussion of work and the homemaker’s housework. Talk about devalued work in our culture. Do we do best to minimize it or are we simply missing what it really is?
I want to devote an entire post to that; but it might take me awhile to get to it.