Ideas Have Consequences Book Club: Chapter 7 – The Last Metaphysical Right

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Weaver, on his purposes thus far:

I have endeavored to make plain in every way that I regard all the evils in our now extensive catalogue as flowing from a falsified picture of the world which, for our immediate concern, results in an inability to interpret current happenings.

Definitions

dualism: Either that there is both material and spiritual elements in the world or that man is composed both of body and soul (there are other potential theological definitions not in view in Weaver).

providence: Prudent management of resources; prudence (again, the theological definition is not what Weaver had in mind).

“The last metaphysical right” is the right to private property. That is, it is the last of the metaphysical (non-utiliaritian, non-pragmatic) rights left to us in this sad state we find ourselves.

This is the beginning of an answer and a way out?

So, supposedly this chapter begins the section of the book on how we can reform and restore true culture, instead of enumerating problems within culture as it stands. I’m afraid that mostly what I drew from it is that culture has slipped even farther since his writing, and that his point about private property was yet another problem and not, as he thought, a wedge we possess which can lead us back to a cohesive metaphysic.

He lands on the concept of private property as our gateway back to a metaphysical conception of the world because it is an area where we are still most likely to perceive that “the thing is not true and the act is not just unless these conform to a conceptual ideal – if we make this plain again, utilitarianism and pragmatism will have been defeated.” Private property is “the sole thing left among us to illustrate what right, independent of service or utility, means”: The last metaphysical right.

Weaver has in view primarily the ownership of land, of home and real property, rather than abstract properties such as stocks, patents, and, probably, eBooks and web applications. Considering that we technically do not own our home or acre outright, but are instead renting it from our mortgage company for now, we personally are out of luck, I guess.

He includes a couple rants on big and impersonal business, which persues profit without personal responsibility, honor, or integrity. In order to retain personal responsibility over pragmatic profit margin, business and indeed all of life must be lived at the level of the individual. Weaver was a crunchy con before it was cool.

The key to virtue and thus to right living is learning to be provident (act with foresight), to be forced to accept the consequences for one’s own actions or inactions.

I read this quote aloud to my husband (he has given up on Weaver, so I read him the bits that make sense):

The point here is that no society is healthful which tells its members to take no thought of the morrow because the state underwrites their future. […] A conviction that those who perform the prayer of labor may store up a compensation which cannot be appropriated by the improvident is the soundest incentive to virtuous industry. Where the opposite conviction prevails, where popular majorities may, on a plea of present need, override these rights earned by past effort, the tendency is for all persons to become politicians. In other words, they come to feel that manipulation is a greater source of reward than is production.

To which my husband replied, “So, in modern parlance, we’re screwed.”

I think that’s pretty much Weaver’s point. After all, after this section is a rant against the dishonesty of inflation, and he hadn’t seen anything yet in his day compared to ours and what I’m sure we’ll be seeing in years to come.

Where is the hope and the answer?

Personally, if Weaver offered any glimmer of hope in this chapter at all, it was in this sentence, which he used to introduce the example of the Great Depression:

People who live according to a falsified picture of the world sooner or later receive sharp blows.

Bad philosophies might change cultures, but they don’t change the way the world ultimately, under God’s providential hand, works. And, of course, as long as there is rebellion against God, there will be bad philosophies and falsified pictures of the world. So the only hope is actually Christ.

What we have now, even here in Weaver, is a social experiment of how to establish and function in a “purely secular society” (Weaver himself admits it). That is actually the falsified picture of the world and an idea that has consequences. Until that notion is repented of, we will not return to a stable, cohesive, metaphysically unified culture. Cultures that do not have Christ in the center will fail, and we cannot revive them. Moreover, any new ones we try to fashion will fail as well. It is Christ we must return to. He is the only source for reformation or restoration. We do that individually firstly, then in communities of Christ’s body the church, until it impacts culture and society and nations, as it has before and will again.

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6 Responses

  1. Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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    I totally agree with you–it was striking how much *worse* things are then they were when Weaver was writing. And yet there are some still carrying the same or a similar message. I think of Berry, of course, but also Logsdon and a few others.

    Obviously, Weaver felt that property rights had still been untouched. But the idea that they can hold up the whole world or provide a center? He went over the top, grasping at straws. He did speak once about the need for repentance, but I wasn’t 100% sure that he meant exactly what I mean when I say repentance, you know?

    I’m working on my post today, so hopefully I’ll be ready to put it out there before the day is over.

    • Mystie Winckler
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      Yes, he said repentance “means simply that those who are in a quandary must be made to see that quandary.” Not exactly a complete definition. :)

      Sorry I didn’t get around to people’s posts last week! I had a brain-dead, tired week.

      • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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        No need to apologize–I think we all know why. :)

        • Mystie Winckler
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          Turns out I was a tad anemic. I’m taking iron now and hoping that will help. :) And using it as an excuse to have Matt grill steak and hamburgers for dinner. :)

        • Brandy @ Afterthoughts
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          Yum!

          I know a little something about anemia. :) I hope you are feeling better!

  2. Pilgrim
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    Your post and comments helped me see that I am not the only one who saw his choice of private property as a little odd. It did give me more respect for private property and the role it can play – but it can’t save us by any means.

    I too know about anemia. Take care of yourself! Teach from a place of rest! :)