Jump to content






Photo
- - - - -

Revolutionary Deists


  • Please log in to reply
38 replies to this topic

#1 Dennis Hardin

Dennis Hardin

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 1,494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Pedro, California
  • Interests:Philosophy, psychology (Ph. D., licensed therapist)

Posted 03 July 2011 - 06:49 PM

Kerry Walters’ study of early American deism--Revolutionary Deists– provides some fascinating insights into the life and thought of six key figures (he calls them "rational infidels") who were instrumental in promoting that radical intellectual viewpoint in the second half of the eighteenth century. All were students of the Enlightenment, all were enthralled with the power of science and reason, and all were skeptical of the superstitious aspects of Christianity. These six men were Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Freneau, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Elihu Palmer.

Walters describes Deism as a revolutionary movement in religious and political thought. The parallels between the early American ideological movement called Deism and modern day Objectivism are fascinating to say the least.

Consider these excerpts from Kerry’s opening chapter:

"When Alexis de Tocqueville published the second volume of his massive Democracy in America in 1840, one of the aspects of the culture of the early Republic that he examined was religious sensibility.. . His conclusion was that ‘for the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other.’. . . It is obvious that de Tocqueville's 1840 description could, with a few qualifications, equally well describe America religious belief today. . . Had an eighteenth–century de Tocqueville visited America sometime between, roughly, 1725 and 1810, he would have received a much less homogenous impression of religious sensibility in America. In those years, orthodox Christian belief was systematically and at times savagely criticized by a group of thinkers who called themselves ‘Deists.’. . .”(pp. 15-16)

"Although deism in America erupted into a national and militant movement toward the end of the 18th century, its early and middle periods were relatively sedate. Early American intellectuals such as Benjamin Franklin were sympathetic to the idea of rational religion, but wary about publicly trumpeting their infidelity. . . [Early] sympathizers with theistic rationalism hesitated to go public because of their fear that dissemination of the new way of thinking would undermine social stability.. .”In addition, "freethinkers who publicly advertised their apostasy suffered social opprobrium as well as sanctions.. . .”[pp. 17-19]

The individual chapters devoted to each of these thinkers reveal a vast diversity of opinion. There are major disagreements with regard to ethics, for example. (I was particularly impressed by the striking similarity between Elihu Palmer's biologically based ethical system and Objectivist ethics.) "Still, in spite of the wide divergences of opinion among Enlightenment thinkers, most of them were in solid agreement over fundamental methodological and philosophical issues, and it is possible therefore to speak of the movement in somewhat general terms. This near unanimity in regards to basic principles stemmed from the period’s enthusiastic endorsement of the thought of three seventeenth-century thinkers: Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, and John Locke.. . “[p. 23]

The last chapter in the book, subtitled The Decline and Fall of American Deism, is particularly illuminating from the perspective of what it means for the future of Objectivism. Walters closely considers "the philosophical, theological, and methodological presuppositions upon which deism built its case.” Gradually, certain weaknesses began to emerge. "In short, American Deism collapsed in part because the foundation upon which it stood ceased to exercise the intellectual authority and appeal it once had. In broad terms, the reason for this breakdown was that the deistic worldview, founded squarely upon the New Learning's allegiance to mechanism and rationalism, began to be perceived as too simplistic, and hence a distortion of reality."[p. 249]

One of the “cracks in the system" was orchestrated by David Hume. "The philosophical crack was Hume’s trenchant criticism of the assumption that our ideas of causality actually conform to objective phenomena. . .” Hume succeeded in undermining Newtonianism by attacking the notion of a ‘necessary connection’ between events or objects. Hume argued that such a "necessary connection" is merely inferred on the basis of our impressions of contiguity, temporal priority, and constant conjunction. Given the centrality of ‘necessary causality’ to the Newtonian worldview, "this crack was enough to undermine the entire Newtonian superstructure."[p. 250-251]

Beyond that, there was also the gradual development of a certain cultural uneasiness with Newtonianism. In the nineteenth century, as the full implications of Newton's universe became obvious, people started getting anxious. "In the minds of many, the mechanistic worldview increasingly came to be seen as an austere, cold, lifeless, and generally forbidding structure. . . The impersonal perfection of the cosmic machine began to alienate more than enrapture. . .” [p. 252]

"It is not too much to suggest that the resurgence of Christian revivalism and the emergence of transcendentalism in the early nineteenth century were both, in their separate ways, reactions to the psychological malaise prompted by the forbidding austerity of the deistic worldview. . .”[p. 253]

Another aspect of this was the erosion of the "assumption of reason’s adequacy as a basis for human knowledge" [p. 253] This was particularly true with respect to the rational appraisal of human experience. "In their efforts to extend the domain of scientific method to all arenas of investigation, [deists] tended to ignore or dismiss those elements in experience that resisted such incorporation. In the case of their analysis of what it meant to be human, this resulted in a radical de-subjectivization of persons: humans were little more than animated physical objects that, like all other objects, necessarily conformed to immutable natural laws.” [p. 255]

"Inspired by Romanticism, the transcendentalist movement argued, to the contrary, that there were depths within the human soul inaccessible to rational investigation, and that a surer, although by no means certain, route to self-knowledge was through a harkening to one's moods, intuition, and passions.. .”[p. 254]

"In summary, deism in America began to fail when the Enlightenment view on which it was founded was seen to have severe shortcomings. . . It began to look like deism reduced reality, reason, and the human condition to a limpid but one-dimensional set of explanations. . .” [p. 255]

Walters also criticizes the deists’ one-dimensional attacks on Christianity and the Bible, which had the impact of alienating those who came from a religious perspective. "The deists by and large read Scripture in the same way they perused a book of history. . . By approaching the Scriptures in such a simplistic, literal way, they appear to have had no appreciation for the rich functional diversity of human discourse. It never occurred to them, for example, that at least some tales in the New Testament can be read allegorically, or that certain Old Testament stories that do not conform to reason or experience might nonetheless serve to express a point metaphorically or symbolically.. [p. 257]

Lastly, of course, there is the issue of a cold and distant God. "[The] deistic God was, in point of fact, a superfluity, a kind of deus ex machina. His only real purpose, when it came right down to it, was to supply a convenient ‘explanation’ for the existence of reality.”

"One recent commentator has described deism as the most ‘masculine’ of all religious sensibilities. This appraisal is based upon the perception that deism’s religion of nature is remorselessly intellectual in character and almost completely lacking in those affective elements that seem to be such a vital aspect of living religious traditions.. . God is a distant, inaccessible, impersonal, monarchical Principle that engenders, perhaps, awe and fascination, but not affective reverence. . Such an abstract deity might meet the religious and emotional needs of a disembodied intellect, but it is scarcely sufficient for most flesh-and-blood humans, who long for and require a more personal relationship with the divine…[pp. 260-261]

Walters offers the following conclusion:

"There are, then, a number of explanations for the early nineteenth-century demise of American deism. It attracted no new leaders, and was eventually swamped by the religious revivalism of the Second Great Awakening and by the rise of transcendentalism because its Enlightenment-based worldview ceased to strike resonant chords in either intellectuals or laypersons. Its mechanistic cosmology reeled from the blows of a Humean skepticism. Its pan-rationalistic attempt to reduce all explanations to the epistemic standards of the New Learning ignored the complexity of modes of knowing and the complexity of human and physical nature. Its defense of both a deterministic universe and a distant, impersonal deity alienated secular as well as religious individuals. Deism’s worldview and its religion of nature, in short, offered a formal, pristine, aesthetically classical vision of reality and God that ultimately failed to paint either a realistic or a psychologically satisfying portrait of the world.” [p. 263]

Some of deism's shortcomings have clearly been addressed by Objectivism. We can easily deflect the critical arrows of Humean skepticism, for instance, by demonstrating the superiority of the Aristotelian view of causality over the modern “billiard ball” version. And we can show how human volition fits into the mechanistic causality that ultimately rules the universe. This kind of theoretical correction, however, may not address the apparent psychological/emotional handicaps that both deism and Objectivism share. Will American society ever be ready to grow up and face the “cold, harsh reality” of a Godless universe? I don’t know about you, but I have my doubts.

Revolutionary Deists/Early American Rational Infidels, by Kerry Walters, Prometheus Books, 2011

Edited by Dennis Hardin, 04 July 2011 - 12:55 AM.


#2 Brant Gaede

Brant Gaede

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 15,333 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Tucson, AZ
  • Interests:All kinds of stuff

Posted 03 July 2011 - 08:56 PM

Dennis, I think you must have meant eighteenth century in your first sentence.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#3 Dennis Hardin

Dennis Hardin

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 1,494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Pedro, California
  • Interests:Philosophy, psychology (Ph. D., licensed therapist)

Posted 04 July 2011 - 12:56 AM

Dennis, I think you must have meant eighteenth century in your first sentence.

--Brant


Thanks Brant. You are correct, of course.

#4 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 04 July 2011 - 10:49 AM

Kerry Walters’ study of early American deism--Revolutionary Deists– provides some fascinating insights into the life and thought of six key figures (he calls them "rational infidels") who were instrumental in promoting that radical intellectual viewpoint in the second half of the eighteenth century. All were students of the Enlightenment, all were enthralled with the power of science and reason, and all were skeptical of the superstitious aspects of Christianity. These six men were Ethan Allen, Benjamin Franklin, Philip Freneau, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Elihu Palmer.


Many thanks for your review of the book by Kerry Walters. I would also recommend Religion of the American Enlightenment (formerly Republican Religion, 1933), by G. Aldolf Koch, which is an excellent study of early American deism; and The Enlightenment in America (Oxford, 1976), by Henry F. May, which is broader in scope than Koch's book but which contains a lot on American deism as well.

I have not read Kerry's book, and I am reluctant to criticize something I have not read first-hand; but based on your summary, here are some of my reactions:

Walters describes Deism as a revolutionary movement in religious and political thought.


I don't know whether Walters means American deism or not, but the Americans said virtually nothing that had not been said many times decades earlier by British deists, such as Blount, Toland, Tindal, Collins, Annet, Chubb, Woolston, etc. Indeed, on the whole -- and with obvious exceptions, such as Thomas Paine -- the American deists were more timid in their attacks on Christianity than were their British predecessors.

Moreover, many French philosophes, such as Voltaire, learned their deism from British writers, and some of this religious skepticism rubbed off on Americans as they fought with the French during the American Revolution.

Ethan Allen's deistic book, Reason the Only Oracle of Man, is exceedingly dull and nearly incomprehensible at times; so far as I know, it exerted little influence. Indeed, of the six deists you mentioned, only Thomas Paine and Elihu Palmer wrote specifically deistic works of lasting value. (Palmer, though an odd duck in some ways, was an interesting character.)

The parallels between the early American ideological movement called Deism and modern day Objectivism are fascinating to say the least.


I'm afraid I don't follow you here.

Consider these excerpts from Kerry’s opening chapter:

"Although deism in America erupted into a national and militant movement toward the end of the 18th century,....


A national movement? Unless Kerry has discovered new information, this is a considerable exaggeration. When, in 1804, Elihu Palmer spoke of "thousands and tens of thousands" of deists, he might have been correct, but no one was ever able to organize deists into a "national and militant movement" in America. Palmer's own efforts in this respect, which included the publication of two deistic periodicals, never had much national influence and didn't last very long.


One of the “cracks in the system" was orchestrated by David Hume. "The philosophical crack was Hume’s trenchant criticism of the assumption that our ideas of causality actually conform to objective phenomena. . .” Hume succeeded in undermining Newtonianism by attacking the notion of a ‘necessary connection’ between events or objects. Hume argued that such a "necessary connection" is merely inferred on the basis of our impressions of contiguity, temporal priority, and constant conjunction. Given the centrality of ‘necessary causality’ to the Newtonian worldview, "this crack was enough to undermine the entire Newtonian superstructure."[p. 250-251]


Again, I would need to read Kerry's account in full, but I am highly suspicious of this claim. A major cause of deism's decline was the Second Great Awakening, which was in full swing by the early 19th century. A ton of anti-deistic literature emerged during this period, and evangelical groups by the dozens (Bible societies, etc.) spread the word. Moreover, the association of deism (and freethinking generally) with the horrors of the French Revolution fortified the popular assumption that Christianity is essential to morality.

Thanks again for the review. I am pleased to learn that I am not the only OLer who is interested in this material.

Ghs

#5 PDS

PDS

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 1,582 posts
  • Gender:Male

Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:36 AM

Dennis: I am afraid your link is broken. Thanks for the review.

Somewhat off-topic, Vincent Bugliosi has recently written a book in this general neck of the woods as well. As a proud Bugliosi fan, I found this work enjoyable, although Ghs might not care for VB's unwillingness to roll up his sleeves and call himself an atheist.

#6 Dennis Hardin

Dennis Hardin

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 1,494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Pedro, California
  • Interests:Philosophy, psychology (Ph. D., licensed therapist)

Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:48 PM

Many thanks for your review of the book by Kerry Walters. I would also recommend Religion of the American Enlightenment (formerly Republican Religion, 1933), by G. Aldolf Koch, which is an excellent study of early American deism; and The Enlightenment in America (Oxford, 1976), by Henry F. May, which is broader in scope than Koch's book but which contains a lot on American deism as well.

I am pleased to learn that I am not the only OLer who is interested in this material.

Ghs


Thanks, George. I just want to make a quick comment on this point and then write a longer reply later when I have more time:



The parallels between the early American ideological movement called Deism and modern day Objectivism are fascinating to say the least.


I'm afraid I don't follow you here.


The central point here is Objectivism’s perpetual battle with conservatives who contend that liberty is somehow inherently bound up with religion. This quote regarding de Tocqueville captures the essence of what I was driving at:

"When Alexis de Tocqueville published the second volume of his massive Democracy in America in 1840, one of the aspects of the culture of the early Republic that he examined was religious sensibility.. . His conclusion was that ‘for the Americans the ideas of Christianity and liberty are so completely mingled that it is almost impossible to get them to conceive of the one without the other.’. ."


This viewpoint is echoed by contemporary theists (Dennis Prager, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, et. al.) who argue that individual rights are indefensible without religious morality (i.e., the Ten Commandments). They contend that there is no basis for objective morality without God to underwrite it and keep us in line by constantly watching our every move.

Objectivism is now trying to accomplish something similar to what Deists had hoped to do: provide a secular foundation for freedom and individual rights, thereby liberating capitalism from the philosophical contradictions that continue to tear it apart. For them, God was little more than a metaphysical principle comparable to 'existence exists.'

It is fascinating to note how many Founding Fathers shared the concern of today’s conservatives that a society without religion would be a society with no ethical restraints. As John Adams said in a letter to Richard Price: “I know not what to make of a republic of thirty million atheists.”

I should also mention that there is a wider point here regarding Ayn Rand’s view of history. Recall her comment in her 1964 PLAYBOY interview: “In any historical period when men were free, it has always been the most rational philosophy that won.”

The failure of deism appears to disprove this theory.

More later.

#7 Dennis Hardin

Dennis Hardin

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 1,494 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:San Pedro, California
  • Interests:Philosophy, psychology (Ph. D., licensed therapist)

Posted 04 July 2011 - 05:54 PM

Dennis: I am afraid your link is broken. Thanks for the review.

Somewhat off-topic, Vincent Bugliosi has recently written a book in this general neck of the woods as well. As a proud Bugliosi fan, I found this work enjoyable, although Ghs might not care for VB's unwillingness to roll up his sleeves and call himself an atheist.


PDS: Thanks, but actually I didn't think to provide a link. It's an excellent idea, though.

Revolutionary Deists by Kerry Walters

Edited by Dennis Hardin, 05 July 2011 - 05:21 PM.


#8 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 04 July 2011 - 07:01 PM


Objectivism is now trying to accomplish something similar to what Deists had hoped to do: provide a secular foundation for freedom and individual rights, thereby liberating capitalism from the philosophical contradictions that continue to tear it apart. For them, God was little more than a metaphysical principle comparable to 'existence exists.'


You are exaggerating the moral rationalism of most deists, many of whom agreed with Christians that morality would be impossible to justify without belief in God. Ethan Allen, for example, argued that the proper use of reason will enable mankind to "gain more exalted ideas about God and their obligations to him and to one another, and be proportionably delighted and blessed with the views of his moral government, make better members of society, and acquire many powerful incentives to the practice of morality...." As Thomas Paine put it in Age of Reason, "it is the fool only, and not the philosopher, nor even the prudent man, that will live as if there were no God."



I should also mention that there is a wider point here regarding Ayn Rand’s view of history. Recall her comment in her 1964 PLAYBOY interview: “In any historical period when men were free, it has always been the most rational philosophy that won.”

The failure of deism appears to disprove this theory.


Within the first several decades of the 19th century, many freethinkers in America, as in Britain, abandoned the philosophically mushy tenets of deism and embraced either atheism or agnosticism. Deism in America, meanwhile, merged with Unitarianism. As Alexis de Tocqueville noted in a letter to a friend:

On the confines of Protestantism is a sect which is Christian only in name, the Unitarians. Among the Unitarians, that is to say among those who deny the Trinity and recognize only one God, there are some who see in Jesus Christ only an angel, others a prophet, others, lastly, a philosopher like Socrates. They are pure Deists. They speak of the Bible because they do not wish to shock public opinion, still entirely Christian, too deeply. They have a service Sundays; I was there.*-There they read verses of Dryden or other English poets on the existence of God and the immortality of the soul. A discourse is made on some point of morality, and it's done. This sect gains proselytes in about the same proportion as Catholicism, but it converts in the high ranks of society. Like Catholicism it gains from the losses of Protestantism.


Ghs

#9 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 04 July 2011 - 07:06 PM

For those who are interested, I discuss many deists, albeit briefly, in my lengthy bibliographic essay, "The Literature of Freethought," which appeared in "The Libertarian Review," Jan/Feb, 1977. This issue is available online:

http://www.libertari...rg/lr/LR771.pdf

My article begins on page 12, so you will need to scroll down.

I included a corrected and slightly revised version of "The Literature of Freethought" in Atheism, Ayn Rand, and Other Heresies (Prometheus, 1991). This book also contains a fairly detailed analysis of deistic thought, "Deism and the Assault on Revealed Religion."

Ghs

#10 Brant Gaede

Brant Gaede

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 15,333 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Tucson, AZ
  • Interests:All kinds of stuff

Posted 04 July 2011 - 08:49 PM

You need to ram Christian morality and Objectivist together to come up with something humanly usable that improves on both while discarding--whatever, but not acceptable to purists, although it is interesting to know that Rand liked Rev. Ike.

--Brant

Rational Individualist, Rational self-interest, Individual Rights--limited government libertarian heavily influenced by Objectivism


#11 Rich Engle

Rich Engle

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 2,863 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Fort Myers, Florida, USA
  • Interests:Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, Chess, Music, Spirituality.

Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:16 PM

You need to ram Christian morality and Objectivist together to come up with something humanly usable that improves on both while discarding--whatever, but not acceptable to purists, although it is interesting to know that Rand liked Rev. Ike.

--Brant


Best post on the thread, Brant.



Visit My Blog!

beyondevenbatcountry.blogspot.com


"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." -- Robert A. Heinlein


#12 Rich Engle

Rich Engle

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 2,863 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Fort Myers, Florida, USA
  • Interests:Philosophy, Religion, Psychology, Chess, Music, Spirituality.

Posted 04 July 2011 - 11:16 PM

You need to ram Christian morality and Objectivist together to come up with something humanly usable that improves on both while discarding--whatever, but not acceptable to purists, although it is interesting to know that Rand liked Rev. Ike.

--Brant


Best post on the thread, Brant.



Visit My Blog!

beyondevenbatcountry.blogspot.com


"There is no way that writers can be tamed and rendered civilized or even cured. the only solution known to science is to provide the patient with an isolation room, where he can endure the acute stages in private and where food can be poked in to him with a stick." -- Robert A. Heinlein


#13 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:01 AM



I should also mention that there is a wider point here regarding Ayn Rand’s view of history. Recall her comment in her 1964 PLAYBOY interview: “In any historical period when men were free, it has always been the most rational philosophy that won.”

The failure of deism appears to disprove this theory.

More later.


Rand echoed an old theme in classical liberalism, one that was articulated by John Milton, John Locke, and many others. As Locke put it:

Truth would certainly do well enough, if she were once made to shift for herself. She seldom has received, and I fear never will receive, must assistance from the power of great men, to whom she is but rarely known, and more rarely welcome. She is not taught by laws, nor has she any need of force to procure her entrance into the minds of men.


Enlightenment theories of progress typically emphasized the progress of knowledge. It became commonplace during the 18th century to argue, as Paine did in Rights of Man, that "Truth...is always ultimately victorious," especially when freedom of speech and press are secure. Moreover, Paine articulated a common Enlightenment belief when he claimed that a significant truth, once it has been learned and widely understood by the general public, can never be unlearned.

Herbert Spencer held similar optimistic ideas, especially during his earlier years, so he had some explaining to do when the libertarian ideas of classical liberalism were quickly supplanted, during the last decades of the 19th century, by the welfare-state principles of the "New Liberalism." Spencer's explanation for this depressing transition was ingenious, if not very convincing. He argued that the "true" (i.e., classical) liberals, by calling for and bringing about the repeal of many onerous economic regulations earlier in the 19th century, had greatly improved the conditions of the lower classes in England.

But the masses, most of whom were totally ignorant of social and economic principles, understood only this: that the English government did something in earlier decades that had helped them -- it had repealed all the import duties on grain (the Corn Laws), for example -- but they failed to grasp the difference between the repeal of old legislation and the enactment of new legislation. Thus did the earlier economic reforms of free-market liberalism, by being widely misunderstood, serve to reinforce the belief in the efficacy of government in the economic realm.

Mises discusses the failure of classical liberalism near the end of Human Action. As I recall, Mises pinpoints the belief in the permanency of truth in social and economic matters as a primary reason for the ultimate failure of classical liberalism. Liberals believed that free market principles had been so definitively established in theory, and their practical benefits so clearly demonstrated in practice, that no alternative theory could seriously challenge them. This assumption caused many classical liberals to become complacent about their core doctrines, and they stood watching in amazement, virtually helpless, as many elements of classical liberalism were discarded and replaced with statist theories in a shockingly brief period of time.

Ghs

#14 BaalChatzaf

BaalChatzaf

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 11,395 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Currently residing in New Jersey, the Bad-a-Bing State.
  • Interests:mathematics, physics, alternative energy sources.

    I am also involved in preparing recorded books for blind and dyslexic folks.

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:08 AM

Mises discusses the failure of classical liberalism near the end of Human Action. As I recall, Mises pinpoints the belief in the permanency of truth in social and economic matters as a primary reason for the ultimate failure of classical liberalism. Liberals believed that free market principles had been so definitively established in theory, and their practical benefits so clearly demonstrated in practice, that no alternative theory could seriously challenge them. This assumption caused many classical liberals to become complacent about their core doctrines, and they stood watching in amazement, virtually helpless, as many elements of classical liberalism were discarded and replaced with statist theories in a shockingly brief period of time.

Ghs


The tale of Man. Long period of gloom punctuated by brief periods of light. Have you ever wondered why Golden Ages never last very long?

Ba'al Chatzaf



אויב מיין באָבע האט בייצים זי וואָלט זיין מיין זיידע

#15 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 05 July 2011 - 07:42 AM



Mises discusses the failure of classical liberalism near the end of Human Action. As I recall, Mises pinpoints the belief in the permanency of truth in social and economic matters as a primary reason for the ultimate failure of classical liberalism. Liberals believed that free market principles had been so definitively established in theory, and their practical benefits so clearly demonstrated in practice, that no alternative theory could seriously challenge them. This assumption caused many classical liberals to become complacent about their core doctrines, and they stood watching in amazement, virtually helpless, as many elements of classical liberalism were discarded and replaced with statist theories in a shockingly brief period of time.

Ghs


The tale of Man. Long period of gloom punctuated by brief periods of light. Have you ever wondered why Golden Ages never last very long?

Ba'al Chatzaf


Another major factor in the decline of classical liberalism was the onset of European militarization and the outbreak of WWI.

As Spencer watched European nations arm themselves to the teeth during the late 19th century -- something he called the "re-barbarization" of Europe -- he lost all hope for the future of freedom in Europe.

Moreover, Spencer -- along with Cobden, Bright, and many other British liberals -- was a fierce critic of British imperialism. It was, I believe, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) that Spencer, after being accused of not supporting British soldiers who were dying for their country in a foreign land, wrote: "When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don't care if they are shot themselves."

Patriotism, Spencer wrote, is a "sentiment...of the lowest." "To me the cry -- 'Our country, right or wrong!' -- seems detestable." As Spencer (who died in 1903) saw the matter, the drums of war in Europe and the attendant patriotic fervor spelled the death of classical liberalism.

When Britain declared war on Germany in August 1914, the liberal MP (and brilliant historian) John Morley went to the Prime Minister and said, with tears in his eyes, "Liberalism is dead." Morley then resigned his seat.

Ghs

#16 Selene

Selene

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 15,823 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Jersey
  • Interests:Chess, birding, football, baseball, minimalist backpacking, argumentation and debate, politics and philosophy, strategic board gaming, history, Rand, poetry, writing.

Posted 05 July 2011 - 08:11 AM

Moreover, Spencer -- along with Cobden, Bright, and many other British liberals -- was a fierce critic of British imperialism. It was, I believe, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) that Spencer, after being accused of not supporting British soldiers who were dying for their country in a foreign land, wrote: "When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don't care if they are shot themselves."
Ghs


Who won the Second Anglo-Afghan war? The two campaigns that constituted the war did not result in a clear-cut winner, as such. To even call it a war where two countries gather to do battle would not represent the truth, as Afghanistan is and was a country of many tribes and nationalities, with complex loyalties and histories. The British forces emerged victorious from almost every encounter in Afghanistan, and although they failed to install a British ambassador at Kabul, they did end up with an Amir who was acceptable to their Asian interests. However, they would never win over the people and they could not stay in a country that constantly chipped away at any attempt to add portions of it to the British Empire.

Interesting website

Good grief, when are we going to learn from history?

Adam

Edited by Selene, 05 July 2011 - 08:12 AM.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#17 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 05 July 2011 - 08:48 AM


Moreover, Spencer -- along with Cobden, Bright, and many other British liberals -- was a fierce critic of British imperialism. It was, I believe, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) that Spencer, after being accused of not supporting British soldiers who were dying for their country in a foreign land, wrote: "When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don't care if they are shot themselves."
Ghs


Who won the Second Anglo-Afghan war? The two campaigns that constituted the war did not result in a clear-cut winner, as such. To even call it a war where two countries gather to do battle would not represent the truth, as Afghanistan is and was a country of many tribes and nationalities, with complex loyalties and histories. The British forces emerged victorious from almost every encounter in Afghanistan, and although they failed to install a British ambassador at Kabul, they did end up with an Amir who was acceptable to their Asian interests. However, they would never win over the people and they could not stay in a country that constantly chipped away at any attempt to add portions of it to the British Empire.

Interesting website

Good grief, when are we going to learn from history?

Adam


Political leaders typically overestimate the efficacy of their military resources.

A good example of his can be seen in the remarks by hawkish English MPs, such as Lord Sandwich, in the parliamentary debates that preceded the American Revolution. Again and again, claims were made to the effect that a few well-trained British regiments could send all the colonial militiamen scurrying like frightened rabbits.

This negative view of American courage and fighting abilities was largely owing to the performance of American militiamen during the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years' War, as it was known on a worldwide scale), which ended in 1763. American farmers were not enthusiastic, to say the least, about being dragged from their homes to fight the French in Canada, so many of them either deserted or played dead during battles, such as the Battle of Quebec in 1759. These actions led British commanders, such as Major General James Wolfe, to spread the word that cowardice was part of the American character. (The 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans, provides an excellent account of this problem.)

What the British failed to realize is that there is a vast difference between being conscripted to fight a war in a foreign land and fighting to defend one's own freedom on one's own turf. The British General Charles Lee, who fought on the American side, understood this, and he wrote some very interesting observations on the fighting abilities of Americans and the tactics they should use.

Contrary to Washington, who detested the militia and wanted to forge Americans into a European-style army, Lee insisted that the militia could prove very effective if employed intelligently, as they were by Daniel Morgan at the Battle of Cowpens in South Carolina.

Charles Lee was one of the first modern theorists of "irregular" warfare, or what today we call "guerrilla" warfare, and it was in this type of warfare that the militia could play a crucial role, according to Lee.

In short, the British parliamentary hawks did know their history, but they read it wrong. Hubris took precedence over commonsensical facts about human nature.

Ghs

#18 Selene

Selene

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 15,823 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Jersey
  • Interests:Chess, birding, football, baseball, minimalist backpacking, argumentation and debate, politics and philosophy, strategic board gaming, history, Rand, poetry, writing.

Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:09 AM



Moreover, Spencer -- along with Cobden, Bright, and many other British liberals -- was a fierce critic of British imperialism. It was, I believe, during the Second Anglo-Afghan War (1878-1880) that Spencer, after being accused of not supporting British soldiers who were dying for their country in a foreign land, wrote: "When men hire themselves out to shoot other men to order, asking nothing about the justice of their cause, I don't care if they are shot themselves."
Ghs


Who won the Second Anglo-Afghan war? The two campaigns that constituted the war did not result in a clear-cut winner, as such. To even call it a war where two countries gather to do battle would not represent the truth, as Afghanistan is and was a country of many tribes and nationalities, with complex loyalties and histories. The British forces emerged victorious from almost every encounter in Afghanistan, and although they failed to install a British ambassador at Kabul, they did end up with an Amir who was acceptable to their Asian interests. However, they would never win over the people and they could not stay in a country that constantly chipped away at any attempt to add portions of it to the British Empire.

Interesting website

Good grief, when are we going to learn from history?

Adam

This negative view of American courage and fighting abilities was largely owing to the performance of American militiamen during the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years' War, as it was known on a worldwide scale), which ended in 1763. American farmers were not enthusiastic, to say the least, about being dragged from their homes to fight the French in Canada, so many of them either deserted or played dead during battles, such as the Battle of Quebec in 1759. These actions led British commanders, such as Major General James Wolfe, to spread the word that cowardice was part of the American character. (The 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans, provides an excellent account of this problem.)

In short, the British parliamentary hawks did know their history, but they read it wrong. Hubris took precedence over commonsensical facts about human nature.
Ghs


George:

Exactly. Some of our colonial leaders did learn from the French and Indian War, for example, the infamous/famous [depends on which end of the musket you were on] Major Marion, the Swamp Fox, and like:

Most heroes of the Revolution were not the saints that biographers like Parson Weems would have them be, and Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians. While not noble by today's standards, Marion's experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service. The Cherokee used the landscape to their advantage, Marion found; they concealed themselves in the Carolina backwoods and mounted devastating ambushes. Two decades later, Marion would apply these tactics against the British.

Read more: http://www.smithsoni...l#ixzz1RFA8mRxR

Adam

Edited by Selene, 05 July 2011 - 09:10 AM.

"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."

#19 George H. Smith

George H. Smith

    $$$$$$

  • VIP
  • 5,648 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:Bloomington, IL
  • Interests:Books, ideas, jazz, chess, and intelligent people

Posted 05 July 2011 - 09:29 AM



This negative view of American courage and fighting abilities was largely owing to the performance of American militiamen during the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years' War, as it was known on a worldwide scale), which ended in 1763. American farmers were not enthusiastic, to say the least, about being dragged from their homes to fight the French in Canada, so many of them either deserted or played dead during battles, such as the Battle of Quebec in 1759. These actions led British commanders, such as Major General James Wolfe, to spread the word that cowardice was part of the American character. (The 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans, provides an excellent account of this problem.)

In short, the British parliamentary hawks did know their history, but they read it wrong. Hubris took precedence over commonsensical facts about human nature.
Ghs


George:

Exactly. Some of our colonial leaders did learn from the French and Indian War, for example, the infamous/famous [depends on which end of the musket you were on] Major Marion, the Swamp Fox, and like:

Most heroes of the Revolution were not the saints that biographers like Parson Weems would have them be, and Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians. While not noble by today's standards, Marion's experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service. The Cherokee used the landscape to their advantage, Marion found; they concealed themselves in the Carolina backwoods and mounted devastating ambushes. Two decades later, Marion would apply these tactics against the British.

Read more: http://www.smithsoni...l#ixzz1RFA8mRxR

Adam


Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot was supposed to be a blend of Francis Marion ("The Swamp Fox") and Daniel Morgan, who designed the brilliant tactics at the Battle of Cowpens. Indeed, the final scene in that movie was supposed to be the Battle of Cowpens, but it was so ineptly done that audiences unfamiliar with the Battle of Cowpens had little or no idea of what was going on.

Morgan, who was commanding a force composed of both militia and Contintental regulars, came up with the following plan:

Unlike some American commanders, who denigrated militiamen for not standing up to savage British bayonet attacks after they had fired their muskets, Morgan positioned the militia in front of a hill and told them to fire two, possibly three, rounds at the British dragoons (led by the hated Colonel Tarleton), after which they were to turn and run over the hill. The British dragoons, figuring that this was more American cowardice, broke ranks and pursued the militiamen -- but once they got over the hill they were greeted by rows of Continential regulars, who mowed them down.

This was a stunning defeat for Tarleton's crack dragoons -- who were, in effect, the special forces of the British army.

Ghs

#20 Selene

Selene

    $$$$$$

  • Members
  • 15,823 posts
  • Gender:Male
  • Location:New Jersey
  • Interests:Chess, birding, football, baseball, minimalist backpacking, argumentation and debate, politics and philosophy, strategic board gaming, history, Rand, poetry, writing.

Posted 05 July 2011 - 10:16 AM




This negative view of American courage and fighting abilities was largely owing to the performance of American militiamen during the French and Indian War (or the Seven Years' War, as it was known on a worldwide scale), which ended in 1763. American farmers were not enthusiastic, to say the least, about being dragged from their homes to fight the French in Canada, so many of them either deserted or played dead during battles, such as the Battle of Quebec in 1759. These actions led British commanders, such as Major General James Wolfe, to spread the word that cowardice was part of the American character. (The 1992 movie, The Last of the Mohicans, provides an excellent account of this problem.)

In short, the British parliamentary hawks did know their history, but they read it wrong. Hubris took precedence over commonsensical facts about human nature.
Ghs


George:

Exactly. Some of our colonial leaders did learn from the French and Indian War, for example, the infamous/famous [depends on which end of the musket you were on] Major Marion, the Swamp Fox, and like:

Most heroes of the Revolution were not the saints that biographers like Parson Weems would have them be, and Francis Marion was a man of his times: he owned slaves, and he fought in a brutal campaign against the Cherokee Indians. While not noble by today's standards, Marion's experience in the French and Indian War prepared him for more admirable service. The Cherokee used the landscape to their advantage, Marion found; they concealed themselves in the Carolina backwoods and mounted devastating ambushes. Two decades later, Marion would apply these tactics against the British.

Read more: http://www.smithsoni...l#ixzz1RFA8mRxR

Adam


Mel Gibson's character in The Patriot was supposed to be a blend of Francis Marion ("The Swamp Fox") and Daniel Morgan, who designed the brilliant tactics at the Battle of Cowpens. Indeed, the final scene in that movie was supposed to be the Battle of Cowpens, but it was so ineptly done that audiences unfamiliar with the Battle of Cowpens had little or no idea of what was going on.

Morgan, who was commanding a force composed of both militia and Contintental regulars, came up with the following plan:

Unlike some American commanders, who denigrated militiamen for not standing up to savage British bayonet attacks after they had fired their muskets, Morgan positioned the militia in front of a hill and told them to fire two, possibly three, rounds at the British dragoons (led by the hated Colonel Tarleton), after which they were to turn and run over the hill. The British dragoons, figuring that this was more American cowardice, broke ranks and pursued the militiamen -- but once they got over the hill they were greeted by rows of Continential regulars, who mowed them down.

This was a stunning defeat for Tarleton's crack dragoons -- who were, in effect, the special forces of the British army.

Ghs


George:

Correct.

The article I linked to above, makes your point about Gibson's portrayal in the film, explaining that:

The 2000 movie The Patriot exaggerated the Swamp Fox legend for a whole new generation. Although Francis Marion led surprise attacks against the British, and was known for his cunning and resourcefulness, Mel Gibson played The Patriot's Marion-inspired protagonist as an action hero. "One of the silliest things the movie did," says Sean Busick, a professor of American history at Athens State University in Alabama, "was to make Marion into an 18th century Rambo."

http://youtu.be/sfQ71QJk0T0

THE BATTLE PLAN

Morgan surveyed the area in and around Cowpens as his forces were making camp for the night. In the evening Morgan personally talked to all his troops and commanders and made sure they succinctly understood his battle plan. The first line would be made up of all militia and his orders to them were to allow the British to come within killing distance and fire two volleys, aiming for the British officers and sergeants. They would then go to their left and right and retreat back and join the second line of militia, commanded by militia Colonel Andrew Pickens. The second line would fire three rounds and then fall back while reloading. Then both the first and second lines would combine their firepower with the third line of Colonel John Howard's battle­ hardened Continentals. Lieutenant Colonel Washington and his cavalry would be out of sight behind the knoll. At Morgan's command sometime after the first line had retreated and the second line was about to fire, he would dispatch the cavalry to come around on the left and the right flanks of the British. Thus the British would be forced to not only defend their front, but also their flanks. Morgan told all the men to get a good night's rest and have a good meal for the next day they would do battle with Tarleton's British Legion.



"Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice..and moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue."




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users