The Stoics—who inherited so much from the pre-Socratics and from Socrates—wrestled repeated and incessantly (but not fruitlessly) over the issue of free will. If everything had a nature and if everything moral and just came from the right ordering of the universe, one must learn to conform to eternal dictates. Did these dictates harm or encourage our free will? Some Stoics were predestinarians, while others believed in the sovereign individual will choosing to become one with the Natural Law and the Heraclitan Logos. To be sure, all Stoics believed that any violation of the Natural Law was a sin, a violation against creation herself.
The next great moral treatises on free will can be found in Cicero’s On Duties and On the Laws. In the former, Cicero claimed, like Socrates had, that all decisions come down to the individual human person, either abiding by eternal moral laws or rejecting them. Cicero advocated for understanding and acknowledging what was eternally true, especially through manners and decorum. In the latter work, On the Laws, Cicero argued that all things are beholden to eternal truths, but they understand those eternal truths through the exercise of reason, which is the language of man to man, man to god, and god to god. It is, for all intents and purposes, the language of civility and order, that which binds the universe together in justice.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/12/free-will-bradley-birzer.html
My hardback biography of Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only Roman Catholic signer of the Declaration of Independence, is on sale for only $6.25! Great stocking stuffers for the whole family.
Big Tech want to impose upon us all a kind of insane and inhumane conformity. Yet, the critical point is that they do not impose themselves upon us as much as we let them impose themselves upon us. So, the most important thing we can do is exit… (essay by Bradley J. Birzer)
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/11/exiting-big-tech-bradley-birzer.html
Thousands Upon Thousands of Words Later: A Personal Reflection on Writing ~ The Imaginative Conservative
As it turns out, I’m typing this essay on my latest acquisition, the Freewrite Traveler from Astrohaus. I actually helped crowdfund it back in late 2018, but it’s just now coming to market. It’s one sleek device, healthy for the hands and the mind. And, because there’s no access to Facebook, email, Twitter, or any other myriad distractions, healthy for the soul. The keyboard, though not exactly mechanical, is truly a thing of wonder. Indeed, to imagine this Traveler, think of a normal-sized keyboard attached to your Kindle. This is essentially what the Traveler is. It’s supposed to stay charged for several weeks (I’ve not had my long enough to verify this), and it’s the most portable device I own now—except for my Kindle.
Again, though, with the Traveler, there are no distractions from the internet or any part of the internet. It’s just you, a keyboard, and a screen. The Traveler automatically saves your work, and you, when ready, send it to your email account by simply hitting the “send” button. Astrohaus claims this setup allows for one to overcome writer’s block. Honestly, this claim seems totally weird to me. Facebook doesn’t block me from writing; it distracts me from writing. Or, to be more blunt, I let it distract me.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/11/thousands-upon-thousands-words-later-personal-reflection-writing-bradley-birzer.html
For Tolkien, mythology touched the deepest part of our souls, and invites us to explore the beauty of creation and to discover and participate in the sacramental nature of life. Only in the True West could one find a proper understanding of order, virtue, and liberty. As Tolkien himself said, the mythology and purpose guiding The Lord of the Rings was nothing less than the return to Christendom. His Middle-earth mythology, he hoped, would serve as a wake-up call for the West, to return it to its pre-statist, pre-imperialist, pre-materialist phase. With the return of Aragorn the king, the “progress of the tale ends in what is far more like the re-establishment of an effective Holy Roman Empire with its seat in Rome,” Tolkien admitted in 1967.
Certainly Tolkien, as with most of the Augustinian Christian Humanists, had a Jacobite streak.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/11/christian-humanism-j-r-r-tolkien-bradley-birzer.html
Tocqueville on America’s Colonial Experience & the Seeds of Democracy ~ The Imaginative Conservative
Though diverse, the American colonists had more in common with one another than not. Overwhelmingly Protestant, they also spoke the same language, and “the bond of language is perhaps the strongest and most durable that can unite men,” Tocqueville claimed. Further, the colonists all came from the Reformational troubles of Europe, and they “were all children of the same people.” Finally, the wilderness of North America homogenized the colonists, and “their political education was shaped in this rude school, and you saw more notions of rights, more principles of true liberty spread among them than among most of the peoples of Europe.”
Equally important, the American colonies—both North and South—proved that colonization could happen successfully even when haphazardly planned, or even when there had been a complete lack of planning. Drawing upon the work of Adam Smith, Tocqueville continued, the imperial pursuit of mineral wealth had led to nothing but societal catastrophe. “At this time, Europe was still singularly preoccupied with the idea that mines of gold and silver constituted the wealth of peoples,” Tocqueville claimed. “This destructive idea has done more to impoverish the European nations that embraced it and, in America, has destroyed more men than war and all bad laws put together.”
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/11/tocqueville-america-colonial-experience-seeds-democracy-bradley-birzer.html
It should be remembered that 1938 had been a difficult year for Tolkien. While he had written much for his Hobbit sequel, he had suffered through deep depression in August and a nasty flu in December. Tolkien had also just finished the first several writing phases—as his son Christopher has labeled them—of what would become The Fellowship of the Ring, when he began research and thought regarding his proposed lecture, “On Fairy Stories.” He had hoped to deliver a paper on the same topic to an undergraduate society at Oxford in 1938, but that had fallen through. This would be his chance to rectify that, and with the added benefit of serious academic legitimacy. On the evening of March 8, 1939, Tolkien delivered his lecture at the University of St. Andrews.
To state that the lecture was important to Tolkien and, frankly, to the world of literary criticism, would be a gross understatement. Coming when it does in Tolkien’s writing career, “On Fairy Stories” reveals more about the mind and soul of the man than any other non-fiction work he produced throughout his lifetime. It is, to be certain, seminal and beautifully so. Like his own Stoic and mystical understanding of Faerie, his talk was, in turns, excellent, insightful, and brilliant. It also offers, at its most fundamental level, a counterrevolution of ideas, an image of the world directly counter to that held by the fascists, communists, and ideologues of all varieties of the twentieth century
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/10/tolkien-on-fairy-stories-setting-bradley-birzer.html
Of Edmund Burke’s (1729-1797) four Letters on a Regicide Peace—his final work, written while he rested on his deathbed—the fourth is, by far, the weakest. Unlike the other three, it was written out of order, and it is unclear whether Burke himself ever intended to include it. It was more of a personal letter written to Earl Fitzwilliam than it was a letter for the public. It did not appear in Burke’s works until after the author’s death, and so we are left with it as somewhat of an interesting mystery and enigma. Despite these caveats, though, it is a letter written by Edmund Burke, and this means, of course, that there are fascinating aspects to it.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/10/burke-monstrous-revolution-regicide-peace-bradley-birzer.html
Yet, as much as Tolkien kept the story a Hobbit story, unanticipated persons and scenes and moments inserted themselves into the story, as did Tolkien’s larger legendarium. “The sequel to The Hobbit has now progressed as far as the end of the third chapter,” the author informed Stanley Unwin, however, “stories tend to get out of hand, and this has taken an unpremeditated turn.” Tolkien repeated this news to various letter recipients over the next several months, recognizing that his own children—for whom The Hobbit had been originally written—had aged, and thus too had the storytelling. Somehow the sequel was growing in dark and perplexing ways. The whole story, he feared by October 1938, “was becoming more terrifying than the Hobbit.” Most worrisome, “it may prove quite unsuitable” as it becomes more and more “adult.” Clearly, Tolkien admitted, though never allegorical, the story of the sequel—and its depth and intensity—reflected the “darkness of the present days.” In particular, the Necromancer (that is, Sauron) was playing a much bigger role in the sequel, and he, by his very nature, “is not child’s play.”
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tolkien-begins-sequel-hobbit-bradley-birzer.html
When we fail to understand the choice that God has given us with democracy—that is, a science to guide, attenuate, and hone democracy—the baser instincts will rise to the fore. “So democracy has been abandoned to its wild instincts; it has grown up like those children, deprived of paternal care, who raise themselves in the streets of our cities, and who know society only by its vices and miseries. We still seemed unaware of its existence, when it took hold of power without warning.”
As such, democracy, thus far, has grown wild and licentious, on the verge of untamable. Though this process is stoppable and alterable, it will take some doing to make it work. As of the 1830s, Tocqueville fears, the material changes of democracy had far outpaced any of the spiritual restraints, customs, traditions, norms, and mores that make a thing good and acceptable, especially when dealing with a way of life. Many critics, understandably, thus see only the ills that democracy brings, failing to note its higher qualities. Habits, especially, have shown throughout history, the propensity to limit the ills of a thing, to make it acceptable to a population and to the stability of society.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/tocqueville-new-science-politics-bradley-birzer.html
1And the word of the Lord came to me, saying: 2Son of man, speak to the children of thy people, and say to them: When I bring the sword upon a land, if the people of the land take a man, one of their meanest, and make him a watchman over them: 3And he see the sword coming upon the land, and sound the trumpet, and tell the people: 4Then he that heareth the sound of the trumpet, whosoever he be, and doth not look to himself, if the sword come, and cut him off: his blood shall be upon his own head. 5He heard the sound of the trumpet and did not look to himself, his blood shall be upon him: but if he look to himself, he shall save his life. 6And if the watchman see the sword coming, and sound not the trumpet: and the people look not to themselves, and the sword come, and cut off a soul from among them: he indeed is taken away in his iniquity, but I will require his blood at the hand of the watchman.
— Read on biblehub.com/drb/ezekiel/33.htm
Both Nisbet and Nock find this sad state of affairs very human, but also very counter to the American tradition of strong societies that take care of alcoholism, crime, homelessness, and mental illness. In its expanded role, the State becomes a kind of Nanny, a mothering hen. Further, as the State grows, it reshapes the rules of society, giving itself the advantage in all conflicts with parts (or wholes) of the population. As Nock understood it in the 1930s, and Nisbet in the 1960s, the State desired—whether it openly admitted this or not—to assume all power over society and thus render society—and its myriads of conflicting authorities (in and through which the human person found freedom)—obsolete in the long run. Indeed, the State wanted to take the place of the Church as the only glue that holds all together. This was just as true, both Nock and Nisbet feared, in collectivist societies, whether they called themselves republican, fascist, or communist.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2020/09/nock-nisbet-society-state-bradley-birzer.html