Home Entertainment The Catholic Culture Podcast: Ep. 61 – Liberal Anti-Culture vs. the Western Vision of the Soul (Pt I)

The Catholic Culture Podcast: Ep. 61 – Liberal Anti-Culture vs. the Western Vision of the Soul (Pt I)

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The Catholic Culture Podcast: Ep. 61 – Liberal Anti-Culture vs. the Western Vision of the Soul (Pt I)

Jan 16, 2020

The devastation rationalism has wrought on modernity has yet to
be calculated, because it is the air we breathe, often regardless
of our professed beliefs.

To take politics as an example: the modern left, disenchanted
with the Enlightenment narrative of reason’s supremacy, has, rather
than restoring reason to its proper subordinate place in our vision
of reality, instead become skeptical of all claims to truth.
Lacking a foundation in truth, “critical thinking,” that shriveled
scrap of reason enshrined by academics, has not kept them from
believing any absurdity one could name. Meanwhile, establishment
conservatism has for decades shown little awareness or interest in
what is beyond immediate political utility—rendering its occasional
victories at the ballot box empty of much power to conserve.

Nonetheless, a certain artistic-cultural vitality has typically
been associated with liberalism. Only recently, when liberals have
taken on the role of censorious schoolmarm, has the right begun to
appear more creatively daring in its challenge of the status quo.
But this association of creativity with subversion of society’s
dominant structures is itself a bequest of the liberal “tradition”,
whose increasing banality should warn those on the right that there
is only so much mileage one can get out of exposing corruption and

It may be surprising to learn that conservatism began as a
literary and aesthetic movement rather than a political one. This
is the starting point for a contemporary classic of philosophy,
James Matthew Wilson’s The Vision of the Soul: Truth, Goodness
and Beauty in the Western Tradition
. The conservatives,
starting with Edmund Burke in his critique of the French
Revolution, defended the old order on the basis of its beauty.
Wilson follows them in claiming that Beauty is central to the
soul’s (and the West’s) vision of reality.

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This is the first of three episodes exploring themes from The
Vision of the Soul. In this episode, after giving an account of the
roots of liberalism and conservatism, and showing the emptiness of
liberal “freedom”, “equality”, and “critical thinking”, Wilson lays
out what he considers the six central insights of the Western
(Christian Platonist) tradition, culminating in the contemplation
of Being as our greatest excellence and happiness.

[1:14] The core message and themes of The Vision of the

[3:36] Liberalism as anti-culture

[8:15] Liberal freedom and equality are negative and
contradictory principles

[11:13] The self-perpetuating struggle against phantoms of

[14:15] The emptiness of contemporary conservatism exemplified
by the second Bush administration; recovering conservatism’s roots
as a literary movement

[18:53] Edmund Burke’s critique of the French Revolution and
utilitarian rationalism

[24:16] Modern intellectuals since Hobbes have wanted to make
reality less interesting and wonderful than it seems

[29:13] Problems with rationalism and critical thinking as they
are commonly understood

[32:16] The six fundamental insights of the Western tradition;
Christian Platonism

[37:15] Beauty’s oldest and deepest definition: the splendor of truththe splendor of truth

[41:05] The most excellent form of human life: contemplation of
Being, realized in happiness/salvation as an end with no further
ends beyond it

[46:44] The difference between intellect and
reason in relation to truth


James Matthew Wilson https://www.jamesmatthewwilson.com/

The Vision of the Soul

James Matthew Wilson on Twitter https://twitter.com/JMWSPT

This podcast is a production of CatholicCulture.org. If you like
the show, please consider supporting us! http://catholicculture.org/donate/audio

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