Four Gates to Dis, or, the Linnaean Taxonomy of Corruption

In an earlier essay in this space, I offer a fourfold classification to categorize philosophy: I used the terms Stoic, Hedonist, Idolatrous, and Nihilist. The division is based on the writings of the Russian Orthodox monk Seraphim Rose. A reader has asked me to justify the classification.

The terms chosen were a balance between precision and clarity. I could have used a technical term like ‘normative’ for ‘stoic’ but at the cost of being obscure; again, I could have used a clearer term like ‘ideology’ for ‘idolatry’ but at the cost of losing a crucial implication, that ideologies are ersatz religions or secular cults, serving the same psychological need that faith in God serves, in the same way that masturbation serves the psychological need that the nuptial consummation serves, and with the same degree of fertility.

However, since I took the trouble to define my terms, the question of what connotations surround the terms becomes moot. I was not using the words in a fashion alien to their general meaning, but I did say what I meant by them, to wit:

In order to be logically consistent with the conclusion that the answers to any or all of the ultimate questions of the meaning of man’s life in the cosmos is forever beyond human reason one must either be a Stoic, or a hedonist, an idolater or a nihilist.

A Stoic says that he can endure the pain of not knowing his purpose and destiny because he must.

A Hedonist says there is no purpose and destiny aside from those pleasures a man can devise for himself before he dies, and laughs at the notion that such pleasures will pall and fail with passing time.

A man can adopt some human cause, some simplistic and simply wrong idea, such as libertarianism or communism or environmentalism, as a substitute for religion, and bring to the idols of this world those selfless impulses and spiritual hungers which otherwise would draw man’s heart to the next world.

A nihilist says such questions can have no answer in this or any other universe, because life is meaningless by definition, and the only truth is that there are no truths.

Please note that I am only discussing the four possible viable reactions to an foundational belief in the vanity of discussing ultimate questions. I use the word ‘agnosticism’ throughout not to mean merely the belief that question of God cannot be answered, but also questions of the meaning of man’s life in the cosmos.

At least one reader dismisses this classification as arbitrary and flawed. To the contrary, allow me to argue that the classification is exhaustive, essential, and correct.

Human psychology, for all its inventiveness, cannot invent a new moral code or a new motive for disobeying it. The Golden Rule exists in some form in all civilizations of East and West, as do recognitions of duties to parents and elders, charity to the poor. Murder and theft and fraud praised in no civilization, nation, or tribe; fortitude, justice, prudence, and temperance are dispraised likewise in none.

Customs and regulations differ between races, eras, and nations, but the moral principles do not. The application of the principles, however, do: It is true that primitive tribesmen, existing in a state of continual war and rivalry with all other tribes, regard strangers as enemies; but neither do our laws consider the slaying of a foe in wartime to be murder. Despite the differences in customs, the morals do not differ. A Hottentot or Bushman brought to a civilized court of law for murder, theft, rape or fraud has no difficulty understanding the moral concepts the law enforces, just as an Englishman accused of murder, theft, rape or fraud dragged to the feet of a tribal chieftain has no difficulty in understanding the nature and wrongness of the act.  Were it otherwise, anthropologists would be able to provide contrary examples.

There are, however, degrees of corruption from the universal moral code which men, including famous men who inspire or found both movements and cults and cultures. But the human mind can only invent a limited number of reasons to elude or evade the moral code their conscience reveals to them, and the reasons fall naturally into four categories: (1) doubts about the authority of the moral code (2) elevating one aspect of the moral code to an indubitable absolute, so that any other aspect of the moral code can be doubted and discarded at will (3) elevation the emotions and intuitions and irrational sentiment above the moral code (4) total denial that the moral code, or any aspect of it, exists at all.

Each stage of progressively more corrupt form of disobedience is commonplace enough that we (and all languages) have common terms for these things. Each stage is aware of the flaws and shortcomings of the other stages, and some of the most ferocious criticism of the moral flaws of a given of corruption comes from writers glorifying one of the other three. To a degree, each stage is a reaction, or an overreaction, to the shortcomings of the prior stage. All I have done is to label the virtues of each stage by the philosophy that best represents it.

However, if we do not like the labels used above, let us call the four stages are the worldly, the rationalist, the romantic, the anarchist.

  • The worldly stage is without God, and leads to the corruption of spirit.
  • The rationalist stage is without spirit, and leads to corruption of the reason.
  • The romantic stage is without reason, and leads to the corruption of emotions.
  • The anarchist or nihilist is without emotions, and leads to corruption of base instincts, appetites, and sanity itself. There is nothing left to corrupt.

The break down is a philosophical, rather that social or psychological.

I have observed in the history of thought a tendency which I interpret to be the operation of a pattern of events or a hidden rule, which we can call “The Law of Philosophical Consequences.” This law holds that the human mind is not constructed to maintain a philosophical self-contradiction for long. Philosophically, once a man, or a culture, accepts an axiom, he must either accept the natural consequences, or accept some sleight of hand to derail trains of thought that would otherwise naturally lead from axiom to consequence.

This is as true for emotional attitudes as for abstract conceptions. Either he adheres to the general rule he has established and brings it to bear logically on new questions, or he invents an exception; and then, once the exception is invented, it also acts like an axiom for the natural trains of thought which spring from it.

There is and always has been in human existence a grand enigma about the nature of reality. Disputes about the physical nature of reality, such as whether the sun versus the earth is the center of the solar system, or whether heavy objects fall faster than lighter ones, can be argued by reference to the evidence of the senses. These are empirical questions, and can be settled, if at all, empirically.

Disputes about the metaphysical and theological nature of reality, such as whether there are many gods or one or none, malevolent or benevolent or indifferent, eternal or created or causeless, or whether the universe is a cosmos rather than a chaos, real or illusion, rational or meaningless, can none of these be reduced to an empirical question. Likewise, questions of the nature of truth, of virtue, and of beauty are not empirical questions. The answers either are deductions from self-evident first principles, or are articles of faith from revelation.

Revelation answers these ultimate questions, sometimes with crystal clarity, sometimes with paradox; but in no case is the answer said to be beyond human understanding, even if the answer is said to be a mystery of the faith.

For example, the Church founded by Christ teaches that God is one, benevolent, eternal, and that the cosmos is real and rational. And the Jew before her and the Mohammedan after teach likewise. The Church teaches that truth and virtue and beauty are of God and are God and flow from Him.

The statement “God is One” is clearly non-empirical: there is neither measurement of moving matter, no observation, no test, nor no experiment which can prove or disprove this statement, or has any tendency to make it seem more or less consistent with observed data, for it concerns a topic beyond the reach of human senses.

Now, believe or disbelieve this answer as your wisdom leads you: but no matter your own conclusion on the matter, it is not in dispute that the Church claims (at least) to know and teach these ultimate answers. The Church does not teach that these matters are forever beyond the reach of human reason. The Church is not agnostic.

For a variety of reasons, some doubtless more credible than others, the Enlightenment decided to sever Church and State and call a truce to the wars and struggles issuing from the Reformation and Counterreformation. In the American Revolution, the separation was put into effect by the First Amendment of the Constitution, restricting the State from interfering in Church affairs, and in French Revolution the separation was put into effect by the guillotine.

This created a philosophical environment where the growth of the worldly man was possible. I draw no conclusion of cause and effect, but I note a correlation.

The worldly man concludes, naturally but illogically, that a difference of belief on matters religious means that there is no public significance to matters religious. It is a private matter, or a hobby, like stamp collecting. So long as it does not protrude into the public sphere, is it safe, and the specter of wars fueled by religious frenzy, of inquisitions and oppressions, is exorcised.

Some worldly men, with greater or lesser degrees of admiration, might acknowledge that Christendom exists or existed, and even grant that there is some value to cathedrals and codes of law and so on that the Christian civilization produced. But, in general, his attitude is akin to that of a British Viceroy charged with ruling a colony of lesser and savage men: as long as their odd cults and hoodoo mumbo-jumbo do not disturb the public peace or create unsightliness, they can be left to their own devices. He neither believes nor disbelieves in religion. His attitude is one of benign neglect.

Left to itself, from a worldly point of view, the worldly man’s viewpoint is harmless. Worldly men are under no obligation, merely because they are agnostic on ultimate issues, to be agnostic on questions of truth, virtue, and beauty. He dismisses the ultimate question of God and Death and Judgment and Hell, and concentrates on pragmatic questions of how best to live and get along in this world, how to be a productive man and an honorable one, how to raise children and serve his country, to better himself, and to die content. Even if he can give no metaphysical reason for justifying why these things are, the worldly man is content to say that they are what they are; and he is content to mind his business, to disturb no neighbors, and not to meddle with high questions.

First, he thinks, and with some reason, that those who meddle with high questions provoke conflict and even bloodshed. History seems to the worldly man to be peopled with proud fools accusing each other of heresy and apostasy, usually over matters of theological technicality profoundly trivial even if they were comprehensible, and then coming to blows over the matter. The only way to bring peace is to rule such discussions out of order.

Second, he thinks, and with no reason, that any non-empirical question is innately unanswerable. He does not conclude that whatever cannot be seen by the senses and measured is not a topic the physical sciences addresses, hence science is neutral on the question.

He concludes that the physical sciences and only the physical sciences answer questions of true and false, and every other matter touching every other topic is a matter of personal taste, mere opinion, as arbitrary as the rules of chess; and if arbitrary, therefore irrational. It never occurs to the worldly man that this conclusion is itself, by his own rules, non-empirical hence arbitrary and hence irrational.

He does not think science is neutral and silent on questions of true and false, right and wrong, fair and foul: he thinks science has proved such things do not exist. He concludes instead that whatever cannot be seen by the senses is a unicorn, a fable unworthy of rational discussion. Science has done nothing of the sort. Science deals with and only with the physical properties of physical objects. No lab experiment proves truth is relative, because truth is not a physical object with physical properties that can be hauled into a lab.

Third, he may or may not recognize the contribution Christianity has made towards Christendom and Western Civilization. If he does, he cannot account for it. It seems mere coincidence. If he does not, he believes or wants to believe a version of history where all the progress of the West was despite, and not because, of the Christian elements of civilization.

Finally, agnosticism on the ultimate questions, because of the aforementioned Law of Philosophical Consequences, means that the worldly man is left without an account or theory to justify the objectivity and reality of truth, virtue, and beauty.

Since, like theological conclusions, aesthetic conclusions are non-empirical, they are the first to go: the worldly man is tempted to believe that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or is an arbitrary conditioning produced by Darwinian genetic selection, by sinister social forces, by environmental accidents, by biological oddities. Whether any particular worldly man gives into the temptation or not is a matter for his free will; I merely assert that his agnosticism on higher matters requires him to ponder agnosticism on this matter.

But far more importantly, for the worldly man, a disastrous chasm appears in his philosophy: truth, positive statements concerning things as they are, is now divorced from virtue, normative  statements concerning ideals.

For the faithful Christian, there is no division. An act of idealistic self sacrifice is one and the same as an act of pragmatic self-interest, since the real and lasting reward of heaven will compensate for any temporary loss, include the loss of one’s own life, which (in the Christian worldview) is a temporary loss.

For a worldly man, whether to commit the idealistic act of throwing oneself on a hand grenade to save the wounded men in the medical tent, or instead to commit the practical act of rolling a dazed amputee with a incurable head wound from his cot onto the grenade and save yourself and the rest of the tent, is a paradox of insurmountable opposites. The pragmatic reasons for saving oneself are legion, and man with the head wound might be a drooling vegetable for the rest of his life anyway, so why not use him as a living sandbag, and, hey, give his widow a Purple Heart medal? You don’t need to tell the examination board the literal truth of the event: and if you invent a version where Drooling Chuck urged you to help him thrown himself on the grenade, who is the worse off for telling or believing a deception?

The compromise embodied in the genial agnosticism of the worldly view can be summed up: “Oh, let’s not bother our heads about that cloudy stuff for now—to each his own, to each his own!” This compromise or neglect can operate only when the cloudy stuff actually is cloudy: theoretical or private. When a grenade rolls into the medical tent, however, the difference in worldview is no longer theoretical.

Here the Law of Philosophical Consequences operates again. A man, or a culture, can remain a worldly man, and regard religion as a matter of benign and avuncular neglect until it too frequently confronts morals paradoxes touching higher things. And once the wolf the at the door or the piper demands his pay, once the moral crisis arises or a public question with no common ground, the worldly man must fall on one side of the question, or the other: the idealistic or the pragmatic.

What form the moral crisis takes is immaterial. It may be a question of slavery versus abolition, or a question of abortion versus humanity, or of monogamy versus perversion: but the crucial question, once raised, cannot be allayed again, because these questions are the ones that are ultimately important and are incapable of compromise. Taking an agnostic position, that is, studiously avoiding taking a stand on whether or not Negros or fetuses or untermenschen are human beings whose life and liberty merit protection, is tantamount to siding with whichever faction, North or South, Christ or Antichrist, happens to be in power at the moment. Both side rightly regard such agnosticism as opportunism, the boggy stance of the Quisling. When Ultimate questions arise, there is no common ground and no third way.

Once the emergency arises either in a man’s life or the history of a culture, each man and each consensus agnostic on higher questions needs must fall on the idealistic or the pragmatic side.

Those who fall on the idealistic side of the question cannot remain agnostic on the higher questions of the role and origin of truth, virtue, and beauty. An agnostic idealism is almost a contradiction in terms. It is impossible to believe in truth and virtue and beauty without believing in a source and an author of these things. What the agnostic idealist does is take one of these three and exaggerate it and elevate it to try to make serve as the author of the other two.

Unable to believe in God, a worldly man or worldly culture takes either virtue as the source of truth or beauty as the source of truth. The former is any philosophy that maintains truth is true only when the men of courage and vision (or some other virtue) make it true. This exalts the willpower over truth. The latter is any philosophy that maintains truth is true only when is satisfies the aesthetic sentiment. This exalts the subjective over truth.

The result is that particularly modern frame of mind known as ideology. An ideology is not necessary as philosophy, since it is based on roots other than human reason, and it copies as many elements of religious faith as it can. Communism and Nazism are the most notorious ideologies the afflicted the Twentieth Century, but they have watered-down version that flourished in the West, various movements which attempt to provide a global or universal explanation for life and its many ills, and a simple solution.

That the solution be simple is crucial to the construction of an ideology, since to introduce complexity is to reintroduce a process of moral reasoning and therefore to reintroduce the question of the ultimate roots of moral reasoning, the source of truth, virtue, and beauty.

Those who fall on the pragmatic side likewise avoid reintroducing the question of ultimate sources of truth and virtue and beauty by concentrating only on the results and the means to reach the results. The Stoicism of the Romans is the most famous philosophy in the West to take this approach, and in the East is Confucianism. The emphasis is almost exclusively on exhortation to moral excellence, which concentrates almost entirely on civic virtues like obedience to elders and disregard of selfish desires. Reading the Stoics is an exercise in seeing what a philosophy almost entirely divorced from metaphysical speculation is like. Confucius is likewise famous for his disregard of speculation in divine things: his concern is entirely with the maintenance of venerable cultic practice because it is healthy civic practice. Normative or duty-based philosophies spring out of this answer.

However, because stoic-type philosophies are constantly at odds with a man’s natural desires, appetites, and self-interest, only military elites can maintain a culture of selflessness. Absent a spiritual foundation, the pragmatic stoicism of worldly men soon devolves into cruelty: a lack of compassion masked as unemotional fortitude.

But the selflessness of Stoicism is not the only pragmatic answer to the moral crisis. The other is some form of self-interest, utilitarianism, Epicureanism, Eudaimonism, or Objectivism, all of which take the self and the self-interest as the starting point from which the civic interest can be deduced. The high question of duty is reduced to question of honorably placing one’s long-term interests above one’s short term interest. Hedonist or self-interest based philosophies spring out of this answer.

Hedonism may indeed be regarded as a synthesis or truce between pragmatism and idealism, since the philosophy of the Enlightenment attempts (nearly successfully) to tie self-interest into the civic good, and elevates human liberty to the status of an ideal. The language of duty and the self-interest of selfishness both find expression in the Enlightenment version of the ancient Epicurean philosophy.

However, because Hedonistic philosophies are at odds with the selfless passions of the nobler character of man, the heroics both of warriors and lovers, men and cultures devoted to self-interest are exasperated and irritated continually by their own unadmitted awareness of their own ignobility. Man cannot live by the belly and phallus alone, but must bring some higher or nobler passions and sentiments to bear even on base appetites. Romanticism is the attempt to give some of the dignity of spiritual and eternal things to emotional expressions, desires, and passions, and it does so at the expense of denigrating the rational faculties as being cold and sterile.

The Law of Philosophical Consequences strikes again, and again leave the men or the culture devoted to self-interest with two options as to how to Romanticize their way of life: They either have to glorify swinish sloth and gluttony for its own sake, or have to glorify the courage and struggles and genius of entrepreneurs and industrialists as if such men are military heroes.  The Sexual Revolution of the 1960’s onward is an example of the former; the popular idolization and exaggerated respect paid self-made men of the 1860’s onward is an example of the latter. Let us call these two romanticized views of self-seeking the view of the Plutocrats and that of the Sybarites.

Reality intrudes harshly into the glorification of Plutocrats. Any smallest exposure to that strata confirms the Christian warnings about the special temptations that afflict the rich, and one is left to ponder the bulk of camels and the fineness of needle eyes. The graft and lies and shameful behavior of the rich flourishes in an environment where their mere wealth cushions them from the more swift and obvious retaliations for any sins: to accumulate wealth without avarice is difficult or impossible, but to apologize for wealth by adopting a public pose of philanthropic socialism repeats the hypocrisies and evils of the Pharisees without imitating their piety.

The Sybarite option is worse. A culture of swine soon discovers that the glorification of one’s own appetites is unappetizing.

Normal attractions to normally attractive things become fetishes. Of pleasures, the true pleasures of life can be distinguished from the false by a simple rule of thumb: false pleasures require every more precise and exaggerated stimuli to achieve ever decreasing thrills. When love scenes in movies segue into softcore porn, the healthy romance is replaced by unhealthy lust. When action scenes segues into bloodshed, gore and torture, boyish love of adventure is replaced by a lust for sadism. If unchecked and unreversed, the tyranny of the appetites destroys the appetites, and one is left with a void, without reason for a guide, or ideals, or practical duties, or love of honor, or healthy emotions or normal appetites.

The final step of degradation is when a man or a culture descends to such a point that truth, virtue, and beauty no longer have any appeal. This is nihilism, the glorification of the Void.

Metaphysically, the nihilist says that there is no absolute truth. His ethics consist of a general prohibition on making any judgments about the sins and crimes of others, or of oneself. His aesthetic consists of a glorification of whatever is aberrant, disgusting, shocking, ungainly, absurd, mocking, and ugly: go visit any modern art museum to experience the manifestation in a visual medium of this world view. The nihilist is postmodern: he regards with amusement, scorn, and suspicion any attempt at a coherent worldview. Nihilism is the philosophy of antiphilosophy. Nihilism is the Church of Antichrist.

As said above, each stage is aware of the flaws of its predecessors. The idealist rejects the worldly man for his avuncular agnosticism on questions of philosophy, and regards all those who question the ideal as enemies. The pragmatist rejects the worldly man as insufficiently attentive to duty, and, indeed to self-preservation and the survival of civilization.

Likewise, the pragmatist regards the ideological idealist as irrational and brainless; the ideological idealist regards the pragmatist as cruel and heartless.

The Romantic rejects ideologies as stultifying, oppressive and simplistic, and pragmatic attention to duty as inauthentic, false and arid, the ghastly subjection of self to self-tyranny.

The nihilist, secure on his throne set in the abyss, regards romanticism as mere sentimentality, ideology as self-delusion, duty as the internalization of social rules invented by an oppressive class or caste of rulers for the sake of deceiving their victims into voluntary obedience, or else they call duty madness, and never think on it at all. The agnosticism of the worldly man is dismissed by the nihilist as timid, neither hot nor cold, and lacking the force of conviction. The worldly man says we can all get along as descent men without deciding or debating questions of God. The nihilist says that there is no God, therefore everything is permitted.

We all instinctively know that there is such a thing as the Good, the True, and the Beautiful as children, and would continue to know it, were it not that we are told as children that beauty is an arbitrary and perhaps sinister preference found nowhere but in the eye of the beholder; that virtue is a matter of personal preference and mere opinion that it is rude, or even an act of aggression, to voice to another; that truth is elusive or even a mirage.

Nonetheless, the human faculty of reason is suspended if truth is not true. If all truth is a matter of mere opinion, a mere preference, a question of taste, there is no point in using logic to see what the implications of one’s axioms might be, and no point in seeking an intellectually coherent as opposed to incoherent philosophy. The brain is empty.

Likewise, the human passion for honor and the human love of praiseworthy deed is crippled if there is no such thing as virtue, or if virtue consists merely of tolerating vices in oneself and others without complaint. The human heart is dry and dull if there is no spirit of zeal for righteousness burning there. There is neither adventure nor accomplishment if there is no honor and no virtue. The conscience is silent. Shameful deeds are not criticized and glorious deeds not celebrated.

Likewise, all human appetites are degraded, and the wine of life itself turns vinegar, if neither nature nor art contains beauty. If aggressively ugly and disquieting images of distortion and aberration, filth and rottenness and angular clashes of rust are taken as art, if the art museums contain toilets and corpses, and artists produce nothing but images of horror and disgust, all that happens is that the faculty of disgust is desensitized; and also is the gustatory faculty of taste. Trees, flowers, mountain and sea, stars and snows and the faces of children no longer elicit the normal reaction: all life is a drained and soggy gray, lit infrequently as if by volcano flares of lurid lust or pride or envy. We lack the stomach for life. The heart is dry.

Christian metaphysics, whether true or false, all honest men will admit satisfy the basic psychology and spirit of man, by given exercise for the faculties of the reason (or sense of logic), the conscience (or sense of honor), and the taste (or aesthetic sense).

The historical movement from paganism to Christianity was an alchemical wedding of the reason of the Greek to the conscience of the Jew to produce the aesthetic of the Gothic. In the scholastic philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, the faculties of man and the vision of the universe as a cosmos were nicely balanced and matched. From the Third Century to the Eighteenth, Europe brought forth a culture which, uniquely in history, was intellectually and aesthetically and chivalrously devoted to producing and adoring the good. Modern science came from its intellectual fountainhead, the art of the Byzantine to the Pre-Raphaelite, including musical notation and polyphony and symphony, and a principle of chivalry, that the strong must protect rather than exploit the weak, the division of secular and spiritual powers unknown in other polities, a world where beggars could be saints and so too, if they were lucky, could kings.

The moral code built on this skeleton was unique for including faith, hope and charity among the pagan virtues of fortitude, justice, prudence and moderation.

The historical movement from Christianity to Postchristianity disintegrated this marriage, allegedly to set free certain virtues that Christian narrow-mindedness suppressed, and to allow for progress into a glorious but oddly never defined nor described future.

The reality has been the systematic destruction or desecration of virtue, ending at a place far worse than where the pagans started.

Overthrowing faith, hope and charity has not lead to the triumph of pagan fortitude, justice, prudence and moderation. No society has ever been farther from the fortitude of Epictetus and the moderation of Aristotle. No society ever had less respect for the Tao of Lao Tzu and the Te of Confucius than ours.

Fortitude? The moderns are a congregation of whiners, of victims, and of cowards, who regard it as impractical and immoral even to arm ourselves for our own self-protection.

Justice? Modern justice is nothing more than what Thrasymmicus in Plato’s REPUBLIC called it: the will of the strong against the weak. The concern of modern men is not to be just, but to be empowered, that they may have unscrupulous retaliation against oppressors seen as equally unscrupulous as they.

Prudence? The slogan of the day is Go For It. To point out prudential reservations for high flown utopian ideals, which usually involve spending the wealth of others, is to be labeled mean-spirited, or an enemy of the people.

Moderation? Self indulgence is the order of the day. To criticize uncontrolled appetites for intoxicants is unbecoming, to criticize perverse sexual appetites is hate crime.

Virtue is dismissed as a guilt trip, a hang-up, a psychological malfunction, a social gaffe, or even a politically incorrect thoughtcrime. Despite their acts of sodomy and human sacrifice, their gladiatorial games and human slavery, the pagans were better men than moderns, build of a more solid and honorable character.

Examining the scheme of evolution and corruption of the moral sentiments of the West, I suggest that the human soul only has a particular nature and no other: call it reason, passion and appetite, as I have, or call it gold-souled, silver-souled and bronze-souled as Plato did, or call it Superego, Ego and Id as Freud, one part of the soul is concerned with Truth, one with Virtue, and one with Beauty.

This gives us only four, or, depending on your scheme of classification, five possible forms: a healthy and satisfied combination of these faculties; a triumph of one of the three over the other two; or an unhealthy corruption of all three.

The Worldly Man is concerned primarily with Truth, and is agnostic about any truths which cannot be proven beyond doubt: and this leads to the corruption of his virtue and his sense of beauty. Have you wondered why the Industrial Age is so appallingly ugly?

The Ideologue is concerned primarily with Virtue, which he sees as an expression of the Will. He is not concerned with correctness, but with Political Correctness.

The Pragmatists is likewise concerned with Virtue, but he sees as an expression of Duty and obedience to duty. He is less concerned with truth and beauty as with utility and self-command.

The Romantic is concerned primarily with Beauty.

The Nihilist rejects all.

It should be not difficult to deduce which world view I regard as the only healthy, sane and balanced world view that a man can adopt which pays proper homage to truth, virtue, and beauty, and puts each in its proper role to flourish to the utmost. I will not dwell on the point, particularly as this essay has already overleaped the bounds of brevity.

I will, however, submit to the candid reader that the scheme of classification is exhaustive. All moral codes are either based on the conscience, the duty, the passions, the reason, or the appetites; or the glorification of one of these faculties over the others; or the denigration of all.

To return to the original theme: once the worldly man rejects ultimate questions, he cannot account for the truth, virtue and beauty as springing from one source. The world is shattered into unreachable ideal solutions and unsightly pragmatic solutions, and the conflict requires loyalty to the one or the other; and either solution shatters the world again into selfless and selfish pragmatics (Hedonism versus Stoicism) or into rational or irrational idealism (Ideology or Romanticism). The attempt to romanticize Hedonism shatters the world again into Plutocrats and Sybarites. Disgust with all the foregoing leads to nihilism, which is the abandonment of the search for truth.

I assume the reader can detect in the culture in which we are currently mired which stage of degradation we have reached.

If there is a stage below nihilism, my imagination cannot encompass it.