"There is always a philosophy for lack of courage."—Albert Camus

Saturday, October 03, 2015

The [New] Reform Club, past and present


(L to R) George Bernard Shaw, Hilaire Belloc, GK Chesterton, 1928.

It will not do to paper over the fundamentals.

Every society reaches a point where it must examine its principles and choose whether to recommit to them or toss 'em out for new ones. Although in 2015 it gets clearer every day that Western Civilization has reached that point, the question of the Crisis of the West was brought into exquisite focus 100 years ago by a group of British gentlemen who called themselves The Reform Club.

Orthodoxy or modernity? That's the tension lying behind almost every issue of our times, and to recognize that is the first step to understanding not only our times, but our society, our own lives, and the human condition.

In 1928, that great champion of orthodoxy GK Chesterton debated his existential enemy, the modernist George Bernard Shaw (with Hilaire Belloc as moderator), on how our society should order itself economically. It took me half an hour to relocate the transcript, which can be found here. The discussion was playfully and wisely entitled "Do We Agree?" To understand what they were after, the presentation of unique and foundational views peppered with not a little bit of wit so that the proceedings are not just substantive but downright fun, is to understand our aspirations for this blog.

(Aristotle called wit "educated insolence." The original Reform Club basked in it. Insolence is invaluable, but without education, it's only insolence and it isn't the least bit fun.)

One concession Shaw made to orthodoxy and classicism is that we must leave our rhetorical barbarism at the door. Civility is essential, but is the merest of requirements to get where we can go. To parrot the prevailing arguments elsewhere serves no purpose either: it is a waste of time and cyberink (yes, the latter can be wasted because it consumes the former). Quality over quantity, inquiry over debate, original voices over echo chambers,The New Reform Club, rhetorically at least, recommits itself to its principles, and this is non-negotiable. We will not and cannot gear ourselves to the lowest common denominator. 

The rest of our principles we shall leave open to examination, as honest inquirers and seekers of truth are honor-bound to do. We leave the doors of our modest club open to those of like mind and spirit, and rely on them to help us preserve what we are, and to help us toward what we aspire to be.

4 comments:

queen bee said...

does a community of five or six dudes who all already agree with one another agreeing with one another repeatedly really get you where you think you're going? or is this more a marketing thing?

i'm all for pushing a conservative agenda, but if you are striving to not be an echo chamber as this declaration says, don't you need at least one person that doesn't, well, echo everyone else?

not that there's anything wrong with a place where everyone can get together with those that see everything the same and not be challenged. it's nice, and its often necessary. it's just, well, kind of the definition of an echo chamber.

Tom Van Dyke said...

Well, actually it's about not being an echo chamber of prevailing memes, left or right, more about original or at least rare thought than the left-right debate that prevails everywhere else. Obama hates America and Trump is insane.

I don't really know any left-wing--indeed putatively neutral--political philosophy-oriented blogs who make the slightest attempt at including gentlepersons of the right. In fact, they frequently ban them. I know. I can show you the scars.

Let me know if you ask them where their righties are.


Neither am I much acquainted with a gentleperson on the left who is much interested in departing from the left-wing Bible or is even able to function in the classical liberal/conservative milieu we operate in. They're scared to death of each other and are punished if they get out of line. Perhaps you hadn't heard.

http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/01/not-a-very-pc-thing-to-say.html

But if such a rara avis crosses our path, they certainly will be asked aboard [if we don't have them bronzed first].

In the meantime, as one great thinker put it, we don't need to give equal time, we are equal time. If you examine our wayback archives, the occasional left-winger would stay for awhile, but usually behaved like a savage from the Bearded Spock Universe. But do feel free to challenge away, hopefully with more pleasant results.

Thx for writing.

queen bee said...

saying, "those dudes over their don't offer or welcome dissenting voices either" is not the argument to my point that you seem to think that it is.

again, i have no problem with a site that says, 'we're a happy club that only welcomes people like us,' but be honest enough with yourselves to own that. being that site as you claim to be the opposite makes me take the rest of the stuff guys you write less seriously.

Tom Van Dyke said...

We're referring more to the comments sections than the mainpage. Even in the comments sections we request and require pith and originality.

To parrot the prevailing arguments elsewhere serves no purpose either: it is a waste of time and cyberink (yes, the latter can be wasted because it consumes the former). Quality over quantity, inquiry over debate, original voices over echo chambers, The New Reform Club, rhetorically at least, recommits itself to its principles, and this is non-negotiable. We will not and cannot gear ourselves to the lowest common denominator.

The rest of our principles we shall leave open to examination, as honest inquirers and seekers of truth are honor-bound to do. We leave the doors of our modest club open to those of like mind and spirit, and rely on them to help us preserve what we are, and to help us toward what we aspire to be.


Take what you want of what you read here seriously or don't, but on their own merits, por favor. As we shall take the comments.

Thx for writing.