Abstraction and Judgment

In a blogpost titled “The Other Side of the Picture” about the failings of Leftist and politically correct college education, John C. Wright wrote:

”This is a mental disorder inflicted by modern education. It is a narrowing of the mind in the name of broadmindedness, and the closing of the mind in the name of openmindedness.
“It is the folly of those who are taught only enough of a subject to be told the objections and questions undermining its foundations, but not enough to do the disciplined and rigorous intellectual work, yes, the hard work, of answering those objections or sitting as a judge and making a determination of their admissibility, as debating as a juror and weighing their probity and pertinence.
” [my emphasis]

I was at the same time reflecting on an idea I noticed in Dr. Bruce G. Charlton’s Thought Prison where he qualifies Leftist and PC worldview as “abstract.” I was a bit taken aback by the term, as I find nothing wrong with abstraction in itself, but then I recalled, from Maritain’s works, that abstraction is only the first of the two necessary operations of the intellect.

Knowledge – and determination of an act as good or not when speaking of the practical intellect – is achieved only when ideas formed through abstraction of universal essences are processed in the second operation of the mind, namely judgment, where they are checked against reality. To be proven true, an idea must terminate at the thing itself, actual or possible; judgment must assert what the thing is in extramental reality.

It is then no wonder that Leftists and nihilists are always accusing others of being “judgmental.”

Paradoxically, by so doing and on every occasion they themselves judge others, and almost always wrongly, for they use only two types of invalid arguments, the “ad hominem” attack (often blind suppositions or outright calumny) and the “straw man” assertion (ill-informed or misapplied description or definition).

These arrows are missing the real target because, in order to debunk or condemn an idea or an action, the contender must indeed judge the real idea or action (matter of the argument), and judge it with valid propositions (form of the argument). Avoiding the real point is then no argument.

Alas, “ad hominem” and “straw man” attacks are very effective to appeal to sentiments and to portray the target as an object of hate. These vicious methods, forbidden in reasonable debate as low punches are forbidden in boxing, are very destructive. But it is the declared goal of Leftists and nihilists to destroy the world. They justify themselves by pretending that peace and justice will miraculously arise from the ruins. It reminds me of a French song of the 1970s where the nihilist “hero” dreams that putting sand in the cogs will somehow produce a new and “formidable” world.

Unable to think through their own vision and voluntarily making the society more and more detached from reality, Leftists and nihilists unwittingly show in word and deed that their worldview is very abstract indeed, in the sense of unreal, nonsensical, dystopian. They are buying naively in modern philosophy, all of it is abstract, not corresponding to real things, even when it pretends to be existential and materialist.

Whereas Aristotelian-Thomistic philosophy always was existential and grounded in the things that are.