By Allan Gillis
A renowned Jewish “historian of ideas” and “raconteur” wrote the introduction for the publication of Joseph de Maistre’s “Considerations on France” by Cambridge University – translated by Richard A. Lebrun.
In it, Isaiah Berlin – trying to capture the essence of Maistre writes the following:
“Latin is the language which we must teach our children. Why? Because it is unclear. People argue against prejudice, against superstition. What is prejudice? It is merely the beliefs of the centuries, tested by experience. History is, after all, the only teacher we have, and politics is only experimental history. Here Maistre talks rather like Burke, who defended prejudice in exactly the same way. Prejudice is simply the kind of skin which humanity has acquired in the course of centuries , traditionally, which has been tested against many diverse situations , and to throw it away is to remain trembling and naked before the destructive forces of life. Latin is a language of an irregular kind. Latin is a language whose grammar is not rational. It embodies all kinds of prejudices, all kind of ancient superstitions, blind faith, unconscious experience, everything which science is against. That is why it is the language to which we must cling, for there are only two things which are ever good in the world – one is antiquity and the other is irrationality. Only the combination of these two creates a force sufficiently powerful to resist the corrosive influence of the critics, the askers of questions, the scientists. (!)
Step aside Scientist! See the forest through the trees! De Maistre had you guys figured out almost two hundred years ago! He even advised the Russian Tzar to keep your ilch out of his empire… sadly the Tzar didn’t listen. “Ratio” must be subjected to “Fidei”. …or revolution will roll on.
Berlin continues on behalf of Maistre:
“…but of all these Maistre hates scientists the most. They are the people who have the least capacity for understanding life, and for government…”. He further warned the Tzar …”in extremely solemn tones, not to commit the fatal blunder of allowing the arts and sciences to dominate the country”. He says: “Take the greatest nation that ever was, at any rate the greatest in the art of government , the Romans. They knew very well, that they would merely make fools of themselves as scientists. They hired Greeks because they knew they would merely be undignified if they tried to do the job themselves”. No great statesman , he [Maistre] says, from Suger to Richelieu, was ever a scientist, or knew anything about science. “There is something about science, about its dry, abstract, unconcrete nature, something about the fact that it is divorced from the crooked, the chaotic, the irrational texture of life with all its darkness, which makes scientists incapable of adapting themselves to the actual facts, and anyone who listens to them is automatically doomed.” Take that you scientist – you!
I have this problem – which you try to convect as a petty dialectic between “liberals” and “conservatives”, clearly figured out – despite what you say. The evidence is there for BOTH the “conservatives” and the “liberals”. I shall hope in my heart that this pontificate shall pass quickly. It is a real problem for the Catholic faithful. You on the other hand are throwing smoke-bombs to obfuscate the reality of the crisis – in what seems to be an effort to sound “reasonable” and find a “middle way”. You are a clever man and you know better. Shall we call a spade, a spade mon frere? Francis’s pontificate IS a problem. Admit it! – and join those of us who seek a solution to this crisis. Speak and write to it! Address the malady!
…and you know I’d die for you if God needed me to.
…or at least I would hope to have the courage to – as one who aspires to be a Catholic gentleman.