Tuesday, September 20, 2005

David Jones interviews Caleb Stegall

"Reconnecting with Reality" Godspy.com Sept. 18, 2005. - David Major Jones (la nouvelle théologie) interviews Caleb Segall, editor of The New Pantagruel, web-based journal and refuge for "Augustinian-Thomists" seeking respite from the con-game of liberalism. =)

Some brief thoughts upon reading:

[David]: This is the age of the blog—short, quick opinions. tNP is the antithesis of that—your articles are long and complex. What's been the reaction to that?

[Caleb]: It's a mixed bag. Many people love what we're doing, but others think we're stuffy arrogant prats.

The blog is commonly a vehicle for "short, quick opinions" (Instapundit.com comes readily to mind) but not necessarily such -- I hope I've disproved that in my own online ventures, likewise with a number of other blogs I read.

Mark Shea, for instance, hovers somewhere in the middle, his blog populated with quick sound-byte quips that generate a good laugh, but he's certainly not averse to substantial reflections on a topic. I. Shawn McIlhenney's Rerum-Novarum is definitely an acquired taste precisely because he puts a lot of effort into his writing and doesn't mind developing a lengthy argument. I also see a lot of substantial discussions going on in blogs like Cahier's Peguy, Mirror of Justice, etc. So just to say that blogging as a medium isn't necessarily an impediment to substantial conversation.

The New Pantagruel strikes me as an online alternative to First Things -- inasmuch as some of their articles are written in reaction to the positions and proposals of those who carry on the Murray Project. My hope would be that Fr. Neuhaus and co. would eventually see the benefit in cultivating a presence on the web (along the lines of National Review) and join the online conversation.

[Caleb]: When I talk about new enclaves of civility and culture, borrowing from thinkers like Alasdair McIntyre and T. S. Eliot, I think the point is that communities of tradition and practice need to be rebuilt along different non-liberal lines in a way that allows a real culture to flourish again. The church can never accept life on a reservation, but neither should it position itself to run what is already a decultured and post-Christian deformity—which is largely what late liberalism has become.

I think with the exception of a wholesale dismissal of an undefined/unclarified "liberalism" (is it the liberalism of Rawls? Maritain? Acton? Murray? Bentham? Mill? JPII?), there is a lot that the WT's would be sympathetic to, if not in agreement with.

I would like to see Caleb develop this more, in terms of laying out what a "community of tradition and practice" would look like if constructed along non-liberal lines, and more importantly, how does one establish such so as to avoid the ghettoization or "life on a reservation" that he describes.

Update! - Dan Nichols challenges Maclin Horton's praise that New Pantagruel is "Thoroughly grounded in the same insights and impulses that drove [the now-defunct online journal] Caelum et Terra", making some interesting points:

While CT always attempted to transcend the Right/Left paradigm, Mr Stegall comes down squarely in the camp of the Right, albeit more or less on the traditionalist wing of that camp.

But to deign a vaguely defined "Liberalism" as the "engine of religious and Christian destruction" is to paint with a broad brush indeed. In fact, historically speaking, both liberalism and conservatism, in the popular sense of those words, both have deep roots in [different] parts of the Christian tradition. It was "liberal" movements rooted in both Evangelical Protestant and Catholic social thought -and often led by ministers of the Gospel- that brought about such beneficial things as abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, civil rights for African Americans, and the labor movement. Belloc, after all, sat as a member of the Liberal Party in the English Parliment.

Of course modern liberalism has gone badly off track, while still broadly honoring such Christian values as compassion, altruism, and economic justice. Meanwhile, Ayn Rand, whose "chutzpah" Mr Stegall admires, rejects even these remnant Christian values in her godless "conservative" philosophy.

Of course here we are in territory where terms like "liberal" and "conservative" become meaningless.

By one definition "liberalism" would mean a philosophy of brutal free market economics. By this definition, Rand, whose espousal of selfishness reaches the pathological, would be a particularly rough-hewn kind of liberal. Of course this kind of liberalism is today called "conservativism" and indeed it is this alone which gives Rand -despiser of religion and tradition, promoter of an evil philosophy not far from Anton LaVey's - a place on the Right.