C. R. Wiley is the pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Manchester in Manchester, CT. He is a has been professor of philosophy, a commercial real estate scammer, and a home improvement contractor. A true grifter… (Could he be “Joe the Plumber’s real dad?)
By C.R. Wiley – So I’m a little embarrassed to admit it, but I like granola. But since when did getting a little closer to nature make you a hippie?
There’s probably a better word—but hippie just works for me. They’ve won by the way—the hippies I mean. Not the unkemptness thankfully, but the outlook. You can see them everywhere now—where you might expect, in Hollywood, and where you probably don’t, Silicon Valley and Wall Street. It is their appearance on Wall Street that tells you they won. When Monsanto does its best impression of an environmental advocacy group and Kimberly Clark, the diaper maker, comes out for gay marriage you know hippies now run America.
What makes you a hippie? After thinking about it a good long time I’ve come up with this: it is a faith in uncultivated things and a mindset that equates impulses and warm sentiments with all that is both natural and innocent that makes you a hippie. In the hippie lexicon artificial is just another word for bad. And civilization—particularly Western Civilization—is a blight.
The Nature of Artifice—or Why Art Comes so Naturally to Us
It is about time someone stood up for artificial things. Just because something is artificial does not mean it is unnatural. On the contrary it is in the very nature of human beings to make artificial things.
How can something be artificial and natural at the same time? The word, artificial is our clue. It grows out of another word, the word, “art”. Art is a small but very fertile word and it crops up in a lot of places. It means “something made” or “making something” depending on whether you are speaking of the result or the process. Art also goes into the making of a number of words—“artist” for instance, and “artisan”, not to mention: “artifact”, and “artifice” and, yes, “article”—the thing you are reading. There are many permutations because making things comes so naturally to us. We need a plethora of words to describe all of it. And the reason we are so creative is because we are made in the image of a Creator who loves making so much he made creatures who love to make things too.
Social Institutions and the Making of the Hippie Brain
Social institutions are one of those things that people make. What appears in the mind of a hippie though when the term social institution comes up is the image of a large, impersonal, and inflexible organization—in other words IBM, or if our hippie is a Libertarian, the IRS. But social institutions do not need to be large, impersonal, or inflexible—they can be small, intimate, and even highly responsive. It all depends.
If we look back to the Middle Ages, and even back to Aristotle, we see that social institutions were once considered a natural feature of human life. But a rift has grown between the works of man and those of nature. The modern outlook is skeptical, and essentially atheistic. Today people assume that since human institutions are purposeful and natural processes are not, it is not appropriate to speak of things that men make as “natural”. (This is question begging, of course—but few see the question and even fewer are willing to ask it.)
When it came to politics modern philosophers disagreed about many things—but one thing philosophers as different as Thomas Hobbes and Jean Jacques Rousseau could agree upon is that freedom is natural and in some sense social institutions are not. To the medieval mind freedom was a moral achievement perfected with the aid of social institutions. The reason for the disagreement is that modern thinkers tended to focus on actions and how society constrains them while medieval thinkers focused on character and how social institutions help to develop it. Put another way—modern thinkers were concerned with freedom to do as you please while medieval thinkers were concerned with being pleased by the right things.
We can see three general attitudes in early modern philosophy. One attitude is exemplified by the aforementioned Mr. Hobbes. For Hobbes a man in his free and natural state is an amoral animal struggling to survive. This drains both nature and freedom of much of their charm. Famously he said the natural life is: poor, solitary, brutish, and short. In other words, if wealth, companionship, culture, and longevity are what you are after you need to give up natural freedom to get them. Accordingly he promoted a strong central government. Without one he believed a society will descend into the chaos of natural freedom. Unfortunately, political minorities have learned from painful experience that a strong central government is as likely to leave you brutalized and impoverished as natural freedom ever did.
John Locke tried to soften things up a bit. He believed there is more to natural freedom than a freedom to do as you please, a moral warrant comes with it. Locke had to bring God back to warrant the warrant, but after that God pretty much drops out of the picture. It is up to people to get a government to bend over backward and tie itself up like a contortionist. When they’ve done that they have bound it in much the same way governments bind their subjects. This allows people to enjoy their natural freedom in the spaces that are opened up. While Locke’s more optimistic outlook is closer to the way hippies look at nature and freedom we still have a way to go. We do not truly see the first hippie, at least when we are talking about political philosophy, until Jean Jacques Rousseau comes along. Read more…