Concept

Ideas Have Consequences

Résumé
Ideas Have Consequences is a philosophical work by Richard M. Weaver, published in 1948 by the University of Chicago Press. The book is largely a treatise on the harmful effects of nominalism on Western civilization since this doctrine gained prominence in the Late Middle Ages, followed by a prescription of a course of action through which Weaver believes the West might be rescued from its decline. Weaver rejects the notion that the axioms underlying a human belief system can be arbitrary exercises of ultimate choice not anchored in objective realities without that system declining and ultimately failing. Accordingly, Weaver attacks nominalism using historical analogy and the teleological implications, or "consequences" of such a world view. It is important, however, to distinguish this approach from that of historicism, which contends that history unfolds in deterministic cycles. Weaver emphasizes his position that the cause of apparent patterns in the decline of civilizations is the recurring replacement of "an ontological division [of the cosmos] by categories" with "a study of signification ... [in which the] words no longer correspond to objective realities." Weaver attributes the beginning of the Western decline to the adoption of nominalism (or the rejection of the notion of absolute truth) in the late Scholastic period. The chief proponent of this philosophical revolution was William of Ockham. The consequences of this revolution, Weaver contends, were the gradual erosion of the notions of distinction and hierarchy, and the subsequent enfeebling of the Western mind's capacity to reason. These effects in turn produced all manner of societal ills, decimating Western art, education and morality. As examples of the most recent and extreme consequences of this revolution, Weaver offers the cruelty of the Hiroshima bombing, the meaninglessness of modern art, America's cynicism and apathy in the face of the just war against Nazism, and the rise of what he terms "The Great Stereopticon".
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