HOW TO KEEP FROM LOSING YOUR MIND: Educating Yourself Classically to Survive Cultural Indoctrination
by Deal W. Hudson
TAN Books, Charlotte, NC
Hardcover: 384 pages
Reviewed by John Young
When Deal W. Hudson was a 17-year-old high-school student in Fort Worth, Texas, a conversation he had with the school janitor set him thinking about the mysteries of existence. What is existence? How do humans differ from other existing things? Does God exist?
His goal in the present book is to pass on this life-changing experience, to pass it on in a society dominated by false philosophies, a society that has forgotten the eternal truths found in the great thinkers through the ages. His subtitle sums it up: Educating Yourself Classically to Survive Cultural Indoctrination.
Dr Hudson taught philosophy for 15 years in three major universities, and has published, edited, and managed print and digital magazines for over 20 years. He is heavily involved through the media in promoting healthy values.
The work is divided into three parts: 1. Beauty; 2. Truth; 3. Goodness. Each of these is considered in the light of perennial truths found in the great literature of the ages, and in modern writings, music and films.
Hudson criticises the subjectivism so common today, which speaks of “my truth and your truth” – implying that there is no objective truth. And if you challenge this contention you are accused of “judging” the people you disagree with.
“Rorty and other prophets of postmodernism, like Jacques Derrida and Michel Foucault, bring the legacy of relativism and radical individualism to its logical conclusion. In its most extreme version, they argue that the way in which individuals interpret their experience is the source of all meaning and value.” (pp149–150).
Hudson’s critique of these views is easy to follow, requiring common sense but not a technical background in philosophy. And he brings home the truth through the insights provided by literature, films, etc. He quotes from the ancient Greeks, from Scripture, from Medieval authors, including Dante, from Shakespeare, from contemporary writers and filmmakers.
An interesting comparison is made between the supreme Good and Beauty so wonderfully described by Plato, and St Paul’s description of Agape. Plato’s Good does not recognise the lover, whereas, in the Christian universe as described by St Paul, each of us is fully known by God, whether we seek him or not.
However, I do disagree with Hudson’s assertion that Plato’s Good “remains abstract and conceptual, an ideal” (p260). On the contrary, Plato saw the Good, or Beauty, as the supreme reality. Nonetheless, Hudson rightly stresses that the intimate love of God for each of us is not found in Plato or Aristotle but is central to Christianity.
Elsewhere, the assertion (p313) that Elizabeth I vowed to restore the Protestantism of her father, Henry VIII, is not accurate: Henry rejected the Pope’s authority, but also opposed Protestantism.
But these are minor criticisms in a work that offers a keen critique of current society in the light of perennial truths.
“Fiction, like music and film, may succeed in teaching us where standard explanations fail.” (p330)
For most of us, artistic representations stay in the memory longer than definitions. “This is why Jesus spoke in parables and why churches make use of painting, sculpture, and stained-glass windows” (p331).
Many films are noted that throw light on ethical and social issues, including Charlie Chaplin’s The Dictator, A Space Odyssey, The Ten Commandments, A Man for All Seasons, and The Exorcist.
Hudson sums up what he has tried to do in this book. He has attempted to re-engage the reader with the classics and to incite a new passion for the greatness that lies so close to hand. He has tried to clear away the untruths that dominate public conversation. He has warned against the cultural gurus and the postmodern despots who want to tell you what to think and how to feel.
He has armed us with arguments about the human nature that we all share. “I’ve defended truth, goodness, and beauty as transcendental aspects of being, and we have witnessed these present in the films, music, and books discussed. And we have seen how the great works speak to each other and to us about the human and its place in the universe” (p333).
Reviewed by John Young
John Young is a Melbourne philosopher and author of the book, The Natural Economy (Freedom Publishing).