Jane Austen and Our Culture of Feeeeelings

As I noted in my brief review of Pride and Prejudice below, Jane Austen is amazing. A truly wise woman, she wrote a novel of two kinds of people — people who change and grow, and people who do not. This is simply another way of marking those who are capable of repentance and those who are beyond repentance, those who come to see themselves accurately and those who are utterly incapable of doing so.

The latter group is represented well by Lydia — “Lydia was Lydia still.” And of course, the same thing can be said about Mr. Collins, who doesn’t budge, and Lady Catherine, who continues to condescend from the mount, and Mrs. Bennett, who carefully cultivates her nursery of nerves, and Mary, who perseveres in delivering sententious bromides, and so on. Folly is a constant in this book. Aping the immutability of God, the folly here seeks to be without any variation or shadow due to change.Eliza Bennett

But Eliza Bennett comes to repent of her prejudice, and the folly of having been misled by appearances. Mr. Darcy repents of his pride, having been properly humbled by Eliza. They change. They repent. They come to terms with the world as it actually is, instead of the world as they thought it was.

But there is another layer to Austen’s wisdom. Nothing is more manifestly plain than the vast chasm that separates the wise and foolish characters. The same judgments of Lydia’s behavior, say, come from Mr. Collins, Mary, Eliza, Aunt Gardiner, and Lady Catherine. They all think the same thing. They all say very similar things. Lady Catherine despises the “infamous elopement.” Mr. Collins says that Mr. Bennett ought not allow their names to be mentioned in his presence. Mary draws many moral extractions from the evil before them, to the utter amazement of Eliza, but Eliza abominates the folly as thoroughly as anyone. And Aunt Gardiner represented to Lydia “all the wickedness of what she had done,” which Lydia received like some preacher was “reading a sermon.” But Aunt Gardiner was wise for doing what a number of others were fools for doing.

If the soul of a fool were to animate a body, the results will be foolish. Were the soul of the wise to do so, the results are completely different. When Mr. Collins says that his marriage will make him “the happiest of men,” he is a cliche-ridden fool, and when Jane says that she is the “happiest of creatures” we are meant to understand that it is true.

Now let us apply these truths to the world around us. If you have any trouble finding or identifying it, it is the world that has gone mad. In Austen’s moral universe, the wise occupy themselves in finding out what reality is like, in order to conform themselves to it. The foolish expend all their energies to make the world conform to their own wishes and desires (as they seek to obtain what they want), and in the final analysis, when the world refuses to alter itself upon demand, to interpret the world as though it had been successfully bent to their desires. They did not obtain the particular thing that they wanted, but they do receive the consolation prize for such egocentricity, which is their right to their grievance.

C.S. Lewis wrote prophetically of the poison of subjectivism, and it is a poison that has now rotted our culture clean through.

I still remember one of my first pastoral encounters with this evil. Many years ago, I was meeting with some members of a family trying to effect a reconciliation between siblings. A grown daughter had alleged abuse on the part of the parents, and the other siblings were saying that her allegations were out to lunch. That was not the family they had grown up in. The counselor of the daughter making the allegations was present at the meeting. When her siblings registered their view that these allegations were, to use an old-fashioned word, false, her counselor astonished me. In effect, he granted that they were false, but said that it didn’t matter because what mattered is how the one making the allegations felt.

In short, we were not talking about a question of fact, but rather we were dealing with an unfalsifiable self-report. And because we have given this nonsense the time of day, we have gotten to the point where the right to pee biblically in North Carolina is under a culture-wide assault. And I do have to confess that I never thought that I would ever live to see the day when I would be caught up into the battle over peeing biblically. Perhaps we need a theological treatise on it (1 Sam. 25:22 KJV; 1 Kings 14:10 KJV).

We live in a time when we must constantly reckon with the appalling phrase “self-identify.” Nobody wants to contradict the absolute authority of self-identification.

Yeah, well, Mr. Collins self-identifies as a principled Christian clergyman, Lady Catherine self-identifies as a font of practical wisdom, Mary Bennett self-identifies as a font of theoretical wisdom, Lydia self-identifies as the belle of the ball, and Mr. Wickham self-identifies as someone chiseled out of an inheritance. But how are they reader-identified? They are identified by the readers as incorrigible fools, from front to back.

Now put the book down, and try to read the world around you. The moral vision of Austen is a true moral vision, steeped in the Christian tradition. The real world is fixed. But all around us we see what happens when the moral authority of that vision is wrested away from the author and is granted to the likes of Mr. Collins.

We see this everywhere. We see it in the narcissism of Donald Trump, a candidate with the confidence of Lady Catherine, the insight of Mr. Collins, the moral probity of Lydia, and the financial integrity of Mr. Wickham.

We see it in the supreme confidence of the Internet trolls, many of whom delight in being, to use Aaron Wolf’s great phrase, “maximum whiteys.” If you don’t know what I am talking about, you can check under my bridge. I have people down there trying to make me look like a moderate, and I think it is working.

We see it in the grievance mongers who say that getting good grades and showing up on time is a pernicious form of “white supremacy.”

We see it ambulance chasers hunting for sexual abuse grievances to trumpet and promote, muckrakers who were so home-schooled they got to the point of an utter inability to read social signals at all.

Now it would be possible to read over the four paragraphs above beginning with “we see” and twist them so that they are understood as revealing my belief that uncontrolled immigration is no problem, that Western culture is not objectively superior, that cultures of color are innately inferior, and that no such thing as true sexual abuse exists. Oh, and that I took a shot at home-schooling. No, I didn’t say that, I don’t believe that, and wouldn’t think of arguing anything like that.

But that is how my words made them feel.

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IlionlloydRFBWolfpackWill G Recent comment authors

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Will G
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Will G

Yet and still – the Donald is correct on immigration and was the only one to recognize the fact that it is a problem.

ZLee
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ZLee

Get off it, man.

tboost
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tboost

Ted Cruz has been recognizing problems with immigration long before Trump ever said a word about it. Trump hires illegals, and they are still working for him.

Will G
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Will G

That is not true. Cruz has moved to Trump’s position on immigration on most every detail. Who is the Wickham opportunist? As a businessman you make the best choices presented to you. (What laborers has Cruz or his Goldman Sachs wife employed anyway?) As a politician you should look out for the interests of American citizens and be able to anticipate what choices businessmen are going to have to make to be competitive. E-Verify would greatly reduce that dilemma. Trump sees this problem. I think Idaho is not close enough to the issue. I work for a very large wholesale… Read more »

Reuben
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Reuben

“I think Idaho is not close enough to the issue.”

Not quite sure what you meant by this statement, but immigration issues are very important to the people of Idaho. Many counties in the southern half of the state are well over 30% Latino population with the economy being very dependent on them for labor.
http://www.icha.idaho.gov/menus/idaho_counties.asp

Will G
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Will G

I’m glad to hear immigration is a concern in Idaho. Perhaps they will come around for the general election if Trump prevails.

tboost
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tboost
Will G
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Will G

This is a good summary of Cruz on immigration until Trump took control of the issue:
http://www.amren.com/news/2016/01/ted-cruzs-immigration-reversal/

Rob Steele
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Rob Steele

Coolest observation about P&P I ever read was Peter Leithart saying Austin makes the reader repent along with Lizzie. She teaches us how, as it were.

Ian Miller
Member

C. S. Lewis, prefiguring Leithart (whose book is quite good) in “A Note on Jane Austen” (http://eic.oxfordjournals.org/content/IV/4/359.extract) indicates that this moral epiphany, this moment where repentance is not just recognized but felt by the reader and the heroines, is a consistent theme in all of Austen’s novels.

adad0
Member

Now would be a good time to introduce the reality of objective feelings, as informed by objective reality,
as opposed to subjective feelings, as informed, or misinformed by individual perception of said reality.

Ian Miller
Member

Hmmm. I am curious – how does one have objective feelings? For all the brilliance that is C. S. Lewis’s Abolition of Man, I’m still not entirely sure how we get over the Kantian eyeglasses model of feelings into the “this waterfall is sublime and my feelings about it are in some way connected to reality”.

adad0
Member

Physical feelings are easy. It’s freezing in the Arctic , it’s hot in the desert. Social feelings are more complicated, but not impossible.
For instance , if either of us were insulted, unprovoked by someone, the insult would be objectively wrong, because God said so. If we felt like that person should die, for insulting us, that reaction would be unwarranted and subjective.
Does this sound objectively reasonable ?

Ian Miller
Member

Hmmm. So far so good – are you saying that in general, the guide to our subjective feelings is whether God has approved or disapproved of the thing towards which we have feeling?

adad0
Member

Well, that’s always a good start. When we get to issues not directly addressed in The Word , then we go by Word grounded principle, in as clear eyed and Spirit guided a way as we are capable .

insanitybytes22
Member

Ian and A-Dad, I would point out that there is often a male and female difference going on here. For example, men often perceive feelings as the things that make them want to kill people, while for women feelings are what prevent us from killing people.

For women, our very morality is often closely entwined with our feelings, our maternal instincts. Different designs, different purposes. So while you can tell a man to ignore his feelings and focus on objective reality, for women to do that is another matter entirely.

Ian Miller
Member

Hmm, interesting. I’m not sure I associate my own feelings so closely with violence, but that’s probably more statistically true for men than women.

adad0
Member

Memi, in my view , everything people do has an emotional footing. Even strict “rationalism” is adhered to by people who can’t handle their emotions.
Perhaps it is best to divide emotions and feelings , not by male vs. female, but by loves vs. hate.
Yes, then the genders have their commonly different modes of expression , but the base motives for each might be less gender based than commonly perceived!????

Ian Miller
Member

Completely agree!

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think you are right. So much of emotional expression is culturally-based. The wailing that is okay in one culture is frowned on in another; a lot of our upbringing is intended to teach us what kind of emotional displays are appropriate for our gender and our culture.

When my husband was angry, he would slam a door. When I am that angry, I get quiet. When he intensely disliked someone, he might pick a quarrel; I would be more likely to be icily polite. But the feeling itself is exactly the same in both cases.

insanitybytes22
Member

When you said, “icily polite,” is that not a bit like shutting down feelings? That’s what I meant about the difference between men and women, our morality, how we treat people is linked to our feelings, so we will go icy, we will be devoid of feelings. Men however, they will be all about the feelings while slamming doors. Sometimes you will see them get into fights with one another and be best of friends the next day, while when women fight with one another, we will often be shut down for weeks, months. I don’t think it’s just culture,… Read more »

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

I think it could amount to shutting down feelings, but it doesn’t always imply that. When I get icily polite, I know what my real feelings are and I know that I need to keep a tight grip on them. I would be very concerned about linking my morality to my feelings because my emotional responses can deceive me. For example, my emotional response is usually to fight for the underdog. This is good in one way, but it can also lead to injustice. My emotional response is usually to try to make people around me happy, but this can… Read more »

Christopher
Member

“To a Canadian brought up with the notion that even girls ought not to cry after early childhood, this is really weird for me.”

That sounds very Brittish, Stiff upper, for king and country ect.

Jill Smith
Member
Jill Smith

Absolutely. And, believe me, there was something to be said for it.

Farinata degli Uberti
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Farinata degli Uberti

I have no idea if that’s true, but your second sentence is phenomenal.

Jill Smith
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Jill Smith

I don’t think any feelings can be objective. But I think we are no longer taught the duty to govern our feelings. Governing feelings by suppressing them usually doesn’t work in the long run. I think the task is to examine them, to see if they are occasioned by something objective, to decide if they are proportional, and not to let them cause pain and distress to others.

Ian Miller
Member

I agree – that’s why I think I was having difficulty connecting with A dad’s points. To me, the definition of feeling is that it is a subjective response. However, I think you and A dad are both saying similar things – we must train our feelings (as Lewis said) to match what the Bible tells us is good and bad – what we should love and hate.

insanitybytes22
Member

I think we are called to bring our thoughts, (and therefore our feelings) into captivity, “so bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” helps our feelings to align with His will. So that is how feelings can become objective reality, never forgetting that God may also have you singing in prison or rejoicing in the midst of persecution. So when in doubt about which version of objective reality to believe, always choose God’s because His is a lot more fun. :)

adad0
Member

Gang, here is a good one re: objective emotions:

Acts 2:36-38
36 “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

37 When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart

and said to Peter and the other apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Rob Steele
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Rob Steele

Our eyes lie to us sometimes, our emotions even more. They both purport to tell us something about objective reality outside ourselves and they both are more or less accurate as the case may be. Neither is perfect. Neither has direct access to God, the ultimate Objective Reality.

Ian Miller
Member

So much wisdom – this is why I think literature is so important – at its wisest and best, it allows us to see the world freed from our own chronological snobberies and issues of the day, and at its worst, it allows us to see the dreadful world we would live in if we don’t avoid the pitfalls of the author.

I would also mention that Emma, in particular, demonstrates the dangers of subjectivism, and some correctives for them. :)

Ben Carmack
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Ben Carmack

I suppose the alt right trolls are too dense to recognize Doug’s sick burn of them in his post, but when they do get it I expect 600 word incoherent disquisitions on the matter soon…as soon as they finish their latest Cheeto break.

adad0
Member

As objective realities go, there are many worse than Cheetos .
Can we leave Cheetos out of this discussion ?
They are the innocent casualties here!????

Ian Miller
Member

I prefer Doritos, myself. ;)

katie
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katie

comment image

insanitybytes22
Member

This was beautiful and well said. The world indeed has gone mad, a rather reassuring idea, because I often worry it’s me. Writing, blogging, can really give you a feel for the nature of subjective reality. No matter how careful you are, no matter how clear, someone is sure to come along and project their own ideology, their own feelings onto what you’ve written. You start to get a clue about this when on the very same day, you can be accused of being both a radical feminist and a foaming at the mouth misogynist. Subjective reality is not all… Read more »

Ian Miller
Member

Definitely agree – I tend to be suspicious of the Platonic idea that feelings are inherently lesser than thoughts – I see Christ’s command to love God with our whole heart and mind as two things that work together, rather than one thing being enslaved to the other. I think putting either emotion or reason completely in charge of the other leads to two terrible tyrranies – either the subjectivist nightmare Doug analyzes so well here, or the rationalist prison from which J. R. R. Tolkien helped us escape.

insanitybytes22
Member

I have to laugh sometimes, scripture tells us to “lean not into our own understanding” and how “believing themselves wise they became fools.” Conversely however, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”

Rather cheerfully, we are simply toast without Him. Left to our own devices, we haven’t even got the tools to survive. Flawed reason and faulty hearts is the best we can do.

adad0
Member

We are jars o’ clay memi, vessels of some sort, as that is what we were made for, to be filled.
It’s always a matter of what we are filled with.
Wine,
Or a croc of something else!????
I hope for all of us, it’s wine!

Ilíon
Member

Douglas Wilson:We see this everywhere. We see it in the narcissism of Donald Trump, a candidate with the confidence of Lady Catherine, the insight of Mr. Collins, the moral probity of Lydia, and the financial integrity of Mr. Wickham.
 
Sure.
 
And we see it in that “consistent conservative”, Ted Cruz, who not only is not a natural born US citizen, but wasn’t even a US citizen at all until his mother finally filled out the legal paper-work when he was 16 years old.
 
And, sadly, we see it in Douglas Wilson, who continues to shill for Cruz.

adad0
Member

“We see it in the supreme confidence of internet trolls…..”

Sorry ill lion, you walked right in to that one!????

Ilíon
Member

Oh, boo-hoo! An intellectually dishonest man — someone who is *worse* than a mere liar — has called me a “troll”, and other intellectually dishonest persons approve of him.

Whoever could have seen that coming?

adad0
Member

Well, not someone who makes himself a poster boy, I mean poster lion for the concept!????

Nathan Smith
Member

Haha. Its not enough for your parents to be American citizens. I guess none of us are Americans then.

Ilíon
Member

I, and others, have explained this in exquisite detail … and you people *will not* understand.

The American Republic is dead … because you people want it dead just as much as the leftists do.

Nathan Smith
Member

Who you calling “you people.” Sounds leftist to me. And the American republic, though a good idea, was always gonna die at some point.

Ilíon
Member

Obviously, I’m calling you people “you people”.

Sure, “the American republic, though a good idea, was always gonna die at some point.”

However, the brazen hypocrisy of “you people” — sharpening the knife even as you tut-tut the effect the knife is about to have — is repugnant.

Nathan Smith
Member

So you think supporting Ted Cruz for candidate in the presidential election is “sharpening the knife?” Or do you refer to something else? We’ve all got to support your guy or we’re “sharpening the knife?” There’s repugnance here. You at least got that part right.

Ilíon
Member

And who would “my guy” be?

Cruz is not a natural born US citizen. Thus, the US Constitution *forbids* him occupying the office of President of the US. Thus, those who refuse to see this, and who insist upon supporting his anti-Constitutional bid to illegally occupy the office are as guilty of murdering the Republic as any leftist is. And they’re hypocrites.

 
So, again, who is “my guy”?

Nathan Smith
Member

Sorry if my prev remark was too caustic. Your remarks seem quite unjust and are certainly ungracious. That just raised my ire.

But I do object in being thrown in with “you people” when said people are not identified at all with any characteristics. And though I appreciate your wordplay, I fail to see what knife I am sharpening. Maybe if you were a little less obtuse, or a little more charitable, you could make a better point and refrain from offending. I consider that 2 benefits, though there are some who would consider it 2 detriments.

Ilíon
Member

It’s no more my intention to be “gracious” than it is to be “nice”.
I care about truth, not about tickling the ears or stroking the egos of people who despise truth.
Whether or not *you* are included in “you people” is totally up to you, now isn’t it? It’s sort of like objecting to the proper use of ‘slut’ — who, except a slut, tries to shout it down?
Charitable?? With intellectually dishonest persons?

Christopher
Member

“And, sadly, we see it in Douglas Wilson, who continues to shill for Cruz.”

Is there someone Doug should be shilling for?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Maybe shilling for career politicians willing to do anything to get themselves elected just isn’t a wise activity to engage in, full stop?

It’s not like deciding to stop shilling for one deceitful, power-hungry politician means that you have to choose a new one. You can just stop and proceed on to more Kingdom-oriented tasks.

Katecho
Member

… like shilling for minimum wage?

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Like advocating for just wages for workers, something the Bible makes a point of. We COULD have a discussion of how to figure out what just wages mean and how to make it happen as a community. But you insisted on simply misreading my statements and making false assumptions, leading to you yelling “statist!” over and over, so the opportunity was missed. And since you racked up a great run of logical fallacies in that discussion, how about we add an “ad hominem” right here. Your statement had nothing to do with what I said and was just a general… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Shilling for minimum wage is not the same as advocating for just wages. Jonathan was shilling for minimum wage, though it is nice to see that he doesn’t want to appear to be doing that any more. I consider that quite progressive of him.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

Since I corrected your mis-impression numerous times in the conversation itself and you failed to acknowledge it, I’m not surprised that you would falsely act like this is the first time you’re hearing it. To pretend that I’m now saying something new that I didn’t already tell you a month ago is deceitful. And I ask again – who do you possibly think is being edified by this change of direction of the topic? Do you see yourself as a personal protector of Pastor Wilson and are simply trying to run interference for him or something? I’m not sure he… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote:

And I ask again – who do you possibly think is being edified by this change of direction of the topic?

Apparently I’ve distracted Jonathan from his favorite pastime of ad hominem against Wilson, yet I’m rebuked for changing the topic? Perhaps Jonathan should proceed on to more Kingdom-oriented tasks. That’s the advice he gives to others anyway.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

I stated a clear and direct reply to Christopher Casey’s question that applies to ALL of us and is in no way specific to Pastor Wilson alone. If it was an insult to anyone, it was an insult to all our political choices. And both Christopher Casey and another commenter seemed to feel my reply was appropriate. Your claim that I used an ad hominem against Wilson in this case is completely false – even if I had specifically directed my statement to Pastor Wilson and him alone, my criticism is exactly ABOUT the position that is being held, the… Read more »

Katecho
Member

Jonathan’s defense seems to be that Ilion started it.

Katecho
Member

Jonathan wrote:

And since you racked up a great run of logical fallacies in that
discussion, how about we had an “ad hominem” right here. Who did you
possibly think would become edified by your statement right there?

Jonathan’s hypocrisy and lack of self-awareness sometimes astounds me. After just calling out Wilson as a shill, Jonathan immediately forgets himself, assumes the high road, and scolds me for “ad hominem” and lack of edification.

Jonathan
Guest
Jonathan

More personal attacks. What is it about my comments that make you feel you need to resort to this? Katecho, look back at the conversation thread. I didn’t “call Wilson out as a shill”, I was directly quoting Christopher Casey’s use of the word “shilling”, which to my ears he appeared to be using neutrally, though with a bit of a verbal edge, to mean the same thing as “advocating for”. And he was only repeating llion’s use of the word. Unsurprisingly, you didn’t take issue with llion’s original use of “shill”, nor Christopher Casey’s repetition of it, but because… Read more »

RFB
Guest
RFB

He wants many shillings.

valerieab
Member

Of all the times for the Logos plugin to be pointing to the ESV rather than the KJV…

MISS CALVINISM 2016
Guest
MISS CALVINISM 2016

I couldn’t agree more.

adad0
Member

Miss, I just saw your “title”! Could you please enlighten me on the “Institutes of the Miss Calvinism Pageant”?
And if there aren’t any existing Institutes, could you please make some up!?????
With a great title like yours, how could there not be associated Institutes?????????

Wolfpack
Guest
Wolfpack

I’m used to people having concerns about socialization for homeschoolers, anything specific being referenced?