To explain why we can’t communicate requires some skill in communication.
I’m going to try to paraphrase an essay by Eric Voegelin. But every time I enthusiastically share Eric Voegelin quotes with a friend, I lose that friend. There seems to be something intimidating in the way Voegelin writes that makes people’s eyes gloss over. So here, in essence, is what Voegelin says in his essay “Necessary Moral Bases for Communication in a Democracy”, with as few direct Voegelin quotes as possible.
Voegelin says that there are three types of Communication – Substantive, Pragmatic and Intoxicant.
- Intoxicant communication is communication used as a drug. Bad TV shows, most pop music, pornography – any kind of communication that people use not only as diversions, but as pain killers to plug the holes of their misery.
- Pragmatic communication is any kind of communication that tries to get another person to do something. Propaganda is the most obvious example of this type of communication, including advertising, but so is basic instruction in skills and techniques. Unlike intoxicating communication, which is “toxic”, Pragmatic Communication is neutral, as it could encourage someone to do something good or something bad.
- Substantive communication is “concerned with the right order of the human psyche.” And the human psyche is only rightly ordered by the Love of God, or the orientation of our intellectual and moral capacity toward the Good, the True and the Beautiful, toward the transcendent reality in which we seek full participation.
Thus, Substantive Communication is good and it is most truly called “education”, but Pragmatic Communication is neutral and is merely indoctrination, while Intoxicant Communication is poisonous and is something worse than a pastime.
- Reformation, Counter-Reformation, Wars, Peace Settlements
- French Revolution, Reaction, Wars, Peace Settlements
- Totalitarianism, Liberalism, Wars, Peace Settlements
- God, to
- Reason enthroned in the Enlightenment, to
- The pragmatic intellect (technology), to
- Utilitarianism (mere usefulness), to
- Economic equity (Marxism), to
- The Master Race (Nazism), to
- Biological Drives (Desire – our Gods are our bellies, as St. Paul describes it in Phil. 3:19)
A man who is confused about the essentials of his existence is incapable of rational action; and if he is incapable of rational action, he is incapable of moral action. If “opinion” is characterized by the conceptions of the nature of man and the order of society that have arisen in the course of the ontological reduction, the knowledge of the essentials of existence is badly disturbed.
In other words, if the highest good is what comes from our lowest organs … then what is there to communicate? Substantive Communication is ruled out, and all that remains in Intoxication and Pragmatism – the latter being the forced molding of man into a new and inhuman thing, as expressed in Brave New World, 1984 and The Abolition of Man.
Moreover, the type of pragmatic communication that we have distinguished acquires a new and sinister meaning in this situation, insofar as communication becomes essentially pragmatic when it moves on the level of substitute substance. It cannot function as persuasion in the Platonic sense at all, but only induce conformist states of mind and conforming behavior.