11.08.2002

Richard Weaver on the "Metaphysical Dream"

Every man participating in his culture has three levels of conscious reflection: his specific ideas about things, his general beliefs or convictions, and his metaphysical dream of the world.

The first of these are the thoughts he employs in the activity of daily living; they direct his disposition of immediate matters and, so, constitute his worldliness. One can exist on this level alone for limited periods, although pure worldliness must eventually bring disharmony and conflict.

Above this lies his body of beliefs, some of which may be heritages simply, but others of which he will have acquired in the ordinary course of his reflection. Even the simplest souls define a few rudimentary conceptions about the world, which they repeatedly apply as choices present themselves. These, too, rest on something more general.

Surmounting all is an intuitive feelin about the immanent nature of reality, and this is the sanction to which both ideas and beliefs are ultimately referred for verification. Without the metaphysical dream it is impossible to think of men living together harmoniously over an extent of time. The dream carries with it an evaluation, which is the bond of spiritual community.

When we affirm that philosophy begins with wonder, we are affirming in effect that sentiment is anterior to reason. We do not undertake to reason about anything until we have been drawn to it by an affective interest. In the cultural life of man, therefore, the fact of paramount importance about anyone is his attitude towards the world. How frequently it is brought to our attention that nothing good can be done if the will is wrong! Reason alone fails to justice itself. Not without cause has the devil been called the prince of lawyers, and not by accident are Shakespeare's villains good reasoners. If the disposition is wrong, reason increases maleficence; if it is right, reason orders and furthers the good. We have no authority to argue anything of a social or political nature unless we approve some aspects of the existing world. The position is arbitrary in the sense that there is a proposition behind which there stands no prior. We begin our other affirmations after a categorical statement that life and world are to be cherished.

(From Ideas Have Consequences (1948), p. 18.)

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