Saturday, July 31, 2010

Thomas Molnar escapes utopianism. RIP.

Political thinker and historian Thomas Molnar passed away earlier this month. Those of us who have read through past issues of the Intercollegiate Review and related periodicals often enjoyed his deeply intellectual essays on philosophy, tradition, and modern society.

John Zmirak offers his appreciation at ISI, while Andrew Cusack pens his own tribute to Molnar.

Cusack writes: "Molnar and his work have become sadly neglected for the very reasons he detailed in his major work: the overwhelming triumph of ideology over the intellectual sphere."

His work Utopia: The Perennial Heresy decried utopianism's "nightmarish re-shaping of life":

It is a serious mistake to think that utopian literature is nothing more dangerous than scaling the heights of lyricism, for the cold fact is that there lurks behind each passage a terrifyingly inhuman situation in which naked force is combined with the most subtle indoctrination techniques. In such cases, utopia is revealed not as "a place which is not," but as a place of desolation and death.

The utopian "poses as a seer when he speaks confidently of the radical change which will restore mankind to its true dignity and of the future which will be incommensurable with the past." This is in fact a denial of true human freedom, treating progress as an inevitable mechanism.

It also ignores the tragedy that change is "not only gain but loss as well."

As one might guess, Molnar was a particular critic of the evolutionary dreamer Teilard De Chardin.

Cusack offers a choice quote from Molnar, late in life:

Around 1960 the power of the media was not yet what it is today... Hardly anybody suspected then that the media would soon become more than a new Ceasar, indeed a demiurge creating its own world, the events therein, the prefabricated comments, countercomments—and silence. … The more I saw of universities and campuses, publishers and journals, newspapers and television, the creation of public opinion, of policies and their outcome, the less I believed in the existence of the freedom of expression where this really mattered for the intellectual/professional establishment. For the time being, I saw more of it in Europe, anyway, than in America: over there, institutions still stood guard over certain freedoms and the conflict of ideas was genuine; over here the democratic consensus swept aside those who objected, and banalized their arguments. The difference became minimal in the course of decades.

Knowing that the state of man is disunity in a fallen world, Molnar knew that merely human efforts to restore this unity are doomed to failure, tyranny, or both. The deadening of public debate is part of this sham progress towards an empty ideal.

Let us pray that Molnar, a devout Catholic, will enjoy the true unity and freedom of the Beatific Vision.

1 comment:

Kamilla said...


What timing -- I just started readaing "Utopia" this weekend. It's scary the way it pegs things so closely and I think it was written about 50 years ago.