Dreher the Nominalist?

  1. The Handmaid’s Tale
  2. Is Dreher, too, among the Nominalists?
  3. Is Nominalism really the problem anyway?
  4. Pimping Gardasil


My tastes were considerably less catholic in 1985 when The Handmaid’s Tale first appeared, and I did not read it. Indeed, I suspected it of being a mean-spirited attack on–well, people roughly like me.

I remedied that within the last year or so after reading praise of the novel by someone I trusted (I don’t remember who). It wasn’t life-changing, but I don’t regret a minute of the time I spent reading it.

It was certainly well-crafted, and it was definitely creepy, but I didn’t really find it plausible. Given the premise of a sudden catastrophic infertility pandemic, it’s hard to predict what lengths people would go to, but I don’t think that the likes of Jim and Tammy Fay (I couldn’t help picturing “Serena Joy” as a grim, barren and controlling Tammy Fay) even then would be in the ruling class with exclusive access to surrogates.

That another movie version is seen as particularly timely in the Trump Era (if there be such an era) baffles me. I must see Trump’s manifold deficiencies much differently than those who see it that way.


Joshua Rothman’s New Yorker profile of Rod Dreher had an attribution to Rod:

“incongruous with what I believe to be true because of my religion”

and a synthesis:

“he is almost—but not quite—apologetic about his views, which he presents as a theological obligation.”

that left me puzzled.

If fully accurate, they would appear to put Rod in the camp of Nominalists versus Realists (calling things true because God calls them true even if they’re not truly true/real), even though he traces the decline of healthy religion in the West to the Nominalism of Okham.

So I made bold to ask about them in a comment, which he was kind enough to answer.

I think what he’s getting at — though I would not have phrased it the way he did — is that I believe what my religion teaches is true about human sexuality, but I’m not emotionally invested in hating gay people. Nor am I emotionally invested in being pissed off at heterosexual people who don’t do the Christian thing with their sex lives.

That seems a likely construal, and would put Rod’s attitude, not surprisingly, in the same emotional alignment as mine.


Two unfamiliar authors have critiqued the Benedict Option book at the American Conservative:

Mitchell’s was especially interesting to me for this particularly:

Dreher follows Richard Weaver in blaming William of Ockham, the Franciscan philosopher and theologian who lived from c. 1285 to 1347, for destroying the supposed harmony and certainty of medieval scholasticism. This is disappointing because Dreher is now an Orthodox Christian (as am I), and Orthodox scholars take a very different view of where the West went wrong, faulting the West for a longstanding tendency toward excessive rationalism, beginning with St. Augustine and producing both the rigid edifice of medieval scholasticism and the ideas that were its undoing. There is no hint of this complex historical critique in the book, which might leave readers with the notion that things were fine until Ockham erred.

I think that’s a fair criticism. I can easily understand how Dreher overlooked that, though. His inspiration for dissing Ockham was, I believe, Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences, which blames Ockham, and he’s living his Orthodoxy without having weaponized it against the West.

Mitchell continues:

Second, Dreher overlooks entirely and inexplicably the experience of Christians under Islam. There is today still a very large Christian minority in Egypt despite nearly 14 centuries of oppression, and until the 20th century there were also large Christian minorities elsewhere in the Middle East, including Palestine, Syria, Iraq, and Turkey. Dreher refers instead to the weak analogy of our present plight to sixth-century Italy and to the brief experience of Czechs under communism. He even writes that Christians “have a lot to learn” from Orthodox Jews about surviving as an oppressed minority, as if Christians have never had that experience, but he doesn’t have much to say about the Jewish experience either, just that they are determined to survive as a people, live close to one another, value education highly, and teach their children scripture.

I suspect Rod would respond that his book is, indeed, focused on the West, and that the coping mechanisms of Christians under Islam won’t necessarily adapt well to American soil.

Third, had Dreher delved deeper into what it takes for oppressed minorities to survive through the ages, he would have found that high rates of fertility are absolutely essential …

Dreher has a lot to say against the Sexual Revolution, but he has nothing to say about its impact on fertility …

Without more children, the Benedict Option is doomed to fail. Christians must either choose life, and choose it more abundantly, or follow the world in committing what George Gilder, in 1973, prophetically called “sexual suicide.”

That’s an interesting if not devastating comment on a real blind spot even of “traditionalist” conservatives.

Kaplan’s commentary is an attempt by an Orthodox Jew to share with BenOp Christians some tips for survival intact. The one that stung me is the need for ritual. My nuclear family has never really had any, and I think that’s a personal blind spot.


What the CDC knows and should be saying is that promiscuity spreads HPV and makes it more dangerous. So why aren’t they campaigning against promiscuity? Your guess is as good as mine. Any suggestions?

Mercatornet, dissing the CDC’s touting of HPV vaccine.

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Men are men before they are lawyers or physicians or manufacturers; and if you make them capable and sensible men they will make themselves capable and sensible lawyers and physicians. (John Stuart Mill, Inaugural Address at St. Andrew’s, 1867)

“Liberal education is concerned with the souls of men, and therefore has little or no use for machines … [it] consists in learning to listen to still and small voices and therefore in becoming deaf to loudspeakers.” (Leo Strauss)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.