Earlier this year I spent some time reading a fascinating book by R.J. Snell entitled, Acedia and Its Discontents: Metaphysical Boredom in an Empire of Desire. While reading I was caught reflecting on a lot of the work I had done last year, looking at the work of David L. Schindler, and his metaphysical critique of liberalism.
For Schindler, liberalism is much more than a political philosophy, it carries with it an entire metaphysic which infects everything, including the ontological vision of all who come into contact with it. Liberalism for Schindler reduces things to the sum of their parts and how they function. It imposes on all a fundamentally mechanistic ontology.
Schindler’s work in this area bears a close resemblance to the work of his colleague at the John Paul II Institute, Michael Hanby, who develops this same line of thinking referring instead to a technological, rather than mechanistic ontology. In fact, as I read Snell’s book, which seems to me to be both an elaboration on, and clever introduction to this kind of thinking, I was caught wishing that I had had access to prior to engaging with thinkers like Schindler and Hanby.
Hanby develops a critique of liberal modernity with a slight variation on Schindler’s mechanistic ontologic, instead pointing to the fusion of techne and logos which the heart of the liberal order. For him, the fundamental danger of technological/technocratic society is that within such a liberal/technological order there can be no such thing as an interesting (inter – inside; esse – being) question. Things in themselves do not have insides. Within liberal order one simply cannot think the whole. And so, in a world where nothing is interesting, the most common experience is necessarily boredom.
All this is beautifully developed and explained in Snell’s book, (which I heartily recommend) and very potently argued in Hanby’s Communio article The Culture of Death, the Ontology of Boredom, and the Resistance of Joy, (Communio 31, Summer 2004).