First Principles

There is an interesting post up on the Future Primeval site on the epistemic value of tradition, and its comparability to Bayesian inference. The post caught my eye because it matches with other things I have been reading, specifically Aristotle and the concept of Endoxa as utilized by Alistair MacIntyre for his conception of tradition. As his entry on the IEP page helpfully explains:

MacIntyre holds that his historicist, particularist critique of modernity is consistent with Thomism because of the way that he understands the acquisition of first principles. In chapter 10 (pp. 164-182), MacIntyre compares Thomas Aquinas’s account of the acquisition of first principles with those of Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Bentham, and Kant. MacIntyre explains that according to Thomas Aquinas, individuals reach first principles through “a work of dialectical construction” (p. 174). For Thomas Aquinas, by questioning and examining one’s experience, one may eventually arrive at first principles, which one may then apply to the understanding of one’s questions and experience. Descartes and his successors, by contrast, along with certain “notable Thomists of the last hundred years” (p. 175), have proposed that philosophy begins from knowledge of some “set of necessarily true first principles which any truly rational person is able to evaluate as true” (p. 175). Thus for the moderns, philosophy is a technical rather than moral endeavor, while for the Thomist, whether one might recognize first principles or be able to apply them depends in part on one’s moral development (pp. 186-182).

The modern account of first principles justifies an approach to philosophy that rejects tradition. The modern liberal individualist approach is anti-traditional. It denies that our understanding is tradition-constituted and it denies that different cultures may differ in their standards of rationality and justice:

The standpoint of traditions is necessarily at odds with one of the central characteristics of cosmopolitan modernity: the confident belief that all cultural phenomena must be potentially translucent to understanding, that all texts must be capable of being translated into the language which the adherents of modernity speak to one another (p. 327)

Modernity does not see tradition as the key that unlocks moral and political understanding, but as a superfluous accumulation of opinions that tend to prejudice moral and political reasoning.

Although modernity rejects tradition as a method of moral and political enquiry, MacIntyre finds that it nevertheless bears all the characteristics of a moral and political tradition. MacIntyre identifies the peculiar standards of the liberal tradition in the latter part of chapter 17, and summarizes the story of the liberal tradition at the outset of chapter 18:

Liberalism, beginning as a repudiation of tradition in the name of abstract, universal principles of reason, turned itself into a politically embodied power, whose inability to bring its debates on the nature and context of those universal principles to a conclusion has had the unintended effect of transforming liberalism into a tradition (p. 349).

From MacIntyre’s perspective, there is no question of deciding whether or not to work within a tradition; everyone who struggles with practical, moral, and political questions simply does.

Can we not replace this “moral” development with the “prior experience” of the future primeval post, and arrive at the same conclusions – experience is vital in all fields for the individual to really understand, be this scientific or ethical, this experience can either be personal experience, or experience passed down through tradition/ Bayesian priors. But if we do this, then we find that we are working from an Aristotelian framework in which Phronesis is key, and we are directly rejecting modern philosophy. Also, is it not very clear from this that the (I love science!) scientific method and modern philosophy are egalitarianism at core? The character of the actor employing the tools is assumed to be irrelevant, as is their experience and knowledge, because they/ we are assumed to be able to see those first principles without tradition.

This tradition from the MacIntyre angle is fundamentally Aristotlean endoxa. A reasoning from generally accepted opinions, which is what traditions are, are they not? There are no magical first principles, nor any magical objective points of departure. You start from a set of experiences and established points, and then build from there, and reach Thomistic first principles. How did these generally accepted principals, these “priors” come about? Who knows, and who cares, you work with what you have and proceed from there. There are no magic universals which are the stock and trade of the Enlightenment ™ and modernity here.

(Bonus: Bayesian Marxism)

Cultural Marxist Puppets

 has been raising questions about the rise of the new left and exactly how it came to be. A couple a of commentators have been providing interesting details of the geneology of cultural Marxism, but the discussion is flawed by a failure to appreciate that power dictates culture, not vice versa. This assumption leads people to assume that thinkers in the new left developed new concepts which then spread through some enlightening process (not clear how) and then warped society. The truth is more interesting, and it absolves Marxist to a great degree.

Marcus Cicero is recorded as saying that the sinews of war are infinite money, and this holds true for culture as well. When one looks at how cultural Marxist had such an overwhelming influence, we have to look at how they managed to fund their adventures, because without funding they could not do anything. They would just be whack jobs no one listened to. So who paid them? Short answer – the liberal elite.

There are vast conspiracy theories involving the liberal elite and Marxism, all hold treasure troves of information but apply a ridiculously flawed model to the information. The very same people funding the likes of Marcuse and the entire “Marxist” cadre of new left lunatics were basically liberals, progressives or ultra Calvinists. These liberals had a stock political theory which involved “liberty” and equality and market freedom. Just look at the real power behind who unleashed the new left and supplied their war with the sinews of infinite money, which was then used to push laws– The Rockefellers, McGreorge Bundy who was everywhere in the Kennedy government after going through the CFR elite (recall the Milner group), Alan Pifer (doesn’t even have his own wiki page, but has a really interesting entry under the Carnegie company), Moorfield Story the founder of the NAACP (along with a whole host of liberal Jews and other Brahmin –all liberal/ republican/ progressive/ reform etc.) the list goes on, and their lack of presence in the spot light is telling. Without these guys MLK is a preacher, Rosa Parks is some dumb woman sitting at the back of the bus, Marcuse is probably a high school teacher or bureaucrat.

These guys were not Marxists, and were not in some big conspiracy to push Marxism. Just read the republican drivel they wrote. They were gatekeepers pushing liberalism, but using Marxist” lunatic foot soldiers, just like they still doing using feral human foot soldiers in places like Fergusan. Want to drum up a mess to liberalise society for the proletariat revolution and attack those racists who oppose us? Hum, here is some money. Go get em! We need our “vibrant and tolerant” open societies. We need our world republic of free markets.

The Marxist and new left lunatics that get to be the public face of the liberal machine are an excellent camouflage. The only problem with this is that these people when funded like crazy then get into position of building their own little academic fiefs, and the thing starts going extra crazy. But even this problem becomes an opportunity, as you can still direct the nutters towards enemies of liberalism, even if it is over ever increasingly absurd concepts. The whole time the victims of this assault keep blaming “Marxists.”

It is pretty impressive.

This tells you that the new left was created by money being hosed at any idiot calling for “liberalism” no matter what their putative aims were. Who cares about that? Their jobs is to wreck things to free society, they were never going to take over. That’s not their role.

Power of Culture

Spandrell has a couple of posts positing that a new religion is needed as a means to head off the pending Islamisation of the West. Now, whilst I share his concerns about immigration, I disagree with absolutely everything else he wrote.

The first point of disagreement is with his conception of epistemic advantage. I don’t buy it. Ideas don’t win because they convince with their brilliant truth. There is a seriously suspect anthropology at work under that assumption, which fails to take into account actual events. I will go further and make the claim that there is a modernist liberal anthropology at work there which is based on liberal concepts of human interaction.

In reality, what succeeds is not premised on epistemic value, that is transparently false. What succeeds is what is of value to power systems within which they exist. In the first of the recent posts, Spandrell uses the example of the rise of Christianity. Now I have little knowledge of early Christianity, but given I hold to the premise that power determines culture, my first act was to have a look around the literature to see if the iron law of rebellious tools/ Moldbug’s para-alliance was applicable. It looks like it is applicable, and I would be interested to hear from anyone with a better grasp of the situation. There is an interesting looking book with the title Constantine and the Bishops by H.A.Drake which seems to indicate that Christianity was functionally controlled by bishops outside of the traditional Roman power structure who became Imperial allies. There are even claims that power in the form of the emperor acted on which strains of Christianity were successful:

His concern for order and stability within the empire also led him to intervene in internal Christian quarrels, the two most important of which were those involving the Arian heresy in the East and the Donatist schism in North Africa. Tracing how Constantine dealt with the two cases, Drake demonstrates that in both “he showed a consistent tendency to come down on the side of Christians who would be inclusive ” (p. 250). In dealing with Donatist rigorists, unyielding Arians, and purist Nicene fathers, Drake concludes, “Constantine favored not only peace and harmony but also inclusiveness and flexibility” (p. 271). The argument is that Constantine’s agenda was for “a moderate and inclusive Christianity, who would in turn be part of a coalition of Christians and pagans united behind a policy that provided a religiously neutral public space” (Ibid.). What happened in the later years of his reign, according to Drake, is that “Constantine lost control of the agenda, and, ultimately, … the message” (p. 272).

It would look to me as if we have unsecure power acting on culture for its own logical needs. It does not take a great leap of imagination to transport this mechanism to the present day and look at the morphing of Christianity into tolerant, inclusive and flexible Unitarianism. Do you get Jim Jones without the power within which he operates supporting him? I don’t think so. Power dictates culture, culture does not dictate power.

Will the elite convert en-masse to Islam? no. If we all developed a sophisticated religion with all the bells and whistles we thought would help, would that help? No. Power would act on it to turn it inclusive, flexible, and tolerant. This can be achieved by simply making any version of the religion which was not tolerant, illegal. This would occasion “moderates” who would make the religion “moderate” so that it could be practiced. These moderates would mysteriously find themselves wildly successful and flush with grants. Obviously because they have an epistemic advantage over the non-inclusive branches…

Nothing in politics wins because it was clearly true or patently more correct. Power determines it.

Normative, Punitive and Coercive States

I have permission to post a couple of responses from scientism in a non-public discussion around the issue of social norms and forms of rule. I will add further comment after the text of the post, as I think this issue is extremely interesting, and deserves some form of public exposure and discussion. The posts are as follows:

Post 1

“I think there’s a simple way to unify all our interests around the “Confucian insight”:

1. The central difference between Chinese civilisation and Western civilisation is that Western civilisation has (or had) separate political and religious hierarchies. “Rule by virtue/rites” was essentially the responsibility of the Church hierarchy (note how illiberal and “totalitarian” this rule was, they had representatives in every village, telling people what to think). Much modern confusion about society stems from this separation – for example, people tend to think religion is in the “private sphere” whereas government is the “public sphere”, but really you’re just governed by dual institutions. More importantly, if the Church represents rule by virtue/rites, what would its abolition look like? Wouldn’t it look exactly like Protestantism? “Every man his own priest” is the decisive move.

2. The account of human nature given by Aristotle fits neatly within the Confucian framework and made sense for the semi-integrated Medieval Western world, but it’s a poor fit for the modern, post-Reformation world. The modern world needs an account of man that is solipsistic and hyper-individualistic, who has no need for virtue and rites. Descartes and the British Empiricists provide this account. Liberalism is its mature politics.

3. The Carlylean critique can be interpreted as a critique of the transition from an informal world of customs that play a constitutive role in human ability to a legalistic world of externally imposed protocol (by means of punishment/reward) that increasingly displaces human judgement as it consumes itself like an ouroboros. The ultimate, Satanic expression of the latter would be the LandPlan: Contrary to Land’s claims, democracy is an obvious expression of the same thing. It’s inherently opposed to rule and so inherently disposed to produce convoluted systems in which leadership is obscured. The West seems to have an unfortunate history of flirting with such systems, such as Athenian democracy and the Roman Republic.

4. Both liberal “rule of law” and “free market” capitalism fall under the type of rule (hegemony) Confucius deems lesser than rule by virtue/rites. They are both concerned with rule by punishment/reward. Both, in fact, valorise punishment/reward as the highest good and recognise no other possibilities. Systems of “incentives” are seen as “realistic” whereas systems that involve a more complete account of human nature are seen as “idealistic”. It’s notable that Marxism actually falls firmly into the liberal camp and Soviet economics is a flat command structure involving punishment and reward. Japan is probably the only real example of an economy that deviates significantly from the perverse ideals of liberalism. Regardless, liberalism and free market capitalism are clearly two sides of the same coin, having identical origins and ideals and an identical account of the human individual.

(added: “The Master said, “If you try to lead the common people with governmental regulations and keep them in line with punishments, the laws will simply be evaded and the people will have no sense of shame. If, however, you guide them with Virtue, and keep them in line by means of ritual, the people will have a sense of shame and will moreover reform themselves.” Analects, 2.3)

5. The spread of degeneracy appears to be just a part of this general move from rule by virtue/rites, to rule by punishment/reward. It probably can’t happen without perversion spreading through the elite and then being promoted to the population at large.

6. It’s notable that classical Western education (the 7 liberal arts) looks a lot like it was training the elite to be exemplars in the rule by virtue/rites model, similar to classical systems of education in other civilisations. Modern education appears empty by comparison (learning a bunch of stuff you might find in an encyclopaedia).

7. Hierarchy is essential to rule by virtue/rites, but completely inessential to rule by punishment/reward, where you instead have an impersonal state that rules over an extremely flat structure. This is because a system based on human judgement has an inherent need to order people, so everybody has some sort of leadership available, whereas a system based on law and punishment simply needs a handful of all-powerful institutions that can enforce the law on the masses. The Soviet systems looks to me simply a different version of the liberal system in this respect. Capitalism tends to allow leadership within private corporations (although this is increasingly being stamped out, both from Left, in the form of workplace regulation, and the Right, in the form of making executives beholden to “the market”), whereas the communists removed even that, creating a “purer” system in certain respects. Constitutionalism, rule by law, etc, are all part of this sort of monstrous system. The Fascists gained some understanding of its shortcomings, but still seemed to view power in liberal terms and not understanding the central role of virtue/rites.

ADDED: There’s something very striking to me about this “legalistic” approach to government. Note that it has to actively oppose hierarchy, human judgement, etc, because, from its perspective, these are forms of corruption. Everybody must be “equal before the law” and this means systematically crushing systems of “privilege” (a “privilege” can be seen as anything the legalistic state cannot account for or anything that obstructs its system of “justice”). In fact, it has no need to uphold culture at all. The only thing it concerns itself with is, “Are you breaking the law?” Everything else must go, since it has the potential to obscure this concern. Moreover, it’s only concerned with things that will meet its standard of evidence. So it’s focused on supposed “harms” that can be subjected to the system (a “harm” is defined entirely in terms of the systems ability to process it, in terms of so-called “standards of evidence”). This is felt in society in two interrelated ways. Firstly, the legalistic state will actively seek to destroy anything it can’t process (as corruption/privilege). Secondly, the only alternative is for something to be elevated to the status of a legal issue and so the only way to gain acceptance by the legalistic state is to promote your cause as a legal issue. Hence gay rights, etc. The legalistic state isn’t concerned with moral correctness or even the sustainability of its rule, but rather is wholly concerned with what it is able to see from its narrow legalistic perspective. If you can turn your cause into a legal issue, it will accept you. If you cannot, it will crush you. Doesn’t this explain the entire course of modern Western history?”

Post 2

“I’m going to attempt to introduce some terminology, although I don’t think it’s perfect.

There are three basic types of rule:

1. Normative – rule by upholding and propagating norms; Confucian rule by virtue/rites

2. Punitive – rule through legal institutions, which effectively means through punishment and reward, according to some system

3. Coercive – rule through force and threat of force, in the absence of a system of formal law for its application

I think this also fits the Confucian categorisation of sage-king, hegemon and tyrant.

There are distinctions to be made between the “self-images” of each kind of state. For example, a punitive state sees the basis of its power as essentially coercive, but takes itself to be better than a purely coercive state only because it’s orderly in some sense (essentially, you know what’s going to happen to you if you break one of the many rules). Under liberalism, this becomes extremely pathological, and everything must be subject to formal law in order to be “good”. But it’s interesting that the punitive state has this supposedly “realist” tendency; it sees the fundamental basis of power as force. To the degree that those in a punitive state believe that the state can be a force for good (social democrats or communists, for example) it’s only to the degree that the state itself is subject to law at all levels. This contrasts with the normative state. The normative state sees the fundamental basis of power as normative mastery. There’s an obvious argument for this: no state can deploy any kind of force unless it at least has the loyalty of its military. Indeed, another way of looking at the three types of rule (only available from the normative perspective) is this: under the coercive state, the state only has the loyalty of the military, and this is the only means to enforce its rule; under the punitive state, the state has the loyalty of the military and the bureaucracy and so it can formalise its power in a system of law; but under the normative state, the state has the loyalty of the people, so it isn’t reliant entirely on the military or bureaucracy, but can count on the wider population to regulate itself, more or less. The normative state also has a different view of the relationship between the different types of rule. Normative rule is more effective than punitive rule and punitive rule is more effective than coercive rule. This means that all three means can be employed by the normative state. Punitive rule is to be used where normative rule fails and coercive rule where punitive rule fails. This contrasts with the punitive state, which either doesn’t recognise normative rule at all or sees it as hopelessly idealistic or even mystical. The punitive state’s relationship to coercion is also strange. It sees it as the basis of its power – the means by which it enforces the law – but it also sees it as illegitimate unless it is entirely subject to formal law. We can see that this is because it lacks the normative state’s moral dimension; it cannot recognise any action as legitimate except in legal terms. So the punitive state cannot “fallback” on purely coercive means. It has to generate convoluted reasons to put down uprisings, go to war, etc. It is incapable of handling exceptions and this has knock-on consequences because it must handle every exception systemically, by altering laws in ways that will set dangerous precedents and have unwanted repercussions at later times. So the punitive state will gradually unravel. This inability to handle exceptions as exceptions also opens the possibility of being hostile to leadership as such and is probably the source of its pathological need to subject everything to law. It has an inherent need to expand and destroy sources of legal unpredictability. The normative state, on the other hand, can, if it errs, fallback on punitive and coercive measures. Although it hopes to avoid both the growth of the legal bureaucracy and the use of unchecked violence, it will employ either in circumstances that call for it.”

The shift to rule by laws is something which can be said to be very much the trend of modernity, and it must be noted that as pointed out by Scientism, constitutionalism etc. and liberalism proper are totally law based, whilst prior social structures were not. We now have laws that are created in areas in which it has no conceivable place, and the growth of laws has reached obscene levels. Governance in a punitive system has to do so, because it has no other means of governance open to it, as it renounces the possibility of governance by virtue/ rites. In fact, such a governmental system systematically rejects any claim that such a thing is possible at its very core. The problem is that this process becomes so widespread and ingrained, that even opponents of this spread of punitive rule can only process it through the Cartesian/ British Empiricism philosophical system which accompanied and articulated this change (take a look at the excellent Hoppe analysis of De Jouvenel for an articulate example.)

In modernity (and this is noted by Tocqueville in Democracy in America) the legal profession becomes key, but unlike in Tocqueville’s conception, it does not form a visible ruling class. Lawyers and the legal profession stay very much in the background and do not rule directly. Tocqueville however, was very astute in noting that all political issue eventually become legal issues in a democracy, because in effect democracy is law based and completely blind to non-legal aspects of society  – “The third characteristic of the judicial power is its inability to act unless it is appealed to, or until it has taken cognizance of an affair. This characteristic is less general than the other two; but, notwithstanding the exceptions, I think it may be regarded as essential.” Democracy in America.

Another observation of Tocqueville’s which accords with Scientism’s observation is the following, also from Democracy in America- “”In the Middle Ages they [lawyers] afforded a powerful support to the Crown, and since that period they have exerted themselves to the utmost to limit the royal prerogative.” – this describes the flip to modernity perfectly. The crown in England for example employed the royal court to engage quo waranto campaigns to nullify the local courts powers, and take away the charters granted to manors- in the name of the people.

Of course the lawyers did not take overt control because with punitive regimes, the question of who is in charge is evaded by pointing to the laws as being in charge A.K.A rule of law. We obviously see in reality that this is not the case, and in effect those who interpret the rule are in charge, but their very position is based on a denial of rule by judgement and what Scientism has termed “normative” rule and as such we see extremely complex screens and charades to deny anything but rule by impartial law. This process is not planned in advance, but really a natural occurrence as dictated by the logic of the situation.

Further to this, most of the agents of modernity have been either lawyers, or those connected with the legal tradition, and even in circumstances in which even partial and imperfect rejection of liberalism occurred, it was always lawyer/ legal profession led. The legal dominance of society in modernity is taken as a given, whilst in reality it is a very perverse development. The recent excitement with Bitcoin and the potential for private law is clearly an extension of this process to infinity. Not only can everyone become his own priest under liberalism as noted by scientism, they can now become their own legal system. The idea of Norms, Virtue and Rites so far banished from our thought that human interaction can only be seen legally ( recent developments around sexually consent are relevant.)

Law then, we can see, extends far beyond its reasonable limits in a punitive state, as that is its only means of control. Everything must be subject to a law, and elite led norms and social organisation encoded in culture and natural interaction are invisible, only to be abused as a means to push acceptance of new laws thought societal pressure even when such means directly contradict the basis of liberalism.

This all raises an issue, which is never really raised as an issue – what relevance has law got?

Political Structure Dictates Culture

A new conception of political history is need if the accuracy of the Moldbuggian system is accepted, as in effect it is implied by this system that not only does power dictate culture by virtue of what if funds, but also by what it proscribes due to internal logic.

This conception is frankly an assertion that Christianty morphed into liberalism because unsecure power logically squeezed to death anything that did not progress to individuation and support of rule by central Power. Liberalism is in effect the symptom of unsecure power, and you can see it in the total intellectual emptiness of liberalism. It makes no sense.

If this is accepted, then Marxism is a liberal heresy, which also gave rise to a heresy of it’s own in the form of fascism. Liberalism is the key enemy. All else is distraction.

Marxism in particular has managed to become a punch bag for all degeneracy in right wing liberal circles, despite Marxism being at best a patsy. Marxism does not greatly deviate from liberalism in any serious way. The intellectual tradition of Marxism is derived from such thinkers as Adam Smith and Locke. Marx took the determinism and the concept of an objective basis of society that you see in modern political economy and went from there. What aspects of Marxism became applicable in given political situations can everywhere be seen to be dictated by power.

In societies in which a battering ram was needed to destroy existing structures, revolutionary Hegalian infused Marxism which allowed for human action and agency was funded and encourged. See Leninism in the USSR and see 3rd world revolutionary movements. The iron law is applicable. Once these movements took power, this strand naturally became defunded and unsupported. See Stalin’s purge of Hegelian Lennism and pushing of strict determinism for example. Clearly Stalin did not believe this, but why would he not propagandize that his rule was deterministic?

Another good example which demonstrates this mechanism in the case of fascism is provided by Mussolini’s shift from determinism to a Hegalian influence via Gentile, who himself extracted and elaborated on the praxeology of Marx. Human agency was embraced soas to attain power he needed to eject determism.

In more recent examples, the fate of Marxism in academic circles is clear. Anything seriously threatening to power is starved, and only such thinking that individuates whilst being friendly to central power is supported.

The political structure of society determines culture. This insight is oil to liberal water, the two concepts cannot exist together.