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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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Concerning your post "Hillary Won Last Night's Debate" (for which comments are not enabled), the "Where's the Beef?" line was used by Mondale in a debate with Gary Hart during the Democratic primaries.

Thus to the identity politics of the Left, they oppose an identity politics of the Right, when what they ought to be doing is getting beyond identity politics altogether.

My understanding of alt-right thinkers is they would argue that getting rid of identity politics is impossible or at least highly unlikely, that it is analogous to getting rid of war. Thus the individual who sits on the side lines and takes no side in identity politics is equivalent to the pacifist who opposes all wars. Or they would say that if you are serious about getting beyond identity politics, it makes little sense to invite large amounts of groups into the country each having a unique identity.

Bill,
I'm honored you think it's worth discussing this further (if only to point out my mistakes). Rest assured, I'm not a relativist. Yes, western civilization encodes some principles (about math or logic or physics, for example) that are absolute and universal truths (if they are truths). In the context of this discussion I was assuming that the relevant truths or principles were instead political-moral norms, e.g., those that distinguish conservatism from liberalism or western civilization from others. For instance, Bob was arguing that conservatism must be true for everyone if it's true at all. I took him to be making a claim about the truth of specific normative principles distinctive of American-style conservatism--for example, "We should have limited government" or "Every citizen should have freedom of expression" or, for that matter, "Every mentally competent adult citizen should be allowed to vote". This was what I wanted to dispute. (Maybe I misunderstood his position?)

It seems easy enough to understand how a principle like "We should have limited government" may be true for just some human groups. An analogy: your doctor's prescriptions may be true for you but not for someone else with different medical conditions, etc. Likewise, there are human groups such that, given their abilities and interests and personalities on the whole, conservatism or any other stream in western civilization is either impossible for them or very costly and harmful. And there are also groups who'd find our conservative or western norms and traditions deeply incompatible with their own traditions and norms and intuitions. I doubt they can be bound by our principles in that kind of epistemic situation. And all of that is objectively true, I claim. Does this put me in the same category as the crazy anti-white Leftists? Sure doesn't seem that way to me.

On a different point: sure, the truths of physics or philosophy or whatnot are not the 'property' of any particular group, but that doesn't entail that physics or philosophy can't be the property of white Europeans (or somebody else). Another analogy: notes and scales don't belong to anyone, but obviously Bach owns the very impressive, original, unique things that he did with those notes; and if Bach discovered combinations of notes (themes, melodies, harmonies, chords) for the first time we could certainly say that Bach rather than Kenny G 'owns' those things (if not the notes). In roughly the same way, the cultural and intellectual property of Europe does include (I think) the distinctive creations and discoveries of Europeans--things that no one else even approximated, as far as we know, and which no one else to this day has done more than imitate. Of course other groups also have some 'property' in this way. I don't mind sharing or even giving some of it away, but why is it so crazy to suppose that my group does have a kind of ownership over the great works of our ancestors? This has nothing to do with the silly idea that truths themselves, as distinct from truth-finding disciplines, are property.

Hi, Bill. With due regard, I think that your interpretation of Jacques is fairly uncharitable. When he expressed skepticism about western principles being "true for everyone", he put the phrase in scare quotes. Presumably that's because he didn't mean it literally and probably meant it to indicate skepticism about whether western principles are, or would ever be, _believed_ by everyone. There is, however, a genuine question about the whether at least some of the principles and values of the west are universally applicable. Is it, e.g., true that every culture on Earth should have a non-religious government? Is it true that women in every culture should be able to vote? Is it true that markets should be as free as they are in the US in all cultures? If Jacques had these kinds of principles in mind, then I think that skepticism about whether they are true principles for all cultures is extremely warranted. Why in the world would we think that the well-being all of all people in all cultures around the world is preserved or promoted through principles like those? Isn't it _much_ more plausible to think that the answer depends upon the particular groups of people and their particular traditions?

Does thinking that make one "the mirror image of crazy leftists"? Hardly. In fact, I would argue that what makes one such a mirror image is thinking that there is a simple set of universal "classical liberal" principles that are the key to human flourishing for every culture, race, and way of life in existence. And that's exactly what Jacques is arguing against.

Additionally, Jacques is not saying that the west exclusively _owns_ the truth of its principles in some absurd way, as you suggest. He is simply saying that it is highly unlikely that all non-western cultures and non-white races would adopt and successfully implement the principles of the west.

Interestingly, in the end, you seem to actually agree with most of what, I think, Jacques is actually saying.

Best,
Criticus Ferox (formerly Anonymous)

I agree that Western civilization includes principles that are true for everyone. However, for any society to have a culture, these universal truths will be expressed in a particularized way. This is what traditions are: customs that 1) express objective, universal truths (e.g., a moral truth), and 2) bind a community together (across both space and time) by expressing these truths in a culturally particularized way that is collectively recognized by the community. An example would be marriage rites: the differing marriage rituals in different cultures all point to the same underlying, objective reality, but they do so in culturally particularized ways.

And this is why race and ethnicity are important. The fundamental problem with mass immigration is that you cannot import millions of people from different cultures without destroying your own. It is not even fundamentally about whether or not these foreign cultures are inferior to ours. It is simply that they are different: maintaining a community's traditions, and thus the identity and existence of the community itself, requires that these traditions be shared. Since traditions are by definition particularized, they cannot be maintained if large numbers of people from different cultures with their own traditions are imported into the community. Of course, things like IQ matter too, but these sorts of things are not as basic as the influence immigration has on our culture.

Regarding the post linked to about the definition of the alt-right: I do not agree with Jacques's definition that disagreeing with at least one of the main tenets of mainstream conservatism and having a general right-wing orientation make one an alt-rightist. This description characterizes me, but I do not consider myself alt-right. I would characterize myself as a traditionalist. The main problem I see with the alt-right is that it completely ignores the transcendent. Without situating immigration or the fact of racial differences within some larger moral framework, what good is it?

By the way, great blog Mr. vallicella.

Bill,

"One of the alt-right fallacies, then, is to think that Western culture is somehow tied necessarily to Western peoples either by being true or normatively binding only for Western peoples, or by being owned by Western peoples."

I think that's a straw man. (In particular, I don't know anyone on the alt-right who would even suggest that the West "owns" its culture -- for all the reasons you mention. The very idea opens the door for accusations of "cultural appropriation", which is roundly mocked in alt-right circles as left-wing idiocy.)

The alt-right is of course a loose collection of people and ideas, but while one of its few generally agreed-upon tenets is a rejection of naive human universalism, it doesn't assault the very idea of truth in anything like the way you suggest. (Quite the contrary, in fact: the denial of objective reality is considered one of the most dangerous features of Leftist ideology, and is one of the main things the alt-right is reacting against.)

Alt-right thinking hews much more closely to the propositions you listed as C4, C5, and C6. Such "truth" as it lays claim to is about the fit between different peoples and the principles of Western civilization, and the suitability of profoundly alien populations for mass inclusion in Western societies.

As regards your C6 in particular, a useful way of looking at it is that cultures are examples of what has come to be known as "extended phenotypes", as I explain here.

"I agree that our recent foreign policy has been irresponsibly interventionist."

I would agree only if you intend "irresponsibly" with the following meaning: it is irresponsible to begin a military intervention if you leave the theater before the situation is under control. Unfortunately, this has been the case several times beginning with Vietnam, when you caved for the first time to the pressure of the internal left.
When Italy (my country) was occupied at the end of WWII, without the American presence (up to now) the Communist forces would have easily prevailed; the same holds for Germany.
Half of Korea is today thriving thanks to American interventionism, while is northern half is a living orwellian nightmare. Even the war in the ex-Yugoslavia has been resolved thanks to a resolute American intervention, while Europe was accomplishing absolutely nothing with its thousands of inane "firm condemnations" of the slaughters going on.

So, as I see it, a few countries have been BLESSED with American interventionism: some have taken advantage of the unique liberties unfolding from the events, some not. In any case, the worst has happened when the USA began something and then left when the situation was still dangerous, probable even more than before. This has been completely irresponsible, but that does not mean that the intervention 'per se' was irresponsible.

Paolo,

You make excellent points with which I agree.

The problem is that since the Viet Nam era we have been a deeply divided country. And so what George Bush started, the feckless and foolish Obama failed to finish. The result is a disaster in the Middle East which is a disaster for Europe and the rest of the world: Muslim refugees flooding into the West will accelerate the spread of Islam.

Note that I referred to RECENT U. S. foreign policy.

In hindsight, the U.S. should not have invaded/liberated Iraq.

Malcolm,

Straw man? You know Jacques, Jacques is alt-right, and he made the claim about ownership.

>>Alt-right thinking hews much more closely to the propositions you listed as C4, C5, and C6. Such "truth" as it lays claim to is about the fit between different peoples and the principles of Western civilization, and the suitability of profoundly alien populations for mass inclusion in Western societies.<<

Well then I think we basically agree.

Illegal immigration must be stopped, and legal immigration must favor those who share our values and are most assimilable. No Sharia-supporting Muslims should be allowed in.

Ian,

Excellent comments.

>>The fundamental problem with mass immigration is that you cannot import millions of people from different cultures without destroying your own. It is not even fundamentally about whether or not these foreign cultures are inferior to ours. It is simply that they are different: maintaining a community's traditions, and thus the identity and existence of the community itself, requires that these traditions be shared.<<

A lot depend on how different those other cultures are from our own. People from the UK are culturally different from us, but highly assimilable. The French and the Germans are less assimilable but still highly assimilable. And so on until you get to unassimilable elements such as Sharia-supporting Muslims.

Immigrants groups bring their cultures with them. In among the Italian/Sicilian immigrants that flooded in early last century were a sizable admixture of mafiosi. But at least they were merely criminals as opposed to subversive terrorists as many Muslims are. Italians are nominally Catholic, and so some Christianity has rubbed off on them.

>>The main problem I see with the alt-right is that it completely ignores the transcendent. Without situating immigration or the fact of racial differences within some larger moral framework, what good is it?<<

I agree, and thanks for your kind words.

The issue of ownership is probably not the most important in this context, but I wanted to expand a little bit. Our civilization is a concrete manifestation of certain principles and understandings (regardless of whether these are all truths). More than that, it's a unique creative expression--like a song or an essay--that goes beyond simply instantiating truths. It's an expression of the soul and memory of a distinct collection of peoples, embodied in a vastly complex and delicate material form.

The west includes our lands and the social-political arrangements needed to make those into societies, our buildings and roads, schools and hospitals, museums and monuments, institutions and political associations, etc. Ownership of all that is what really matters, regardless of any abstruse questions about truth relativism or the conceptual possibility of owning a truth. The millions of aliens aren't eager to own our truths or principles or standards, which of course they could always learn and appreciate in their own lands; they want our lands, our stuff, our civilizational infrastructure. Liberals or mainstream conservatives say they're entitled to all of that just in virtue of (supposedly) accepting various truths or principles, but that's not how ownership of a civilization works.

Our ancestors struggled and suffered to create these concrete places and systems and institutions, and they sure as hell didn't intend to pass them on to any old random collection of human entities willing to sign on to some set of abstractions. If I work hard to build a house for my kids, and then you force my kids to share the house with a hundred other people, that's stealing. (And it's wrong for other reasons too, if we make the analogy more precise.) It doesn't matter that some or even all of these squatters believe in principles of architecture that enabled me to build my house, or that they may be capable in principle of learning those principles and fixing the roof or whatever, or that they're going to pay property taxes eventually--once they've been schooled and trained with the money that I saved to pay for my kids to be schooled and trained, perhaps. Regardless, it's not their house and they have no right to be there.

So we can set aside abstruse conceptual questions. Let's focus on the question of whether some arbitrary Aborigine or Zulu or Korean has a right to enter into the concrete civilization built by our ancestors just in virtue of having the right philosophical attitudes (or being really nice, or doing 'jobs Americans won't do', or anything other than having our ancestors).

Ian,
If the alt-right 'completely ignores the transcendent' then I'm not in the alt-right. But lots of people who get called alt-right take for granted that their political positions have to be grounded in transcendent realities. Lots consider themselves traditionalists and even Traditionalists, i.e., believers in a (supposed) Perennial Philosophy or some kind of Hindu-inspired theory of history. (They say we're in the Kali Yuga now.) Some are old-fashioned Christians, or they'd like to be. Maybe the alt-right does tend to 'ignore' the transcendental in dealing with specific political issues in the weak sense that they don't argue from transcendental premises. But I can't see any problem with that. Leftism and mainstream conservatism can be defeated (rationally) with common sense alone. Or common sense plus a bit of social science and history and non-transcendental philosophy.

Anyway, if you have (lower-case 't') traditionalist attitudes you're so far outside respectable conservatism that you might as well be alt-right. And maybe you are, if 'alt-right' just refers to anything right-wing that violates the dominant Leftist taboos. Probably not worth quibbling over labels; there's the socially acceptable but irrational kind of conservatism, and the socially unacceptable but rational kind. We need to get the people in the second group working together, and we need to get more people out of the first group and into the second.

Bill,

Above, I said:

Alt-right thinking hews much more closely to the propositions you listed as C4, C5, and C6. Such "truth" as it lays claim to is about the fit between different peoples and the principles of Western civilization, and the suitability of profoundly alien populations for mass inclusion in Western societies.

To this you said, "Well then I think we basically agree". I'm glad to hear that, but the point I'd really like to make is that you and the alt-right basically agree.

Ian (and again, Bill), I must also say that I think it's very deeply mistaken to say that the alt-right "completely ignores the transcendent". The alt-right is above all a reactionary movement, and one of the most important targets of that reaction is the aggressive secularism and anti-religiosity of the modern West. The great heroes of Christian Europe, for example, who fought for their thrones and altars against Muslim invaders, are iconic figures in alt-right circles. Even the secularist writers of the alt-right, such as John Derbyshire, express their sympathy for religion, and acknowledge its centrality in the Western traditions we seek to preserve. (Contrast this with the sustained assault on Christianity, and traditional social mores, by the ostentatiously godless Left.)

The alt-right is also a reaction against the soi-disant "anti-hierarchicalism" of the modern Left (which is a sham and a deceit, because the Left ultimately seeks far more power over every aspect of our lives than anyone on the new Right). It recognizes that hierarchy is a natural feature of organic societies, and that throughout Western history, the traditional apex of that organic hierarchy has always been God. (This is also why alt-right thinking leans more naturally toward Catholicism than Protestantism; in particular, many on the alt-right see modern Progressivism as a mutated and secularized descendant of the Puritans.)

In sum, Bill: despite the alt-right's ugly fringe (was there ever a political movement without one?), I think you have much more in common with it than you realize.

Jacques, these are excellent, insightful comments. I also like what you said about getting people in the group of common sense, rational conservatives working together. I would like to get more mainstream conservatives into this group as well, but I'm not optimistic about the prospects of this. I'm not sure whether they are any more movable than the left. What do you think about that?

For your (and your readers') consideration:

http://mpcdot.com/forums/topic/9137-the-alt-right/#entry296099

First, the alt-right was created by the ideological and physical shrinking of mainstream conservatism. What I term Buckley conservatism, and which morphed into "cuckservatism" in its old age, coalesced around a series of increasingly anti-conservative ideas such as: religious faith in free markets, individual liberty over public governance, and a severely truncated social conservatism. In the main, Buckley conservatism developed in opposition to Soviet communism during the Cold War. As Buckley conservatism shrank in the range of ideas it accepted, it also evolved in various ways to remain acceptable to a media-defined Overton window, which led to increasing efforts to purge heretics from its (thinning) ranks. This is a crucial point in explaining why the alt-right came to be.

Second, the old one-way mass media model of Western communication was been weakened by the Internet. This damaged the ability of official ideological leaders (usually supported by plutocrats) to manage right wing discourse. With forerunners like The Drudge Report and Breitbart, alt-right groups developed their own modes of communication and siphoned off those who remained within mainstream conservatism out of inertia. The decline of the mass media model caused a greater range of creativity and personalities on the alt-right, and selection pressures became more populist. Mutually influencing alt-right groups went through a rapid evolution of ideological and rhetorical styles, learning from each other at a heightened pace.

Third, a generational break occurred. When political circumstances change, they can lead to a state where existing political divisions no longer make any sense. At such point there is a need for political divisions to realign to a state that is more in accordance with the current political circumstances. However, political views tend to be conservative--that is, people tend to retain the same views over time, especially those views which coalesced upon reaching full adulthood. This is because political views have a social dimension, and to that degree go into forming social identity. In this regard they are much like fashions, manners, and buying habits. After young adulthood, when social identity settles into its mature form, political views tend to be retained even if they no longer describe the outside world very well. When there arises a marked change in the political environment, succeeding generations form views more in tune with new circumstances, and as the older generation passes from the scene this leads to political realignment on a mass scale.

Criticus,

I am glad you outed yourself as 'anonymous.' I had been toying with the Criticus = Jacques identity theory.

You write,

>>There is, however, a genuine question about the whether at least some of the principles and values of the west are universally applicable. Is it, e.g., true that every culture on Earth should have a non-religious government? Is it true that women in every culture should be able to vote?<<

It seems you accept a version of value relativism. Consider the proposition:

It is wrong to exclude women from the vote.

Are you maintaining that this proposition is true relative to our culture but possibly not true relative to other cultures?

How about this:

It is wrong to enslave human beings.

Do you think this is true for us but might not be for other cultures?

I would say that human slavery is always and everywhere wrong because it is absolutely wrong. Do you disagree?

What am I assuming? I am assuming that there is a common dignity and worth that every human being possesses, regardless, of race, creed, sex, language, etc. and that slavery is incompatible with it. I am assuming one of the formulations of Kant's Categorical Imperative: "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."

Do you reject my assumption? If yes, how would you argue for its rejection?

This, I take it, is a key issue that divides alt-rightists from traditional conservatives.

Bill,
I know your question wasn't for me, but I have some views about this stuff. About women voting: I don't think it was wrong for western societies to exclude women from the vote in the recent past; I think there were good, non-relativistic reasons for the exclusion, and I suspect that the women's vote has been a net disaster for the west (and one of the main reasons for PC multiculturalism and all the rest of it). But I also think there are possible worlds where women should have the vote. As things stand, I'd be very happy to deny the vote to Cultural Marxists and others who make it clear they have no sense of loyalty or respect for western civilization, while granting votes to all loyal and rational women in our society. This has nothing to do with value relativism. There are certain values such as order and civilization and basic decency that may be realized by women voting in some situations and may also be jeopardized by women voting in other situations.

About slavery: Human slavery is always wrong if we define 'human slavery' so that it involves serious violations of Kant's CI. But I doubt that all instances of (what we call) slavery really do involve serious violations of CI. Probably there were lots of 'slaves' in the old American south, or ancient times, who were treated more respectfully and morally by their masters than many 'free' people are nowadays treated by their governments and employers. If the condition of *every* 'slave' in the old south or in ancient times was incompatible with human dignity, so is the condition of millions of people in our 'free' society today. (And maybe it is.)

Anyway, it's always important to distinguish general values or principles from their applications in specific contexts. Many on the alt right would agree with you that there are universal, absolute moral values, and many would agree that CI is one of those; but you probably disagree with some of them over how these values are best realized. There's nothing relativistic in the idea that broad ultimate principles can take very different forms in different times and places, given different kinds of people and societies, etc.

I think liberal/conservative principles such as Kant's CI or Mill's harm principle or Singer's equal consideration principle are all compatible with slavery (and even race-based slavery). So what's wrong with slavery, or some kinds of slavery, can't be explained by these principles alone, as liberals and conservatives seem often to hold.

Criticus,
I worry too that we can't do much to move people over from mainstream conservatism into the kind we prefer. But I hope this will start to happen as things begin to get so terrible for all of us, in ways that ordinary people can't avoid or ignore. People see hordes of feral half-wits burning down whole neighborhoods and killing people because of obvious lies and propaganda (which are obviously just thin pretexts anyway). They see the fighting-age Muslims swarming into Europe. At some point, surely, a lot more people are going to start to wonder whether universalism and individualism are reasonable positions in the face of naked, massive, relentless racial hatred and violence directed against them and their families.

Conservatives divide into two big groups. Some are intuitively drawn to liberal abstractions about equal freedom; those ones probably can't be moved. But a lot--probably the majority of natural conservatives--don't care so much about abstractions. They care about the concrete particular world they're in. They're more strongly moved by feelings of loyalty and honor and self-preservation instincts. We can appeal rationally to those intuitions and instincts and, in the long run, I think those are the ones that are most inspiring and motivating. Enoch Powell famously said he'd fight for England even if it was a Communist country. Apparently Thatcher was dumbstruck, couldn't imagine how he could say that. Nationalism is the strongest political force in the world, it seems; even just the moderate civic nationalism Trump is selling is a thousand times more motivating than any 'proposition' from the mainstream. So I'm hopeful, at least! But maybe I'm kidding myself.

Jacques,

Thanks for your good-natured response, and I apologize if I seemed to put an uncharitable slant on some of the things you said. You wrote,

>>Bob was arguing that conservatism must be true for everyone if it's true at all. I took him to be making a claim about the truth of specific normative principles distinctive of American-style conservatism--for example, "We should have limited government" or "Every citizen should have freedom of expression" or, for that matter, "Every mentally competent adult citizen should be allowed to vote". This was what I wanted to dispute.

It seems easy enough to understand how a principle like "We should have limited government" may be true for just some human groups. An analogy: your doctor's prescriptions may be true for you but not for someone else with different medical conditions, etc. Likewise, there are human groups such that, given their abilities and interests and personalities on the whole, conservatism or any other stream in western civilization is either impossible for them or very costly and harmful. And there are also groups who'd find our conservative or western norms and traditions deeply incompatible with their own traditions and norms and intuitions. I doubt they can be bound by our principles in that kind of epistemic situation. And all of that is objectively true, I claim.<<

This may well be the crux, or one of the cruces, of the matter. Are the normative principles enshrined in American conservatism true FOR ALL if true AT ALL, or might it be that they are true for us but not for some other group.

You say you are not a relativist, and I grant that you are not an alethic relativist, but you may be a value-norm relativist. Consider the normative claim, *Every citizen ought to be treated equally by the law.* Are you maintaining that this is true for us, but might not be true for some other group? If yes, is this not a form of relativism?

Of course, I grant that some group might not be ready for this principle and that it might be foolish and indeed wrong to impose it on them. But this is a different question.

Hi, Bill. Thanks for the question. I am not rejecting the idea that there are universal moral principles (e.g., perhaps the second formulation of the Categorical Imperative), nor do I think that those on the alt-right in general are. The difference is in the ways that those moral principles _manifest_ in various societies and cultures. Those different manifestations can lead to substantially different social, legal, and political norms despite them all being undergirded by the same universal moral principles. This is, in essences, no different from how different table manners or customs of greeting people in public differ from culture to culture but, presumably, are all just manifestations of the same underlying universal moral principles about showing people proper regard.

How far can these differences extend? I don't claim to have some simple answer. I think that women's suffrage is, if anything, a particular manifestation of some deeper principle. In contrast, it seems to me that it's universally wrong to enslave innocent human beings, at least under a certain kind of slavery. But I think that a lot of what mainstream conservatives talk about in terms of their "principles" are particular manifestations of the true moral principles rather than the true principles themselves.

Does that help clarify things?

Jacques sez: >>About slavery: Human slavery is always wrong if we define 'human slavery' so that it involves serious violations of Kant's CI. But I doubt that all instances of (what we call) slavery really do involve serious violations of CI.<<

Isn't that just obviously false? Every instance of slavery involves treating a human being as a means to the slaveholder's ends, in plain violation of the Cat Imp. " "Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only."

The rest of what you say in that paragraph is irrelevant. Slavery is morally even if some slaves were better off as slaves than they would have been on their own.

Thanks for the stimulating discussion, gentlemen. More tomorrow. Other matters beckon.

Jacques, thanks for your response to my question. You say:

"Conservatives divide into two big groups. Some are intuitively drawn to liberal abstractions about equal freedom; those ones probably can't be moved. But a lot--probably the majority of natural conservatives--don't care so much about abstractions. They care about the concrete particular world they're in. They're more strongly moved by feelings of loyalty and honor and self-preservation instincts."

I agree with this division. But that leads to me being pessimistic about the possibility of an important and influential _intellectual_  group of such conservatives. I think this is a very serious shortcoming. Ideas matter. Even if natural conservatives don't much care about ideas and work from instinct, there will always be an intellectual class, and those people will always be influential in many ways, including in convincing normal people what to think. One could argue that the _main_ reason that we are in the mess we are these days is because of leftist ideas permeating and saturating the entire culture. Even the healthy instincts of the natural conservatives are stifled, distorted, and hobbled by this constant dose of poison. And this poison is administered by the intellectual class.

I think that Bill has himself pointed out that conservatives lose on the plane of ideas because they don't mount a sufficient defense of themselves in that plane. He presumably agrees with the thrust of what I'm saying here. Or is that not right, Bill?

I worry that that the very urge for abstraction is what leads one to be both an intellectual but also a leftist. Of course, that then raises the question: what happened to us?!

Jacques, you wrote:

Our ancestors struggled and suffered to create these concrete places and systems and institutions, and they sure as hell didn't intend to pass them on to any old random collection of human entities willing to sign on to some set of abstractions. If I work hard to build a house for my kids, and then you force my kids to share the house with a hundred other people, that's stealing. (And it's wrong for other reasons too, if we make the analogy more precise.) It doesn't matter that some or even all of these squatters believe in principles of architecture that enabled me to build my house, or that they may be capable in principle of learning those principles and fixing the roof or whatever, or that they're going to pay property taxes eventually--once they've been schooled and trained with the money that I saved to pay for my kids to be schooled and trained, perhaps. Regardless, it's not their house and they have no right to be there.

So we can set aside abstruse conceptual questions. Let's focus on the question of whether some arbitrary Aborigine or Zulu or Korean has a right to enter into the concrete civilization built by our ancestors just in virtue of having the right philosophical attitudes (or being really nice, or doing 'jobs Americans won't do', or anything other than having our ancestors).

I think that even most mainstream conservatives would (and do) cavil at the idea of a right for anyone to immigrate to any nation; immigration is a privilege that a nation grants to aliens for the sake of improving the life of its own citizens. (Even this is, of course, a broader principle than the purely legacy-based model you describe, which, if I understand it correctly, would encourage no immigration whatsoever.)

Here the Right and the alt- (or "Dissident") Right part ways, however, as mainstream conservatism will insist that race and religion and culture of origin are irrelevant in consideration of that aim. (In Bill's terms, they would say that race exists, but is not important.)

Were the numbers kept low, and immigrants selected on obvious merit, this would not be such a risky proposition. But as you explained very clearly in your discussion with Bob, asserting the irrelevance of race for immigration policy is an empirical claim that, when ytested en masse, may very well be suicidally wrong (and by the time you have settled the empirical question, it is too late to do anything about it if so).

I would say again that if there is a single principle that characterizes the alt-right in distinction to any form of mainstream conservatism, it is this assertion of particularism, this rejection of universal human fungibility, this belief in culture as the "extended phenotype" of particular populations -- with, in part at least, a genetic basis. It is a form of conservatism, as it seeks to conserve and defend Western civilization. But it is also reactionary, in that it does not seek to conserve all of what Western civilization has now become.

Bill,

You wrote:

And now we notice something very interesting. These alt-rightists are the mirror image of crazy leftists. This is no surprise inasmuch as they are reactionaries. He who reacts is defined by that against which he reacts. He has decided to dance with the pig and get dirty instead of eschewing the dance altogether. Thus to the identity politics of the Left, they oppose an identity politics of the Right, when what they ought to be doing is getting beyond identity politics altogether.

I think there is another way of looking at this, namely that the reactionary is defined not by the thing he reacts against, but by the thing that whatever it is he is reacting against threatens to destroy. (In this sense, it might be apt to think of another kind of "reaction", namely the "immune reaction".)

The reactionaries of the Dissident Right, then, are not defined by the insane and destructive Left; indeed they would, I think, be much happier if they woke up one morning and the Left had simply gone off to ruin some other planet, and left us alone. They are defined by the ancient and beautiful structure, built so lovingly by their ancestors, that they now see collapsing all around them. (In light of recent comments, I think we can now call that "the house that Jacques built".)

They would surely prefer not to have to "dance with the pig", but they know that if they "eschew the dance" -- if they will not stand up in their enemy's face and say "this and no more" -- then all is lost. That, it seems to me, is the essence of their "reaction". (I should say "our", because I count myself among their number.)

"What happened to us?"

Our society is massively overscaled: https://mpcdot.com/forums/topic/155-the-limits-of-human-scale

If you're familiar with Tainter's "The Collapse of Complex Societies" you will know that our current scene is marked by many features of what Tainter observes in what he terms "pre-collapse" societies. We're headed for collapse, for the reasons outlined in the link above and by Tainter. (N.B.: "collapse" in this context is a term of art, with a specific meaning, and I urge you to read Tainter's definition, rather than supplying a dictionary's version.)

Re the last 3 "racist"-sounding propositions:

I would regard them as racist if taken as necessarily, rather than historically-contingently, true. *As things stand now*, the survival of Western civ as we know it depends in great part on the intellectual activism of those who happen to be white, often Christian, often *conservative or classical-liberal* (see: Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams), properly learned in the humanities, properly learned in scentific method or science-style thinking, those with due respect for tradition, and probably a number of other positive attributes. You will see that the factors involved that bear a much more necessary-like relation to the preservation of Western civ are of an intellectual-ideological sort rather than a demographic-ethnic one.

The "Christian" part would of course be subject to much dispute; historically, Christianity has been closely linked with Western civilization (post-ancient-Greece). We have Athens and Jerusalem both playing a major role. There is Aquinas to synthesize the two traditions . . . and there's also Maimonides. Long, long ago there were also Avicenna and Averroes, but their influence in their part of the ideological world has clearly waned since their time, for the worse. If it's *theistic spirituality* that is as necessary to the preservation of Western civ as a general spirit of learning (properly directed...), then one should make a good clear-cut case for that. (I don't know what that case would be.) I suppose you could point to the secular nations of Europe and say that they're heading toward civilizational crisis; but is it the secularism, or the post-Enlightenment-style "liberalism" that is the main culprit? If barbarian hordes are invading (more or less) today, is that due to things like generous welfare states and PC nonsense run amok, or can a direct causal line be drawn between their secularism and their being overrun by barbarians or even having so much welfare statism and PC nonsense? I would very much like to see a case for that made if that's so.

Malcolm,

The main point is that ". . . to the identity politics of the Left, they oppose an identity politics of the Right, when what they ought to be doing is getting beyond identity politics altogether."

And what they identify with are things they have no control over: race and sex and (native) 'soil.' J. and Crit. actually use the Nazi phrase 'blood and soil,' Blut und Boden. And they understand its provenience. Now tactically, use of that Nazi phrase is foolish since some phrases are not up for semantic rehabilitation. No matter how you explain it you won't be able to detach its from its own 'blood and soil.' So using such a phrase you marginalize yourself consigning yourself to political Siberia.

Tactically, it makes no sense to use phraseology that suggests you are a white supremacist. But then maybe that's what they are. This is what I am trying to figure out.

Suppose a black guy tells me he is proud to be black. I will explain to him that that is nothing to be proud of or ashamed of. I will say to him that he should be proud of his accomplishments as a small business owner, say, or proud of his having worked his way out of the inner city, or whatever. I will explain that he should identify with that and not with race or sex. He had to be of some race or other, some sex or other, etc.

What I won't do vis-a-vis the black guy is say, "Look here buddy, I'm proud to be white!"

That's mere reaction. I would then be doing what he is doing, identifying with a with an element of facticity over which I have no control.

Hi Malcolm,
I agree with everything you're saying here. Yes, cultures are extended phenotypes and if there's one thing that defines the alt-right it's a recognition of this fact. My earlier definition may have been too loose. One thing I like about your view is that most other important alt right positions are consequences of this basic belief that cultures are phenotypic or, at least, they'll be natural positions for someone who's come to accept that belief. And if this is what distinguishes us from the mainstream, how can we be the mirror image of the Left? They reject the well-established science of biology, or they think it doesn't apply to humans; they base their politics on this irrational and false belief. We simply accept that biological principles true for other animals on our planet are true for us too, and we base our politics on this rational and true belief.

Bill,
It was you who introduced the phrase 'blood and soil', inviting CF and I to reject it, I guess. Your question was not "Is it tactically wise to talk about 'blood and soil'". I agree it might not be wise, might turn off potential allies, etc. But if we're having a more intelligent, rational conversation (with no genetic fallacies) then I say there's no problem in the notion of blood and soil. OF COURSE blood and soil are very important things for any society. One side of my family is from France, another side from Scotland. I like those nations for lots of reasons, but some are just reasons of 'blood'. And I care about 'soil' too. I want the real Scottish people to have control of their land, their territory, their cities and towns and farms and infrastructure. I don't want their 'soil' given away to aliens--unless they really do want to give it away and understand the consequences, I guess. But anyway, the concept of blood and soil is entirely legitimate; your Founding Fathers would even have accepted it.

What is a 'white supremacist'? Someone who thinks that, on the whole, whites or white societies are better than others? Someone who identifies strongly with the white race and European civilization? Well, okay, then with some qualifications or clarifications I guess I'm a 'white supremacist'. Then so were your Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln and basically all of the great European philosophers and artists and scientists down the ages who gave any thought to the topic, until about 50 years ago.

Malcolm, I think you articulate some of the main thoughts of the alt-right beautifully in your comments. Based on your remarks as well as those of Bill and Jacques, does everyone accept the following argument?

(1) Demographic changes to a society are extremely difficult or impossible to undo.

(2) So, we should not introduce significant demographic changes into a functioning society unless we have sufficient evidence that those changes won't be seriously destructive to that society. (Based on (1).)

(3) Only populations that are mostly white Europeans or the descendants of white Europeans have established and maintained functioning western-style societies for significant lengths of time without collapse (of one sort of another). Other populations have either not been able to establish such societies or have not yet demonstrated an ability to keep them for significant amounts of time without collapse (of one sort or another).

(4) Thus, we do not have sufficient evidence that significantly modifying the demographics of functioning, ancestrally-white-European, western-style societies won't be seriously destructive to those societies. (Based on (3).)

(5) Therefore, we should not introduce significant demographic changes into functioning, ancestrally-white-European, western-style societies. (From (2) and (4).)

Bill,
Is it really a mistake to base my identity or value scheme on any 'mere facticity over which I have no control'? I think this is a profound point of disagreement between the Deep Left and the Deep Right. The real spirit of Leftism is the Satanic and incoherent wish for total freedom and total power, including the power to choose what you are and what is good. Suppose you are a mainstream American conservative or civic nationalist. Then you identify yourself as an American and your values or principles are rooted in that particular identity. But if you're a native-born American you didn't choose to be American. You didn't choose to be born into that particular nation and culture and historical experience. Likewise, you didn't choose your parents or choose who your ancestors would be. If you believe in any old-fashioned notions of family and special duties to family members, you too must be treating 'mere facticity' as a source of normative identity. By contrast, if no 'mere facticity' can ever be a source of identity and value, the ideal must be a rootless raceless cultureless genderless traditionless managerial state; the ideal must be a world of human atoms enjoying meaningless purposeless equal freedom. The only way to fight the Left and win in the long run is to oppose their Satanic incoherent value scheme. Every conservatism, even mainstream conservatism, is ultimately based in recognition of unchosen ties and duties, and those aren't legitimate unless it's sometimes legitimate for me to identify with 'mere facticity over which I have no control'.

Bill,

I quite agree with you about "blood and soil". The phrase is irrevocably tainted. (Of course, whatever words we use to describe troublesome concepts or ideas soon become tainted, however often we replace them.) I think that "Alt-Right" is already headed for Siberia as well.

I do think, though, that when it comes to the new reactionary Right, you are too "zoomed in" on race as the basis of that reaction, and that Jacques has actually given the broader context very clearly.

You say that race, per se, "is nothing to be proud or ashamed of". Quite so, and I agree (I can't speak for all of the alt-right, but I expect most would also agree). But Jacques gave the example: you live in a fine house, built by an extended family (obviously, a metaphor for Western civilization). Let's say also that this house has many excellent particularities, which represent the particularities of your family in such a way that no other family would ever have been likely to have been able to build it. The house arguably excels all the other houses in the neighborhood in its beauty, its commanding view, its sturdiness, its sophistication. It also contains many rare and precious objects, artifacts, and mechanisms of enormous worth and utility, some of which are delicate and easily broken or disabled.

Given the stipulation that only your family could ever have built this, or can properly care for it and maintain it, is this not something to you to be proud of?

It is this stipulation, which is an empirical one, that links Jacques' metaphor to the idea of race (distinct human populations, of course, being in a very exact sense extended biological families, with all of the same qualities of genetic inheritance).

Perhaps the stipulation is false. (It does not, however, in statistical terms at least, seem to be, and the evidence is mounting.) You'd like to put it to the test. How will you run the experiment? Turn your family's magnificent house over to the care of a random assortment of populations from all over, and see what happens? Suppose you do, and the stipulation turns out to have been correct all along. All that your ancestors worked so hard for now lies in ruins.

What we are looking at here, then, is a kind of Pascal's Wager, with the survival of the West as the stakes.

Bill, I'd like to respond to your questions about whether Jacques and I are "white supremacists" or endorse some illicit form of identity politics. (Of course, I can't speak for Jacques, but I assume that he will largely agree with what I say here.) One idea you propose is something like this:

It is not appropriate to be proud of or identity with things that are out of your control.

This principle seems to run egregiously afoul of common sense, though, no? Is it inappropriate to be proud of your parent's accomplishments? Or of being an American? Or of the accomplishments of great philosophers of whose tradition you are now part? Is it inappropriate to proudly identity as a member of those groups or as one of those things?

I don't think you need to appeal to that principle to question pride in race, though. It seems to me that you could simply claim that some identities are not important, regardless of whether they are under your control or not. And you could claim that race is simply not an important identity.

I agree that most white people do not _in fact_ explicitly have pride in their racial identity or proudly identity as white. But they may just be misguided. Race is not just "the color of one's skin" as we've been idiotically taught to think. Race appears to involve having certain cognitive and character traits. It appears that being white is to have a set of unique traits that has led to the production of incredible achievements in science, art, philosophy, literature, commerce, etc. Those things are also essential threads in the fabric of the cultures of western civilization, which are _our_ cultures. So, if being white is the basis for those achievements and for the existence of our cultures, then it seems that being white is an _extremely_ important identity.

Jacques,

I completely agree with your remarks about the atomization of identity. In the spring of 2015 I wrote this:

All of the erosive forces at work here — demographic displacement by poorly assimilated immigrants, low birthrates among cognitive elites, multiculturalism, galloping secularism, centralization of Federal power at the expense of local government, anti-traditionalism, hedonistic apathy, institutionalized disparagement of America’s history, mission, cultural heritage, and mythos, and behind it all the universal acid of radical doubt that is the “poison pill” of the Enlightenment itself — all of these things attack and corrode the horizontal ligatures of American civil society, leaving behind only an atomized population with no binding affinities save their vertical dependence upon a Federal leviathan that is, increasingly, the source of all guidance and blessings.

What this means is that as these forces do their work, they weaken at every point our society’s structural integrity — even as the disintegrative influences, particularly the destructive action of demographic replacement, intensify. It follows naturally, then, that the pace of decay accelerates.

In passing, we should note also that this horizontal ‘unbinding’ was, a century ago, the precursor of Fascism. The ancient symbol of the Fasces, from which the movement took its name, is a bundle of wooden rods, individually weak, but lashed together with an external binding. It is the perfect symbol for a society that has lost its organic, endogenous coherence, and so must be united by an artificial and external power.

Criticus, spot-on as well. (I of course accept your argument, having also made it myself.)

Bill,

Due to the lag created by comment-moderation, let me anticipate a possible objection to the comment I made an hour or so ago.

Regarding the metaphor of a magnificent home built by your family, I asked: "is this not something, to you, to be proud of"?

Given what you've said previously, I think you might reply "No, in fact it isn't, because I had nothing to do with its construction. It is a mere facticity that I happened to inherit it."

If this is indeed an objection you would make, I'd say two things in response:

1) I'd point out that, due to the well-established heritability of human traits, the odds are that the same traits that made this magnificent edifice possible live on in you as well, and that if: (a) those same traits are necessary for the maintenance and improvement of this thing of timeless beauty, and (b) only your family possesses them, then you have a moral obligation -- or, to use an unfashionable term, a duty -- to both your ancestors and heirs to cherish and preserve it, because nobody else may have the necessary qualities and dispositions to do so. Yours is more than mere possession (in Jacques' sense of ownership of concreta, as opposed to ownership of the abstracta you described in your post); it is also a stewardship, a sacred trust. Are you really justified in subjecting it to existential risk? Does the fact that you didn't ask to inherit any of this excuse you from your position in this chain of inheritance, and release you from the obligations entailed thereby?

2) I'd ask you: even if your splendid house is not a legitimate source of pride, isn't it at least worth defending?

Criticus,

We are getting to the question of what pride is, when it is justified, and what the morally appropriate objects of pride are. Connected with this is the question of what it it morally appropriate to identify oneself with or as.

Pride is one of the seven deadly sins, some say the worst of them. The sin of pride could be defined as an inordinate love of one's own virtues, excellences, positive attributes. One form of sinful pride is to attribute to one's own doing something that is a natural endowment that one has received. I was born with good eyesight. I value my eyesight, and I have a right to my two good eyes even though I did nothing to deserve them. Because of this right I am under no obligation to give up one of my eyes to a blind man.

I suggest it is morally inappropriate to be proud of one's eyesight. I value it, I am grateful for it, but not proud of it. Same with being tall. In this society it is good to be tall and a disadvantage to be short. I like being tall, I am grateful to be tall, but it is morally dubious to be proud to be tall. I'm a man and I like being a man and I appreciate the advantages of being a man, and the same goes for being white. But I would say it is morally dubious to be proud of these attributes.

But I grant that there is a justifiable pride I can take in using my natural endowments well and refraining from using them for evil purposes. If you were my son and I had brought up well, then I could be proud of having done that, and also, by extension, I could take justifiable pride in what you yourself have accomplished inasmuch as my free actions were part of what made your accomplishments possible.

But you are not my son. Is it appropriate for me to be proud of you? I don't think so. It is appropriate for me to admire and value your positive attributes, but how can I be proud of something I had no hand in?

>>Is it inappropriate to be proud of your parent's accomplishments? Or of being an American? Or of the accomplishments of great philosophers of whose tradition you are now part? Is it inappropriate to proudly identity as a member of those groups or as one of those things?<<

Good questions. But the answers depend on what exactly we mean by 'pride' here. I may admire my parents' accomplishments, but since I had no hand in them, I cannot be proud of them. Same for your other examples.

I am lucky to be an American, I am glad to be, I value being an American, and I love my country. But I am not proud or ashamed to be an American, I am humbly grateful to be an American.

Here is a question for you. If you love your country, do you justifiably love it because it is yours such that you would justifiably love it even if it had no lovable attributes, or do you justifiably love it conditionally on having some lovable attributes?

I discussed this around the 4th of July 2015 with Jacques. If I understood him, he was maintaining that love of country is justified solely by the fact that it is one's own country.

I reject that.

I agree, Bill, that if pride is a kind of vice, then we shouldn't be proud of the things I mentioned. I do think that when people say things like "I'm proud of what my parents accomplished", they aren't referring to a vice, but something virtuous instead. It is some kind of love or appreciation that is fitting.

Is that love based on sharable qualities of the beloved or is it based simply on the fact that it's yours? I suspect that fails to be an exhaustive list. What about the unique role that the beloved has in the body of experience that you have with the beloved that is a part of your history? That's an unsharable quality but it's different from the mere fact that the beloved is yours.

What about the idea that what you properly love is partly determined by what you have a moral obligation to be devoted to? If there are such obligations, there could be two things that have the same qualities, but, if you have committed to one in some way, or have a duty of reparation or loyalty for some reason, then it could be appropriate to love the one but not the other.

I suspect that factors such as these are part of what makes it appropriate for us to have special love and commitment to things like our countries, our families, and even our races.

But perhaps you disagree.

Thanks for hosting this great discussion, by the way. If only academic philosophy could have talks and papers on these issues with such sober honesty and care.

Criticus,

As for your (1)-(5) argument above @ 8:27 AM, I am persuaded by it.

This is why illegal immigration must be stopped. It is not just that it undermines the rule of law , it shifts the demographics of the country toward the Hispanic.

Bill, Criticus wrote:

Thanks for hosting this great discussion, by the way. If only academic philosophy could have talks and papers on these issues with such sober honesty and care.

I'd like to second all of that. Thanks!

Also, you said:

This is why illegal immigration must be stopped.

Agreed, of course, but legal immigration (and mass "refugee" settlement!) can have exactly the same effect.

Malcolm,

I don't disagree with your last comment. We have a cultural heritage and we have an obligation to conserve and preseve it, but not just because it is ours, but because it is a noble and magnificent thing.

Our disagreement lies elsewhere, perhaps in the notion of equal rights. Months ago you ojected when I quoted the Declaration to the effect that all men are created equal. You took this as making an empirical claim, which, so taken, is false. But it is not an empirical claim but a claim that each human being i sa person possessing a set of rights, rights which are the same for all. That rules out saying that only white people have a right to life, liberty, and property. Or only white males, etc.

You're welcome.

>>Agreed, of course, but legal immigration (and mass "refugee" settlement!) can have exactly the same effect.<<

Right as I have stated many times.

Bill,

Yes, the Declaration is generally understood to mean that people, being equal before God, should be equal before the law, if the law is just. And I really don't think we have any disagreement about whether to consider life, liberty, and property as essential rights; I certainly do.

I also don't think anyone on the new Right would disagree with that. (Obviously, the question of where rights really come from is always an entertaining one, and varies according to a person's metaphysics, but those rights you mentioned are pretty basic, under any system that admits the existence of "rights" at all.)

So I really can't descry much of a disagreement between us about any of this (or, for that matter, between you and the alt-Right).

Bill, you said: "Every instance of slavery involves treating a human being as a means to the slaveholder's ends, in plain violation of the Cat Imp. " 'Act so that you treat humanity, whether in your own person or in that of another, always as an end and never as a means only.'"

This just isn't plain to me. Why would it have to be that _every_ instance of (what we call) slavery involves one person using another person _merely_ as a means? Is it the fact that one person 'owns' another, in some sense? But that seems too legalistic to settle anything interesting. It can't be just the fact that one person is using another person as a kind of instrument or means (though not necessarily merely as a means). I honestly don't know what you have in mind here. Can you explain?

I'd also like to say thanks for hosting these conversations. My real philosophical education now happens all in my head, with a few trusted friends in private, and on one or two blogs. Real political-moral philosophy has been pretty much banished from the universities.

BV,

Thank you, and thank you for hosting this discussion.

I agree with your comments about some groups being more assimilable than others. Any immigration policy we adopt obviously ought to favor more assimilable groups over less assimilable ones.

Jacques and Malcolm,

You both write that the alt-right does not ignore the transcendent. Perhaps you are right. I admit that I am not fully familiar with the alt-right. But, given my limited interaction, my impression is that, at the very least, the alt-right downplays the transcendent. And Jacques's original definition of the alt-right is far too broad to coincide with how the term is actually used. I'll give a few examples in support of these two points.

First, the traditionalist writers that I regularly read do not identify as alt-right and sometimes criticize it from the perspective of outsiders, yet they would fit within Jacques's original definition (these writers would include, for example: James Kalb, the blogger Bonald (and to give credit where credit is due, if you read his essay on tradition, you will see from my first comment that I have internalized much of his thought), the blogger Zippy, and the late Lawrence Auster). It seems to me that a big reason that these traditionalist writers do not identify with the alt-right is because the alt-right prioritizes race and nationalism (which was, by the way, liberalism's seminal attack against the Church) over the transcendent.

As another example, is not Richard Spencer the progenitor of the alt-right and the alt-rightest par excellence? Well, he, at least on occasion, as been quite contemptuous of Christianity. See the end of this article, where he dismisses Christianity's influence on the West and instead appears to favor a return to paganism (!).

A final - and more personal, so take it for what it's worth - example: my experience with those who self-identify as alt-right is that they regularly use juvenile terms such as 'cuck' and obscene terms such as 'pozzed'. It is hard for me to avoid the conclusion then that they are motivated by that which is base rather than that which is noble.

And I do not see how the invocation of John Derbyshire by Malcolm helps your case. I enjoy Derbyshire's writing, and while it is true that he has at times been sympathetic to Christianity, he also has been quite derisive of Christianity and traditional morality in the past. As an example, see this recent post by Lydia McGrew on Derbyshire's unhinged rantings against the anti-abortion position. I consider Derbyshire to be an ally on some particular issues, such as immigration, but at the level of first principles, he is a committed liberal. The sense in which is he conservative is mainly by temperament.

Jacques later refined his definition of the alt-right to be:

[C]ultures are extended phenotypes and if there's one thing that defines the alt-right it's a recognition of this fact.

But if this is the defining feature of the alt-right, then does not this indicate that the transcendent is indeed being downplayed? The defining feature ought to be an unequivocal and explicit defense of the Good as society's ultimate standard (in contrast to a phantom liberal 'neutrality' among competing conceptions of the good favored by liberals and many mainstream conservatives). Ethnicity and culture are aspects of a comprehensive traditionalist worldview, and any true conservatism must take these into account, but nevertheless, these features are subordinate to higher goods.

Anyway, all that said, to Jacques: I agree with a lot of what you have written here and in the past at this site, and I think our viewpoints overlap to a large extent. I wish I had more time to have interacted in some of the previous threads.

And to Malcolm: I met you once at the VFR dinner back in 2012. It is a pleasure to interact with you again, if only virtually this time. My best wishes to a fellow Scot!

Jacques says above, >>cultures are extended phenotypes and if there's one thing that defines the alt-right it's a recognition of this fact.<<

What do you mean by 'extended'? Are you referring to an extension of biological (specifically, genetic) terminology/conceptuality into the sphere of the social and cultural?

If so, then this philosopher's eyebrows will start to raise in the same way they raise when a liberal says that obesity is 'socially contagious.' Obesity is not contagious, and social contagion is not contagion, strictly speaking.

So I question whether, strictly speaking, cultures are phenotypes. It is not bad as an analogy, but it seems to bias the discussion. I question whether the alt-right can be distinguished from other forms of conservatism bu the 'fact' that cultures are extended phenotypes. You are building your definition on an analogy.

Here, I think, is an accurate explanation of the biological terms:

"Your genotype is your complete heritable genetic identity; it is your unique genome that would be revealed by personal genome sequencing. However, the word genotype can also refer just to a particular gene or set of genes carried by an individual. For example, if you carry a mutation that is linked to diabetes, you may refer to your genotype just with respect to this mutation without consideration of all the other gene variants that your may carry.

In contrast, your phenotype is a description of your actual physical characteristics. This includes straightforward visible characteristics like your height and eye color, but also your overall health, your disease history, and even your behavior and general disposition."

Ian,

Good commentary.

>>my experience with those who self-identify as alt-right is that they regularly use juvenile terms such as 'cuck' and obscene terms such as 'pozzed'. It is hard for me to avoid the conclusion then that they are motivated by that which is base rather than that which is noble.<<

I get the same impression from many of them. Many of them are cyberpunks like the followers of Ayn Rand. They think it is cool to be 'transgressive.'

Of course, this remark is not directed against M. P., J., or Crit.

Three related questions. Do we need the 'alt-right' label at all? Why not be a trad. conservative like Auster? How does alt-right differ from the latter?

Bill,

If you don't like the "extended phenotype" idea you can blame me for it, I think, not Jacques. The idea originated with Richard Dawkins, and it seemed to me naturally applicable to human culture. I wrote about it a year ago (it's fairly brief, so I'll read an excerpt "into the record" here if you don't mind):

To be harmoniously embedded and contextualized in one’s own culture is, as everyone everywhere seems to have understood until the latter half of the last century, the foundation and bedrock of normal human experience, and is generally a precondition for individual happiness and flourishing. Furthermore, the variety of human cultures is not a superficial fact, nor is it a matter of contingent historical accident; cultures do not simply fall from the sky and land, haphazardly, upon whichever human population happens to be passing below. I believe they are best understood, instead, as what Richard Dawkins has called “extended phenotypes“.

The idea is a simple one: a biological organism has both a genotype, which is the sum of its genetic information, and a phenotype, which is the physical result of the expression of the genotype — the term “phenotype” usually being understood to refer to the organism’s body. Dawkins’s fertile insight was that the phenotype extends beyond the body, into the wider world.

For example: a beaver has a beaver genome. This expresses itself in the usual beavery way: big front teeth, webby feet, and a broad, flat tail. But the “extended” phenotype is much more than that: it consists of felled trees, a dam, a lodge, and a pond. In this view, that pond is as much a part of the beaver’s gene-expression as its teeth. Bird’s nests, spiderwebs, and honeycombs — things in the world that themselves contain no genetic information — are as much a manifestation of genomes as wings and stingers.

In H. sapiens, the social animal par excellence, the extended phenotype quite naturally includes culture. And just as we see variation among subspecies for, say, bowerbird nests, we should expect to see that long-isolated human populations, whose genomes have been subject to widely varying selection pressures throughout their history, will create different, often very different, cultures — cultures as distinct as their physical appearance. And so we do.

In an earlier post, Culture and Metaculture, I quoted Lezek Kolakowski on the impossibility of genuine multicultural synthesis, which creates a problem that worsens in proportion both to the number of cultures to be blended, and their dissimilarity. An extended-phenotype model — which understands culture not as something contingently and exogenously grafted onto individuals and populations, but rather as an endogenous, organic, and wholly natural expression of the innate characteristics of a distinct subpopulation — should make even clearer why high levels of “diversity” lead so reliably to faction and strife.

In other words: our genes influence not only what we physically are, but also what we do and what we make.

Ian--Thanks for the thoughtful comments. I agree in a way. Auster would never have called himself 'alt right' if only because he would have hated the bad language and sometimes seedy tone. But you can bet that all the cucks and libs would deplore him just for saying that "white western civilization" was one his two highest beliefs! Two quibbles: you seem to be conflating transcendence qith Christianity. Why can't paganism be trancendental. Also there is some logical error in taking the claim that a belief in race realism defines the alt right to imply that the alt right ignores or downgrades the transcendent. Suppose that what defines Christianity is belief that Christ is God; does it follow that Christianity must ignore questions about gun rights or abortion?

Maybe it's not useful to seek a precise definition. What matters to me is the difference between true and rational conservatism and the other kind. If we agree that many ideas called "alt right" are true or at least defensible that's what matters; these ideas must replace the lies and illusions that are killing our civilization. I think Auster would agree to that.

Jacques,

I don't understand why you don't take my point about slavery and the Cat Imp.

How would you define 'slavery'?

Bill--I can explain my view of slavery if you can explain to me what precisely it would mean to treat someone as a means _only_ as opposed to (only) treating him as a means. What kind of concrete human attitudes and behaviors are we talking about?

Ian,

Yes, I remember meeting you at the last Auster dinner. I hadn't realized that was you on this thread. Good to see you here!

Bill, you asked: "Do we need the 'alt-right' label at all? Why not be a trad. conservative like Auster? How does alt-right differ from the latter?"

I've wondered about these questions myself. Certainly my own position hews quite closely to the "traditional-conservative" one, but there is a lot of overlap with that and the alt-right. Auster himself, for example, was very clear-eyed about the idea of cultures as expressions of distinct populations. (Indeed, he gave me hell about it long ago when, in an intermediate stage of my own thinking on the subject, I expressed the opinion that race should not be an important consideration in setting large-scale Western immigration policy. He said, in his usual friendly way, that I was in the "kindergarten stage" of thinking about this problem; I later had to admit he had been right.)

There really isn't a whole lot of daylight between the trad-con position of someone like Larry Auster and the general principles of the alt-right (as summed up, say, here). It's certainly true that Auster, who was always a serious sort, would not at all have liked the juvenility of the alt-right's youthful edge, nor the pugnacity and anti-Semitism of its darker fringes. Nor do I.

The "alt-right" is, as has been mentioned somewhere above, rather a "big tent" -- and somewhere, in a different part of that tent from more mainstream traditional conservatism, it overlaps, to some (not inconsiderable) degree, the movement calling itself "neoreaction". Neoreaction goes farther than traditional conservatism in its critique of modernity, and in particular in its critique of democracy, and sympathy toward hereditary monarchy. NRx (as neoreaction is often abbreviated) also includes, under its own tent, some more radical, technocratic ideas about how society might be reorganized.

Frankly, it's all rather a jumble, and labels can quickly become a "finger pointing at the moon". Common to all of these denominations, however, is the rejection of universalism that has come up many times in this thread.

Another way to approach the problem: Presumably an employer doesn't necessarily break CI in his use of employees or parents don't necessarily in their control of their children--even adult children not capable of normal autonomy but who are still clearly persons. What is the relevant feature that we are supposed to find in morally okay cases like these but not in any instance of what we call 'slavery'?

Jacques,

One obvious difference is that the employee has freely entered into the employ of the employer, whereas the the slave has been forced against his will to work for the slave-holder. A second obvious difference is that the employee is typically remunerated for his work, whereas the slave is not.

I wonder if it in your interest to embrace the Cat Imp given that Kant holds that every human being is a person: free, autonomous, irreplaceable, unique and of equal dignity and worth. You may find it difficult to account for this in biological-naturalist terms. Individuals and tribes are obviously not equal by any empirical measure.

Now doubt you would object to the members of your tribe being enslaved, but what reasoned moral objection could you have to the enslavement of members of other tribes?

You seem to be attributing to me things I've never said (and don't think). I'm mystified that you'd ask me how I could have any 'reasoned moral objection' to the enslavement of other tribes. There are lots of good reasons (that I can coherently put forward). Slavery often causes enormous suffering, for example, and I don't have any reason to doubt that the suffering of 'other tribes' has moral importance. You also seem to think that I need to characterize everything in "biological-naturalist terms". What have I ever said that would commit me to that kind of view? (In fact, I think naturalism is either meaningless or self-evidently false depending on how it's interpreted. And I'm an anti-reductionist about pretty much everything people want to reduce.) Anyway I certainly would never claim that every morally relevant fact about people has to be 'biological' or 'naturalistic'.

Back to the specific issue: Sure, the employee may have been more-or-less free to choose his work (though Marxists and others might not-so-crazily question this notion of freedom). But why does this mean that, if he hadn't freely chosen to work for his employer, his employer _must_ be treating him as a mere means? Same goes for the point about pay (although I don't think there's any deep difference between payment in wages and payment in food, shelter and health care for life). Even if this is a difference, why should we agree that if the person is _not_ being paid he's necessarily being treated _merely_ as a means or object or thing? I just don't follow this reasoning here, perhaps because I find CI very mysterious. It sounds true, but I don't know which truth it's stating.

Jacques,

You write:

[Y]ou seem to be conflating transcendence qith Christianity. Why can't paganism be trancendental.

Yes, I've been sloppy with my terms vis-a-vis transcendence and Christianity. But that is primarily because, for the West, Christianity is the only tenable transcendent option. Christianity is the fullness of the truth, so for the West to reject Christianity in favor of some alternate transcendent worldview that possesses truth in only a partial and imperfect way would be to turn its back on truth and God. From a non-transcendent perspective, even if one is an atheist and so rejects the truth claims of Christianity, he must admit the primacy and centrality of Christianity to Western civilization: No Christianity, no Western civilization. Thus, even just from a non-transcendent point of view, for our civilization to reject Christianity would be to tantamount to destroying our civilization's very principle and source of existence.

Paganism in its original forms was transcendent. However, Richard Spencer, as best I can tell, does not actually believe that paganism is true. He simply views it as an instrumental good in preserving the heritage of the white race. So he does not actually view it as transcendent, but views it as a good subordinate to the higher good of preserving his people.

You write:

Also there is some logical error in taking the claim that a belief in race realism defines the alt right to imply that the alt right ignores or downgrades the transcendent. Suppose that what defines Christianity is belief that Christ is God; does it follow that Christianity must ignore questions about gun rights or abortion?

I concede the logical point, but my point was more empirical (although I did not make that particularly clear): Given the present context, a movement that is defined by its race realism is at least evidence that it ignores or downgrades the transcendent. It would be one thing if we were dealing with a status quo that recognized the transcendent and was generally oriented to the good, but yet for whatever reason, had a blind spot to racial differences. In such a situation, a movement could plausibly arise that was defined by race realism that did not also at the same time ignore or downgrade the transcendent, since the existence of the transcendent would already be accepted as a given. This transcendent worldview would, practically by default, provide the framework within which the movement argued for race realism.

But this is not the actual situation in which we find ourselves. We are rather dealing with a ruling ideology that rejects and is hostile to the transcendent. Given this context, a movement that is defined by race realism is somewhat missing the point. Our society's blindness to racial differences is more a symptom of the fundamental problem than it is the fundamental problem itself. And since the alt-right does not make this fundamental problem its focus, it seems that many on the alt-right, by default, accept the basic premises of our ruling ideology (e.g., advocating for their positions on utilitarian grounds).

To adapt your example for an analogy: it would be as if Christianity had become so degenerate as both to deny Christ is God and to deny that Moses was a real person. A movement that came along that made the latter its focus rather than the former would for all practical purposes be ignoring or downgrading the central truth of Christianity.

You write:

If we agree that many ideas called "alt right" are true or at least defensible that's what matters; these ideas must replace the lies and illusions that are killing our civilization.

Yes, there are certainly ideas called 'alt-right' that are true and therefore defensible. What I am concerned about is that the ‘whole package’ of the alt-right may contain just as many falsehoods, and that replacing mainstream conservatism (which also of course, includes ideas that are true and therefore defensible) with the alt-right wholesale is not necessarily an improvement.

Ian,

Good comments.

>>No Christianity, no Western civilization.<<

I agree, but would fill it out a bit inasmuch as Western civ rests on both Athens and Jerusalem, where Jerusalem embraces both Judaism and Christianity. After all, no Judaism, no Christianity. (By the way, I get a whiff of anti-semitism from the alt-right direction, which is disturbing.)

By 'Athens,' I mean philosophy and the science to which philosophy gave rise. No philosophy, no science. No science, no technology. No technology, no human flourishing.

One of my themes is that Athens and Jerusalem are in competition, but the the competition/tension is fruitful and helps explain the vibrancy of the West. The lack of this tension in the Islamic world helps explain its misery and inanition. Fanacticism cannot survive long where philosophy wields her rod, chastening the excesses of religion. (I say this as a deeply religious man.) Fanaticism is rife in the Islamic world in large part because there is no real philosophy there.

>>Yes, there are certainly ideas called 'alt-right' that are true and therefore defensible. What I am concerned about is that the ‘whole package’ of the alt-right may contain just as many falsehoods, and that replacing mainstream conservatism (which also of course, includes ideas that are true and therefore defensible) with the alt-right wholesale is not necessarily an improvement.<<

Excellent! I agree, except that you should use 'traditional conservatism' rather than 'mainstream conservatism' whose reps lack the cojones to demand the stoppage of illegal immigration and the reform of legal immigration.

The alt-right has a nasty anti-personalist bias incompatible with Christianity if it implies a biological reductionism in which one's very identity is cashed out in racial terms.

I am working on a separate post now which may help clarify this. A sound conservatism must embrace personalism.

Jacques,

I wasn't attributing as view to you, just wondering what your moral objections to slavery would be.

Ian,
These are such excellent comments. I appreciate what you're saying now and I think you could be right. On the other hand, I believe or hope that a focus on race realism is (in this context) a necessary first step toward recovering sanity in every other respect, including sanity about transcendental things. The primary focus of the left now is white racial consciousness. More precisely, their main goal is to delete all white identity except for a permanent sense of inferiority, guilt and shame before the racial Other. Any positive white consciousness is the ultimate taboo, the ultimate sin. You can still defend Christianity up to a point without being persecuted but even the mildest (positive) white racial consciousness will get you destroyed. So it makes sense that in order to oppose the left in a deep and serious way we simply must focus on defending what they most want to attack. If we can't hold that line, we're bound to give up everything else too, including the transcendent. At least that's my hunch. And I also hope that people who become more realistic and rational about race will be more open to realism and rationality about other aspects of the west that are valuable such as its forms of transcendence. But I admit this is speculative and there is the danger you mention--that a focus on race will end up leading people to give it a false importance, treat it as a replacement for real transcendence, downgrade the transcendent, etc. However I'd argue our doom is inevitable unless we can recover sanity on race, so it's probably worth taking the risk.

Also a more quibbly point: I agree with Malcolm that what distinguishes the alt-right is race realism and positive white consciousness, but that means only that these features distinguish it _from_ mainstream conservatism and liberalism/leftism. I wouldn't agree that this is what distinguishes the alt right in the sense of being its sole essential feature. Lots of people on the alt right (or considered to be alt right) are no less concerned with transcendental things, and lots do seem to have the kind of view you describe in imagining a possible right-wing movement more to your liking: their race realism stands within a broader world-view based in transcendental commitments, but they often don't emphasize these other things or appeal to them in arguing for western survival (and, in my view, that makes sense).

Maybe I should add that, for me, traditionalist conservatism is not as good as the alt right version because I think some of its transcendental commitments are not necessary or useful in this context. We have to destroy the left, replace lies and propaganda with simple truths; if we can't do that we're going to go extinct. So I definitely don't want to base my position on transcendental judgments that (I think) reasonable people can doubt or deny. If atheists or agnostics can be convinced of some basic common sense about race and culture and civilization, then that may be all we need to save ourselves for the time being--I'd prefer to let more difficult questions of faith or metaphysics wait until we're in a very different situation, not surrounded by enemies who hate us and want to take everything our ancestors built. But this is more a tactical point. If you're already convinced that Christianity is true and necessary for western civilization, you might not think it matters so much whether our physical societies and people survive another few generations. You might think that racial-cultural survival without Christian transcendence is impossible, or you might think it's possible but not particularly desirable. If that's where you're coming from I just don't share your values.

Bill,
Since you bring it up (parenthetically--which is kind of apt) I want to address the 'whiff of anti-semitism' on the alt right. There's more than a whiff. Some of it is way too much for me. People saying disgusting idiotic things like 'RWGKN' or whatever. (Look that up if you want.) This is not helpful and it's morally wrong. On the other hand, I myself have a whiff of anti-semitism about me. Or rather, if 'anti-semitism' implies 'morally wrong' or 'false', I'll say I'm Judeo-critical. And being even a little Judeo-critical is considered 'anti-semitism'.

Here's the thing. When we look at all the poisonous policies and ideas that infest our society, we find that almost invariably these are (a) inspired by Jewish thinkers and activists with more-or-less obvious ethnic animus against non-Jewish whites, and (b) the organized Jewish community has long been pretty much universally opposed to anything that the rest of us might want to do to protect ourselves from these subversive ideas and policies. To take just one example, every major American or European Jewish organization is 100% fanatically in favor of flooding our societies with 'refugees' from Syria and, more generally, mass non-white invasion. They say that any doubts about these policies are just 'xenophobia', 'racism', etc. At the same time, these very same people and organizations make no effort to pressure Israel to accept non-Jewish migrants and never denounce Israel for its openly ethnocentric, racialist character. Or another example I was just reading about: the whole field of 'whiteness studies', which exists only to demonize and humiliate and demoralize whites and white cultures, is almost entirely the creation of proudly ethnocentric Jews. They make no bones about it: they love their own tribe and race, they never admit that they have done anything wrong or even that they are a powerful elite in the west, and they hate us and seek to deny us the normal ethno-cultural-racial identity that they themselves take for granted. The fact is that many Jews and almost all Jewish organizations are strongly anti-white (i.e., anti-gentile-white) and strongly pro-Jewish. But only 'anti-semitism' is a problem. We don't even have any term for Jewish racial animosity towards non-Jewish whites, even though this is by far the more obvious and important and widespread attitude.

Now these are just two examples, but even if there were no others I think an objective observer would be disgusted by the hypocrisy and baseness of such Jewish activism and posturing and manipulation of our society. Is there any other conclusion we can draw from this kind of behavior? If 'anti-semitism' is wrong by definition, how can it be 'anti-semitic' to point out this reprehensible tendency in the Jewish community? On this point most Jews and most mainstream conservatives are just like blacks who say it's 'racist' to point out that so many blacks are criminals, or that blacks rioting and stealing and killing people because some black criminal got shot by the police are not engaged in legitimate 'protest'.

Do you think it's 'anti-semitic' in some pejorative sense for me to be angry that powerful Jewish individuals and organizations are behind many of our worst problems? Or maybe the kind of thing I'm saying here doesn't yet constitute a 'whiff'?

Bill,

I just wanted to chime in and also thank you for hosting this excellent discussion. I basically agree with your position on these questions, although perhaps I have a bit more sympathy for the idea that particular groups of people are genetically more capable at point X in time at adopting certain civilizational achievements than other groups of people. I took a crack at getting down my thoughts on these issues a couple of months ago:

http://whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2016/06/ideas_versus_identity_1.html

I think folks here might enjoy that post, particularly the quotes from the blogger Anti-Gnostic.

Finally, let me just say that like Ian M., I have no patience for a lot of the alt-right as it currently exists because they are juvenile (all the Pepe the Frog memes) and many are nasty and anti-Semites. This popular website will give you a taste of what I'm talking about:

http://therightstuff.biz/

They are full of hate and anti-Christian as well. Meanwhile, smart alt-right types like Nick Steves will link to them -- or to someone crazy like the blogger Jim. Way too much silliness, nastiness and craziness on the alt-right to be associated with them in any way.

You're welcome, Jeffrey.

I'll look at that post. Is that the one in which you distinguish alt-right from neo-reactionary? What is that distinction?

Jeffrey,

I just re-read your post at 4W. Very good. Broad agreement, e.g.:

>>I haven’t given up on the American experiment in constitutional, republican democracy and I certainly won’t give an inch to any of the fools on the alt-right when it comes to the question of whether or not “all men are created equal” or whether they “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights” . . . .<<

And I enjoyed the warning you issued to that Lindsay Wheeler character. I take a harsher line: anything from him is instantly deleted.

Jeffrey and Bill,

I'd like to say, just for the record, that I haven't "given up on the American experiment in constitutional, republican democracy" either.

Well, not just quite yet, anyway. But terrible, possibly irreparable, damage has been done, and that noble experiment will soon have failed completely unless things change very much around here, and soon.

Thanks also, Jeffrey, for your kind words in that post.

BV and Jacques,

Thank you. I appreciate the encouragement: this was my first post commenting at this blog, and I was unsure whether I would be able to keep up intellectually!

BV, I agree completely that Western civ rests on both Athens and Jerusalem: these are the two great pillars underpinning the West. (‘Pillars’ is the first metaphor that came to mind: but perhaps a better one would be ‘marriage’: this would capture the fruitful and dynamic tension you note, as opposed to the static-ness implied by pillars: the marriage between Athens and Jerusalem gave birth to the West. On the other hand, 'marriage' does not really capture the competition between the two that you note.) ‘Athens’ is the primary feature that would distinguish the West from other Christian but non-Western societies (which I suppose existed in greater numbers before Islam came a-conquering). So while I do think Christianity is essential and central to the West, I do not think that the West is reducible to Christianity. I would add that even the paganism of the Greeks and Romans and Germanic tribes is part of the West, but filtered through the lens of Christianity and ‘baptized’ by it, so to speak.

I also agree about getting (more than) a whiff of anti-Semitism from the alt-right direction. This is one of the things that turns me off of it.

You wrote:

Excellent! I agree, except that you should use 'traditional conservatism' rather than 'mainstream conservatism' whose reps lack the cojones to demand the stoppage of illegal immigration and the reform of legal immigration.

Just to clarify, I actually did mean ‘mainstream conservatism’ in the comment to which you were responding. The point I was trying to get across is that while mainstream conservatism is obviously flawed in major and irredeemable ways (e.g., immigration), it also has some positions that are good (e.g., on abortion and sodomy), so it is not clear to me that if the alt-right were to replace it, this would overall be a better situation than what we have now, since the alt-right too has some good positions (immigration) mixed with some very serious flaws: we would be trading one mixed bag for a different mixed bag. A more traditional conservatism of course would be superior to both, and that is what I favor!

Jacques, I think I understand where you are coming from better now as well. While I am not certain I agree that eradicating white consciousness is the primary focus of the left right now (it seems to me that the left is just as intent right now on eradicating traditional sexual morality, for instance), I think that this is a defensible assertion. (As an aside, I would say the fact that racially we primarily identify as white rather than with a more particular ethnicity shows how deracinated we have already become. Be that as it may, I agree with you that we need a white racial consciousness.)

And yes, I would disagree with your last paragraph regarding the tactical point, but again, I appreciate this comment as I think it helps me better understand where you are coming from. I would have to spend more time thinking about exactly how to respond, but for now, I will say that I do not think it possible to have a functioning society without some broad agreement on the ultimate things, so to have a movement that consciously prescinds from these more ultimate matters in favor of achieving consensus on more ‘common sense’ and less basic issues would just end up adopting the very same fundamental principles that got us into this mess in the first place. So the movement would simply degenerate into something worse by virtue of the internal logical working out of these principles, just as mainstream conservatism has. Is it possible instead that the focus on white racial consciousness could be a first step to awakening people to more ultimate truths as you hope? Perhaps. I certainly agree that this can happen (and has happened) at the level of an individual here or there; however, I am skeptical of the chances that this could happen at any sort of level of society beyond the random individual. At any rate, that is just my initial impression, and I will certainly give your comments more thought. (I would also love to respond to some of your other very interesting comments, as well as to those of some other commenters on this thread, but no time sadly!)

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