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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

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I suspect that Buchanan might be playing the long game, just as I do. I also dispute that "All men are created equal" on empirical grounds--because I deny that it is empirical. Which means that people who wish to maintain that sense, must look for a grounding outside of empiricism.

There is a certain group of advocates who say that our laws must be founded--and can be founded--on entirely empirical principles. Thus the equality of men must be empirical or that view is falsified--which is only important to the extent that the proponents of this view often hold falsification so highly.

It can be simply proof by contradiction. If the ideals that made this country cannot be reconciled to wholly empirical observations, there is a question of where did they get the extra-empirical principles.

While it's true that the benefit of this functionally a priori concept seems to be empirically demonstrable, this is also true of the "invisible hand" theory of economics which is also to a degree empirically demonstrable. Even though neither is entirely descriptive of what it describes.

Along with this, I propose the "long game" is simply a sort of Socratic dialog with the people who insist on a "wholly secular purpose" of government (and in complete Socratic fashion usually are not shy about telling some of us how superior their grasp of things are), how complete such secularism can be.

Bill,

You offer a definition of "white supremacist", D1:

D1. A white supremacist is one who holds that the culture and civilization produced by whites is, on balance, superior to the cultures and civilizations produced by all other racial groups.

To be a "white supremacist" of this sort is either to make an empirically falsifiable assertion (assuming we can agree on criteria), or nothing more than to express a preference of taste. (I've heard that the latter is a thing about which there can be no dispute -- and so, presumably, no grounds for moral opprobrium.)

You also make clear that one can be a "white supremacist" of type D1 while explicitly rejecting all of the nasty political ideas usually ascribed to the hate-filled racist.

I'm quite certain that an awful lot of good people -- perhaps, even, a large majority of white Americans, if they were honest about it -- would fit this definition. (I certainly would. Would you?)

But who would ever choose this definition for himself, even if it fits like a glove? What person in his right mind would actually say "Well, I'm a white supremacist, but of course by that I mean [D1]."? And nobody on the Left would ever apply the term as so defined, because it isn't nearly pejorative enough.

The term being in this way irretrievably tainted, what we have, then, is a vicious equivocation: the term is used as a cudgel against decent people who fit the definition given as D1 -- but it is used in full knowledge that in common parlance it means something very different. It is, then, a deceitful stratagem for seizing cultural territory -- and so we must never let the term go by in public discourse without insisting, on the spot, that those who use it give us its definition.

Bill,

Your closing line about how a certain phrase has a Pitchfork Pat ring to it, reminded me that some months ago you attributed “nattering nabobs of negativism” to him.

Actually the late William “On Language” Safire coined the phrase: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Safire

Good comments, Malcolm. Doesn't Jacques uses the phrase and mean it in something like the (D1) sense?

I think you and I basically agree. There are certain words and phrases that are not up for semantic rehabilitation. You cannot give them a non-pejorative sense and expect to be understood if the majority uses them in a pejorative way.

For example, "Blood and Soil." Blut und Boden. That's Nazi rhetoric. People who use this phrase who are not neo-Nazis are fools.

And yet blood does matter. Or at least the question whether it does is one that has to be asked. And if it does matter, how much?

Ever listen to Dennis Prager? He is a conservative, but he denies that blood matters. And yet, inconsistently with this he holds that sex does matter. Thus gender roles are not entirely socially constructed -- they are partially so constructed -- but reflect biological differences between boys and girls.

Leftists and a disturbing number of pseudo-conservatives (NRO types and others) hold that race and sex are wholly socially constructed. That is absurd. Agree? They also maintain that we are all equal empirically and that what keeps this empirical equality from being manifest is 'racism,' 'sexism,' etc. (Those are sneer quotes.)

Do you agree both with my characterization of thr hard Left and that what they maintain is absurd?

The Alt Right is also wrong, however. They think the only equality is empirical equality. And since they are right that there is no such equality, they conclude that there is equality at all. What then stops them from becoming Nazis?

That was the point of my quip -- which you didn't like -- that the cure for a Commie is not a Nazi.

The sane and morally respectable approach is -- wait for it -- mine.

More later. Time for physical exercise.

Dear Bill,

Thanks for this. Two quick replies: both of which will, in effect, simply be restatements of my original disagreements with you.

First, it's true that I've offered no analysis of 'white supremacist,' but in this case I don't think there's any obligation on me. (If we're thinking in terms of burden of proof, the burden would clearly rest with Dreher, who also clearly did not discharge it. But leave that aside.) It seems obvious enough that Dreher's accusation is intended in the semantic bludgeon sense (not wholly devoid of cognitive content: see Plantinga's comical definition of 'fundamentalist' for a good comparison)--and you're right in seeing that I was responding to the accusation *in that form*, and responding to Dreher's accusation, not to yours. Here, I'll just repeat the claim that there's nothing in Buchanan's column that could reasonably support Dreher's accusation of white supremacy. (Are there things in it that might support a claim that Buchanan is a 'white supremacist' in your D1 sense? Maybe...but then I'd agree with Malcolm Pollack that nobody would accept the use of the *term* 'white supremacist' to describe their acceptance of that view.)

Second, I really think you're just misreading the line about "all men are created equal." It looks blindingly obvious to me that in that passage he's accepted the standard of judgment of his opponent, and is showing that his opponent can't get his desired egalitarianism once his opponent has rejected the only ground upon which equality can actually stand. You say it's blindingly obvious he's not saying what I say he's saying. How do we settle this? One day, we'll have to find a way to sit down with a whiskey and talk this--and other things--out. As always, thanks for the stimulating discussion.

Patrick

Bill,

Doesn't Jacques uses the phrase and mean it in something like the (D1) sense?

He does, in his comments to my post, here.

We do agree in general about all this, and quite exactly as regards using these contaminated terms and phrases. Their completely reliable negativity is why they make such useful cudgels. To embrace them for oneself can only be counterproductive.

Ever listen to Dennis Prager? He is a conservative, but he denies that blood matters. And yet, inconsistently with this he holds that sex does matter. Thus gender roles are not entirely socially constructed -- they are partially so constructed -- but reflect biological differences between boys and girls.

Yes. He's smart enough to see the inconsistency, so I imagine he's just saying only as much as he feels safe saying. I can't really blame him all that much, because the prospect of ruination is almost certain if you cross beyond the pale. If the force of truth causes certain ideas to become better-tolerated in public discourse, I'm sure he (and many others like him who are toeing the line) will open up. In England they call such people "weathervanes".

Leftists and a disturbing number of pseudo-conservatives (NRO types and others) hold that race and sex are wholly socially constructed. That is absurd. Agree?

Well, yes, of course. In fact, I'd stand that on its head: rather than race being a social construction, I think societies are racial constructions. Agree?

Do you agree both with my characterization of the hard Left and that what they maintain is absurd?

Yes.

The Alt Right is also wrong, however. They think the only equality is empirical equality. And since they are right that there is no such equality, they conclude that there is [no] equality at all. What then stops them from becoming Nazis?

First, I'll say that "alt-right" is now as tainted and generally repugnant as "white supremacist", so I won't be associating myself with the term, nor will I comment on what someone who does might be thinking. I will say, though, that one can accept the principle of equality before the law, based on a fundamental sense of shared humanity and liberty merely as a stipulation, a premise one accepts because one thinks it leads to a just society, without belief in a transcendent foundation in God. It is simply a choice that a person, or a society, can make; we do that with all sorts of other premises and conventions.

It seems that we agree, as did the Founders, that justice and liberty relate to the individual human being, and that no empirically observable differences between groups, however salient they may be and however firmly rooted in biological realities, should have anything to do with Declaration-Of-Independence-style equality.

Where things get tricky, though, is in the tension between areas where individual justice is paramount, and where group differences matter:

Imagine two groups, A and B. Suppose that, in statistical aggregate, groups A and B are quite different, although on an individual basis there is lots of overlap. Say that Group B, on average, has a lower IQ, commits all categories of crime at markedly higher rates (independently of socioeconomic status), and exhibits higher time preference. Given that high IQ, low criminality, and low impulsiveness are strongly correlated with healthy and prosperous societies, it is a matter of cold statistical fact that a society founded by, and consisting mostly of, Group A will, by introducing large numbers of Group B, lower its social and cultural fitness. It is also perfectly rational for members of Group A to prefer to live in places where Group A holds a large majority, and to be wary of large assemblies of Group B. (I'm going to hold your feet to the fire here, and ask if you agree.)

Now, I must emphasize again this of course says nothing about any particular individual -- there are, of course, impulsive, dimwitted criminals in Group A, and vice-versa -- and is therefore perfectly compatible with Declaration-style ideas of equality, liberty, and justice. But for most people, and certainly in public discourse, this perfectly rational assessment is considered completely out of bounds, and anyone who endorses it is at risk for serious consequences. (This tension is what drives folks like Dennis Prager to the only available exit.)

So: what's the correct stance here?

Malcolm,

That is an interesting speculation about Prager. I suggest that he is is just unaware of his inconsistency and kept from seeing it by his being Jewish. His horror at the Holocaust -- imagine being a Jew and having that shit just a few decades away in the history of one's people! -- closes him off from the truth that there are racial differences and that they matter. He is also a theist and thus wedded to the idea that we are all equal in a robust metaphysical sense.

Or maybe it is a blend of your speculation and mine.

In any case we agree that biological sex matters and that blood (biological race) matters in a way that renders insane the following two notions: (a) that women should be allowed in all combat roles in the military incl. SEALs, Army Rangers, etc.; (b) that all potential immigrants to the USA should have an equal shot regardless of race and creed. Clearly, it is suicidal to allow the immigration of Sharia-supporting Muslims.

Are societies racial constructions? That's maybe too cute a formulation. But the notion of an extended phenotype appears fruitful. I get what you mean when you say that the honeycomb, even though not itself containing genetic info, is an extended phenotype of bees.

Is the USA a 'proposition nation'? I'd say yes. But not only. The implementation of the proposition requires a certain breed of cat, if you catch my drift.

Bill,

"I suggest that he is is just unaware of his inconsistency and kept from seeing it by his being Jewish."

I think that's a very important point, and for at least many Jews, almost certainly true.

If it is true, then there's an important corollary -- Jews in positions of influence will do what they can to keep such ideas from gaining currency, and will work hard to keep such ideas from affecting public policy. Imagine what the effects might be if, say, Jews were in fact well-represented in the commanding heights of media and academia (and, since politics is downstream from culture, were to exert a corresponding influence there as well).

All purely hypothetical, of course! The late Lawrence Auster, who was himself Jewish by birth, considered the idea in depth, however, here.

I agree that my formulation is a little "cute". (G.K. Chesterton was very fond of such playful inversions as a rhetorical flourish, and maybe it's rubbed off on me a bit.) Nevertheless, I think it touches on a deep, if currently heretical, truth.

"Is the USA a 'proposition nation'? I'd say yes. But not only. The implementation of the proposition requires a certain breed of cat, if you catch my drift."

Well, right. And not just in racial terms, as the Founders well understood; it also requires a certain set of moral and civic virtues that hardly seem to be -- to put it mildly -- on the rise.

Malcolm,

Would you agree with this: While it would be absurd to maintain that the world's flora and fauna are socially constructed, botany and biology are social constructs.

Knowledge is a social product. (Truth is not however.)

Urology is a social construct, but we men can rejoice that our manly members are not social constructs . . . .

Now on to a point of disagreement:

>> I will say, though, that one can accept the principle of equality before the law, based on a fundamental sense of shared humanity and liberty, merely as a stipulation, a premise one accepts because one thinks it leads to a just society, without belief in a transcendent foundation in God. It is simply a choice that a person, or a society, can make; we do that with all sorts of other premises and conventions.<<

Can someone who emphasizes the biologically-based differences between groups and sees cultural differences percolating up out of those differences appeal to a "sense of shared humanity" sufficiently robust to support equality before the law?

It may be that the West is running on fumes, the last vapors of the Judeo-Xian worldview and that your sense of equal justice for all is but a vestige of that dying worldview. Can belief in that moral code survive when belief in a transcendent Ground thereof is lost? The death of God has consequences, as Nietzsche appreciated.

Patrick,

It would be very good to sit down with you and discuss various matters. Let me know if you are ever out here within striking distance.

One topic of mutual interest is whether the existence of God can be proven. I say No, you say Yes. Perhaps you saw my post on the modal OA which argues, against you, that it is not compelling.

In any case, thanks for the stimulation!

Bill, you ask:

"Can someone who emphasizes the biologically-based differences between groups and sees cultural differences percolating up out of those differences appeal to a "sense of shared humanity" sufficiently robust to support equality before the law?"

I can say with complete confidence that someone can, because I do. I'm sure that lots of other people in The West do, too.

But your next question -- whether Western civilization as a whole can survive in the absence of a transcendent foundation -- is where the rubber meets the road.

I think I know what your own answer is, and I agree that the answer is probably no. (I wouldn't have agreed twenty years ago, but I'm older and wiser now.) From a Darwinian perspective (and I've been saying this some time now), I think secularism is maladaptive.

As I remarked to our friend Jacques in a related thread over at my place, this secularist universalism, and its deleterious effect on cultural and demographic sustainability, could also reasonably call into question the whole idea of Western cultural "superiority", at least in the current era:

For all their technical and intellectual accomplishments, whites as a group seem to be busily engaged in extinguishing themselves; white fertility rates are lethally low, while white suicide rates are shockingly high. The white race’s vaunted intellectual oeuvre has hatched into political and cultural ideologies that are, before our eyes, reducing whites to self-loathing minorities in nearly every single one of their homelands. Among educated classes, whites are increasingly caponizing and feminizing their males, while driving females further and further from natural procreative roles (while aborting their offspring by the scores of millions). Another white creation — the radical skepsis of the Enlightenment — has become in this crepuscular era a universal acid that has eroded and dissolved all that was once sacred, and all of the traditional foundations of organic social structure.

White culture today is gravely ill: among its symptoms are ennui, cultural exhaustion, enfeeblement, cynicism, resentment, impotence, pathological leveling, depression, anomie, suicide, spinsterhood, loss of cohesion, and nihilism. White history is learned, nowadays, only to be reviled, and so the West is increasingly isolated in a temporal bubble of empty, atomizing, consumerist hedonism. From a Darwinian perspective, we seem headed for extinction.

If a culture is capable of magnificent achievements, but only for a brief historical moment; if it can raise some flamboyant plumage, but fails, ultimately, to achieve sustainable flight; if it makes a good showing on Nature’s stage but soon goes extinct — how superior was it, really? If Europeans are ultimately displaced from the Continent by Islamic and African migration, and reduced to a subservient minority or even eliminated, who won?

Difficult times. Difficult questions.

"..., who won?"

To some extent, Malcolm, the answer to that question depends on what the meaning of "won" is. I submit that it's back to the "definition" board ...

Malcolm's point, I take it, is that nobody wins if Europeans, having gone decadent, are displaced. Muslims don't win if they reduce Europe and America to the kinds of shit holes from which they fled. And Europeans don't win either.

Right, Malcolm, difficult questions. I would not call the Enlightenment a period of radical skepsis. Why is the Islamic world so screwed up? In part because there was no Enlightenment there and no philosophy. It's all theology.

You value science highly. So you can't have a romantic longing for an authoritarian structure like the medieval church that threatened Galileo and burned Giordano Bruno at the stake.

God doesn't have to exist to do useful work as long as there is the widespread belief in God. But (the belief in) God is dead in the (educated) West. So what is wrong with infanticide? Nothing say some ethics 'experts' these days.

We can console ourselves with the fact that we are old men. Our time ain't long.

Did you see this post of mine from a few months ago: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2017/05/a-personalist-conservatism.html

Hi Bill,

"I would not call the Enlightenment a period of radical skepsis."

Really? I certainly would. Everything, since the Enlightenment, has ultimately been made to stand in the dock, and to justify its existence. No sacred belief or vital tradition has been exempt.

From Philosophy Index:

René Descartes (1596–1650) was a French scientist, philosopher and Roman Catholic of the Enlightenment period who is often considered to be the founder of modern philosophy, breaking away from the ways of the middle ages.

Descartes departs from the philosophy of scholasticism with a concept of universal doubt.

(As reactionaries go, at least I'm not as bad as Richard Weaver, who says the rot began with William of Ockham and the birth of nominalism.)

"Why is the Islamic world so screwed up?"

The most obvious answer, which is logically prior to yours, is, of course: "because of Islam!"

"You value science highly. So you can't have a romantic longing for an authoritarian structure like the medieval church that threatened Galileo and burned Giordano Bruno at the stake."

Quite true, of course; I don't. But the problem may be that once you set in motion the relentless doubt that was the antidote to the authoritarian Church, it becomes a universal acid that nothing can contain. There seems to be no way to control this once it gets going, and so you end up where we are now. There may in fact be no sustainable middle way. (Indeed, I've come to think that's likely true, and I find the conclusion almost unbearably sad.)

"God doesn't have to exist to do useful work as long as there is the widespread belief in God. But (the belief in) God is dead in the (educated) West."

I agree completely. My point, though, is that I think this state of affairs may have been quite inevitable. (Maybe I'm wrong. If so, where was the place it might have been avoided? That will be where the sensible reactionary wants to go. But I've thought about this question a lot, and think that place doesn't exist. I certainly can't see how we get back there from here. We can only stumble forward, and hope for the best.)

We can console ourselves with the fact that we are old men. Our time ain't long.

Cold comfort, that. I have children, and now a grandson.

Finally, yes, I saw that post when you wrote it, and have just read it again. I agree, generally, with what you say. I'm not troubled by Jacques's objection, though, because, as I've said above: I think we can ascribe personhood to humans simply as a matter of convention and stipulation, if we decide we want to. After all, who's going to stop us? (Other than our obsessive skepsis, that is...)

P.S. Too gloomy! I apologize. Thanks indeed for a very interesting discussion.

>>I agree completely. My point, though, is that I think this state of affairs may have been quite inevitable. (Maybe I'm wrong. If so, where was the place it might have been avoided? That will be where the sensible reactionary wants to go. But I've thought about this question a lot, and think that place doesn't exist. I certainly can't see how we get back there from here. We can only stumble forward, and hope for the best.)<<

Are you an unconscious Heideggerian? (I'll bet you haven't read word of Heidegger in your life.) He thinks nihilism started with Plato and is indeed inevitable . . . .

I took up Being and Time long ago -- in my early twenties -- but at the time I lacked the intellectual discipline to absorb it productively, did not finish it, and haven't read him since. I am of course familiar with his place in philosophy (and in history).

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