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Sunday, February 11, 2018

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Okay, I'll bite. You write that the id-pol left and the alt right both endorse "the reduction of individual identity, personal identity, to group identity". What would it mean to think of individuals in this way? Would it mean thinking (for example) that Bill V is _nothing more_ than an instance of the type 'white man', for example? Because that would be utterly absurd and incoherent. Surely you don't mean that people like me hold that kind of view though. You need to explain more clearly what it would mean to think of individuals merely as tokens of groups and why you think the alt right in general thinks of individuals in that way.

What most of us in the 'alt right' do agree on, I think, would be claims like the following:

(a) The personalities, behaviors, interests, aptitudes and self-conceptions of individuals tend to be strongly influenced by their racial and cultural identities.
(b) It is not healthy or good for white Europeans, alone among all the other racial-cultural groups in the world, to think of themselves merely as individuals.
(c) It is good and healthy for white Europeans to prefer their own people, communities and forms of life to alien people, communities and forms of life.

"My brand of conservatism resists this reduction and attempts to navigate a via media between the identity-political extremes."

I would say that the alt right is really the reasonable via media. We aren't saying that an individual white man, for example, is nothing more than a token of a racial or sexual type; but we also aren't saying that he's merely an 'individual' whose racial and sexual identity has no great importance. (We don't say 'I happen to be white'.) We want white Europeans to rediscover a sense of racial-cultural identity, loyalty, heritage, community and belonging. Which is, of course, compatible with a high degree of individuality and respect for individuals.

Individuality and individual freedom and individual rights can only exist in a certain kind of culture. A culture where everyone is regarded as merely 'an individual' will not be able to sustain itself or protect itself against hostile out-groups. (This is one reason why western societies now are weak, why our people have below-replacement fertility, etc. If you can't trust in some 'tribal' community you lose motivation, you become weak and degenerate.) Culture is ultimately created and transmitted through families, parents to children; without an extended family ('tribe') the culture dies and its members either die off, get enslaved or get assimilated to someone else's culture and extended family.

Maybe it would help to compare with national identity. One absurd extreme would be to say that each American citizen is nothing more than that; another absurd extreme would be to say that American citizenship is just a trivial, arbitrary fact about a person that shouldn't matter socially or politically or culturally. Presumably you'd endorse a middle position on this issue. But then why not also on race and sex? (There are 'higher' things than citizenship too, after all, but it doesn't follow that any source of identity and solidarity other than the very 'highest' possible can't be good or healthy or important.)

Bill, your motto is "study everything, join nothing". It's clear that this is a motto you take seriously.

But "join nothing" is in fact a radical -- I'll even say "inhuman" -- credo. If extended to a universal principle, it entails the extinction of anything that requires joining for its existence or persistence. Societies, cultures, and civilizations are all such things -- and if you accept that cultures and civilizations are more than random things that fall from the sky and land on whatever human population happens to be passing below, then to preserve and uplift one's culture one must also join, in the sense of declaring an allegiance to, and seeking the preservation of, the distinct and irreplaceable people from which that culture originates.

This need not take the form of anything resembling "supremacy", or even a belief in any sort of superiority. (And it certainly is a very different thing from "hate".) It is simply a natural and healthy feeling of belonging, of having a home, and of cherishing one's culture and people because they are one's own.

Thanks for the response, Jacques.

>>(We don't say 'I happen to be white'.)<< Well, I didn't say that either. Indeed, no one who is white could reasonably say that he happens to be white. As I made clear above, a person who is of race R is R in every possible world in which he exists, whence it follows that one cannot change one's race.

Nor did I say that anyone or anything is 'merely' an individual for that would imply that there could be individuals that have no properties. Necessarily, every individual has properties, some accidental others essential.

>>individual rights can only exist in a certain kind of culture.<< The existence of natural rights does not depend on any culture or convention or constitution. It would be better for you to say that rights can only be upheld or defended in a certain kind of culture.

I suppose you want to deny that natural rights are universal. But then what precisely are you saying? That the right to life, say, is a white right, a right that whites invented, and that is valid only for white people so that non-whites don't have this right? Or perhaps you are saying that the right is universal but that its recognition and defense is something white people can take credit for, and that is best defended and upheld by white people? I could agree with the latter.

Gentlemen,

This from a First Things article (https://www.firstthings.com/article/2018/03/the-anti-christian-alt-right)

>>The alt-right purports to defend the identity and interests of white people, who it believes are the compliant victims of a century-long swindle by liberal morality. Its goals are not conventionally conservative. It does not so much question as mock standard conservative positions on free trade, abortion, and foreign policy, regarding them as principles that currently abet white dispossession. Its own principles are not so abstract, and do not pretend to neutrality. Its creed, in the words of Richard Spencer, is “Race is real. Race matters. Race is the foundation of identity.”<<

I agree that race is real: it is not a social construct. And I agree that race matters, although we will probably differ on where it matters and how much it matters.

It is the third proposition that cries out for analysis. What does it mean? Is it a normative claim to the effect that one's primary mode of self-identification ought to be in terms of race. If that is the claim, then I reject it.

I would be interested in how you gentlemen interpret Spencer's third pronunciamento. Please be pithy.

From the same article:

>>A cultural relativist, Spengler rejects as a “ridiculous distortion” any view that privileges European thought or history. In an opening chapter he states a principle that would find agreement in any ethnic studies department: “Each culture possesses its own standards, the validity of which begins and ends with it.”<<

Do either of you agree with this? I should think you would given that at least one of you denies the universality of rights.

Bill,

That Richard Spencer now appears to be the figurehead of the Alt-Right is one reason why I no longer associate myself with the brand. His simplistic, provocative sound-bite contains just enough truth to make it appealing to the sullen and disaffected type that Eric Hoffer described so clearly in The True Believer.

Kinship, shared heritage, innate commonality, and our sense of belonging are of course natural and important components of our identity -- but to honor your request for pithiness, I'll just say that my understanding of the way in which race "matters" is as I described above.

What I take Bill to be saying is not that race, nation, ethnicity, gender, etc, aren't real (he affirms their reality, denouncing their denial as leftist lunacy), it is that within the onion that is a person's identity, the highest of them all is the individual person, intellect and will. Again, this does not mean that I no longer see myself as, say, a white American male with such an such an ethnic background and with such and such religious beliefs, but that of these my individuality reigns and ultimately I am incomprehensible without accounting for my individual personhood. It is where I, as a free, rational, moral agent choose to be this way rather than that way. Each layer is either factually true of my identity, or "advisory", so to speak, or a freely chosen manner of being, but my individuality reigns. It does not, of course, have the right to reign in opposition to the moral order. We do not have the right to choose evil, though we have the power to do so. The supremacy of choice, the elevation of will over intellect (as absurd as that is), is a sin celebrated as virtue on the left.

Individuality is very much emphasized in what Feliks Koneczny in his "On the Plurality of Civilizations" called Latin civilization. Compare this to what he called Byzantine civilization, or Turanian civilization, where the individual is subordinate to other things.

The via media Bill is referring to is arguably a rejection of both the extremes of either subordinating or reducing the individual to one of his lower identities, or reducing the individual to an ego with no identity but his individuality (or perhaps those gnostic, manufactured identities like transgender identity).

More from the First Things piece:

>>Evola is the most right-wing thinker possible in the modern world. There is nobody to his right, nor can there be. His influence on the alt-right is detectable in one of its most controversial features: its rejection of human equality. “We don’t belong to the liberal family,” writes popular blogger Hunter Wallace. “Nothing is less self-evident to us than the notion that all men are created equal.” Here is the movement’s clearest dispute with conventional conservatism and its “paper worship” of the American founding, as one prominent activist describes it. The alt-right denies that constitutional democracy is worthy of principled veneration. For Evola, its popular acceptance is a sign we are living in a spiritual dark age.<<

Empirically, men are not equal. We should all be able to agree on that. I have come out in favor of "All men are created equal" if taken as a normative claim. But the normative claim is grounded in Christian metaphysics -- which is denied by the alt-right.

So, contrary to what Jacques has said, we cannot avoid metaphysics. So are you gentlemen metaphysical naturalists?

Vox Day has a response to the First Things article posted above: http://voxday.blogspot.com/2018/02/the-anti-christian-alt-right.html. It may be of interest to the discussion.

The ultimate problem, it seems to me, with strong tribal allegiance in politics compared to the natural sorting due to innate characteristics, unchosen group affiliations and so on is that politics is a business whose execution absolutely requires nonsense to be called out when it appears, and careful reflection on competing moral priorities to be undertaken in order to achieve dignified lives for everyone.

The concrete problem with being in a political club is that at some point you can't say what really needs to be said, because that ain't the club's line; worse, if you adopt the team identity too seriously, you start believing the BS of co-tribalists, and eventually making up your own. Not a good place to be.

'Study everything, join nothing' is hard to beat in my view...

Thanks for the comments, Henrik. You understand me quite well. I am making the normative claim that we ought primarily to self-identify as persons, as rational, free, moral agents. This normative claim presupposes that there is a true self and that self-identifications in terms of blood and soil, etc, are false self-identifications. What's false is not that I am a white male; what's false is the self-identification as a token of the type while male.

What's false is not that I am an animal; what's false would be to take myself to be just an animal.

I wouldn't liken the self to an onion, though, since that suggests that there is no inner core.

Kurt,

I'm unimpressed by the sophist Vox Day and his response. I get that the Alt-Right has some degree of ideological diversity; it's not monolithic. But I've noticed that whenever someone criticizes the Alt-Right, its proponents tend to respond by saying, "That's not representative of the Alt-Right," as Day does here, or that the skeptic woefully "misunderstands" the Alt-Right. It's becoming a stock move to deflect any or all criticism from outside the movement.

Day: Richard Spencer and those like him are not authoritative or representative of the Alt-Right. If Spencer objectively isn't indicative of typical Alt-Right views, even as Spencer and co. act as if they are, then why should we believe Day and his blogging, including his assertion that Spencer is not as major of a thinker in the movement as media would have us believe, are objectively indicative or authoritative of the Alt-Right either? Day, the author of the "16 Points of the Alt-Right," acts as a leading figure of the movement.

Furthermore, Day's got some explaining to do. He posits Christianity as fundamental to Western civilization, and the Alt-Right is pro-Western Civilization and thereby Pro-Christianity. But he never defines Christianity. What does the Alt-Right support, the worldview and its ethics, or its cultural artifacts, e.g. the great European cathedrals and art made by whites? If its the latter, as I suspect, the I'll tell you as a Christian that's not essentially Christianity, but a veneer. Likewise, I also suspect that the Alt-Right has some Nietzschean tendencies -- whether Day acknowledge them or not -- that are at least in tension with the Christian moral ideals about human dignity that underlies Western society.

But I've wrote too much already. I apologize to our host and hopes he finds my two cents productive to the combox.

Hi Bill,
It's hard to be pithy in this context. With all due respect, I think you simply don't understand a lot of what we 'alt right' types are saying.

1."Do either of you agree with this? I should think you would given that at least one of you denies the universality of rights."
No, I don't agree with Spencer's silly relativism. I also don't deny the 'universality' of some rights, if that just means that all human beings have certain basic rights. Where I disagree with the mainstream has to do with (a) which rights are universal and (b) what it would mean for these rights to be recognized or implemented across radically different human groups. So I don't think that Africans and Aborigines have a 'right' to democratic government, for example.

2. You ask what Spencer means in saying "Race is the foundation of identity". Not sure. But I'd say this: Racial origin and identity is a very important fact about a person. The races are very different, naturally; these differences have profound consequences for society, for how the races interact when forced to live together. Racial kinship seems to be a natural and powerful basis for co-operation, empathy, solidarity... So when we white people are under attack _as white people_ we should band together as white people in order to protect ourselves and our families and our communities and our civilization. What is wrong with this? Why is this some kind of "reduction" of individual people to their racial identity? Why on earth should we _not_ be doing this given that we have dangerous racial enemies who are successfully pursuing a collectivist strategy? I don't get it. And I really don't see why any deep 'metaphysics' of the individual (or freedom, or whatever) is needed as preliminary to the task of protecting our own people and civilization. Regardless of any abstruse questions about the metaphysical nature of the self, it's still reasonable and moral for white people to defend their extended (racial-cultural) family against out-groups who don't play by our rules.

Malcolm,

"Study everything, join nothing" is explained here: http://maverickphilosopher.typepad.com/maverick_philosopher/2011/09/study-everything-join-nothing.html

Ben,

Thanks for the comments. It seems that the Alt-Right is fairly amorphous. From the First Things article, I gather that the A-R is naturalistic, anti-monotheistic (though perhaps tolerant of a polytheism of tribal gods), anti-Christian, and that it draws the anti-egalitarian and anti-personalist consequences of Nietzsche's death of God. But you report that Day is pro-Christian.

Looks like we have a mixed bag here.

M and J,

I can see you are not appreciating what I'm saying. So let's call it a day.

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