The Dark Reformation Part 8: Dark Philosophy

(This part is an attempt to present a systematic reactionary philosophy. Here I attempt to present a coherent worldview from a reactionary (or neoreactionary) perspective. To do this, I will make use of the traditional categories of philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and politics.)

The modern philosophical reactionary begins with the following formulation:

God or Nature? Nature or Nature’s God? (GNON)

Does it matter?

Well yes, if you want to go to heaven and have your way with seventy-odd virgins.

The purpose of this formulation, however, is not to argue about revealed religion or even argue about natural religion (the first depends on books, prophets and messiahs, the latter on philosophical arguments). The point of the formulation is that, regardless of whether God or Nature is the ultimate metaphysical brute fact, reality is real. Philosopher, and neoreactionary thinker, Nick Land writes:

Primarily, and strategically, it permits a consensual acceptance of Natural Law, unobstructed by theological controversy. Agreement that Reality Rules need not be delayed until religious difference is resolved.

The Cult of Gnon

The philosophy of the Dark Reformation is that we first understand reality before we can change it.

Reality exists. Reality rules.

No matter how much you wish, no matter how much you desire, no matter how much you want things to be a certain way — they are the way they are. There are natural laws, and laws, when combined with actions, produce predictable consequences. Human nature is real, and real differences exist between people. The strategy of GNON — this new metaphysics of man, God and Nature — allows reactionaries to agree that either God or atheistic evolution is ultimately responsible for this fact. The point is that human nature is real, stable and predictable; not arbitrarily created and thus subject to radical change by “culture.”

In the last part, I described (following Thomas Sowell) two conflicting and competing visions of human nature: the constrained vision (or view), and the unconstrained vision. The constrained view is that man has innate constraints —limits — but also potentialities, preferences and natural desires. By contrast, the unconstrained view views man as a kind of blank slate. Anything can be written on a blank slate; the possibilities for change, therefore, are endless.

The Dark Reformation claims that the constrained view of man is the real one, or closer to human nature as it actually is. Man is not a blank slate. Man has instincts, desires, preferences, possibilities and limits.

The Dark Reformation accepts the reality of radical human diversity. Not all humans have the same potential, the same desires or desires of the same strength. The Dark Reformation acknowledges that progressives do think differently, do feel differently, and desire different things (as we will address in the next part).

The Dark Reformation accepts that not only does man have a nature, but that his nature is often horribly flawed. Why does, for instance, human evil exist?

The constrained view, the view of the Dark Reformation, is that man frequently has evil inclinations and dark desires ( need to dominate, humiliate, aggressive and competitive, status orientated, tribal, exploitative, selfish, vindictive, sadistic). The unconstrained and enlightened progressive view, however, is that man is born good — it is society that corrupts him.

GNON allows for religious and non-religious reactionaries to accept the dark reality about human nature, but can agree to disagree as to whether one should attribute this fact to either God or Nature.

This is the fundamental metaphysical principle of the Dark Reformation. GNON is not a statement of truth (God or Nature’s God) but a Pyrrhonian suspension of judgement.

The second fundamental principle of the Dark Reformation is human diversity.

The third fundamental principle of the Dark Reformation is that humans broadly fall into two spectrums in their thinking about human nature and social organisation: the constrained v unconstrained vision of human nature, and the corresponding tragic v utopian vision of politics.

Reactionaries correspond to the constrained and tragic pole, while progressives fall into the unconstrained and utopian pole.

The tragic vision of politics is the acceptance of the inescapability of conflict and competition, the intellectual and moral imperfectability of man, and that trade-offs among competing goods and competing people will always exist. The tragic vision of politics is prudential. It seeks to minimise destructive conflict and anti-social behaviour using unplanned and evolved systems of incentives (religion, custom and tradition, law and the free market) to regulate, channel and constrain human behaviour in order to achieve pro-social results. Social problems, in the tragic view, cannot be solved, they can only be managed.

The utopian vision of politics is the belief that social problems can be solved, however. War, famine and pestilence, along with inequality, exploitation, corruption, oppression and violence can be eliminated. The end point of the utopian vision is an egalitarian society of some kind: social, economic and sexual egalitarianism. This is achieved firstly by identifying, discovering or creating correct (true, good and useful) beliefs and virtuous thoughts by philosophers and then inculcating these beliefs and virtues in the wider population, by philosophers, priests, teachers, professors, authors, etc. However, inculcating these beliefs into the wider populace largely requires and is usually achieved by centralising power in the hands of the wise few, or a “vanguard” or a Party, or a group of managers. These “managers” make changes to the system and changes aim at directly bringing about the desired goal; which, as I said earlier, is usually an egalitarian goal of some sort.

Now, I will attempt to sketch out the rest of a reactionary philosophical system. The following are my own thoughts on reaction. Here I am attempting to create a synthesis between reaction, older conservative thought and some “contemporary”, but controversial, ideas. This will include epistemology, metaphysics, ethics and politics. I put forward five principles:

1: Empiricism

2: Reductionism and Consilience

3: Darwinism.

4: Determinism.

5: Utilitarianism.

I will now say a few words on each of these things.

1: Empiricism.

The simple definition of empiricism is that all knowledge is based on experience. It assumes, firstly, an individual experience as primary; secondly, it derives knowledge from the senses. Empiricism also allows testimony ( which would include history) and causal reasoning (science).

This conception of empiricism (when applied to politics and society) is, however, much too simple. What I mean by empiricism is more expansive. In fact, my view of empiricism when applied to politics and society is influenced by David Hume — the great Scottish philosopher and empiricist.

The conservative scholar, Stephen Wolin, writes that Hume worked to create a science of politics that was “grounded in experience, supplied by historical inquiry and based on observation of existing societies.” Wolin continues that for Hume politics was: “To be an investigation into the interaction between institutions and human nature.” Hume thought that the “function of political institutions had been to channel and control human behaviour.” (Hume, despite being an “enlightenment philosopher” was not a Whig — yesterday’s progressive. Indeed, he was light years away from Jean Jacques Rousseau — the arch “progressive” or unconstrained thinker.)
Empiricism studies social organisations, historical patterns and structures of incentives. To begin with, the individual is fairly ignorant and limited in their knowledge and knowledge-gathering abilities; their stock of knowledge — compared to the rest of knowledge that is diffused in society — is minuscule. Even a polymath will be a total ignoramus on most things. Consequently, we need to understand, firstly, the social process in which individuals acquire knowledge, norms and values; secondly, we need to evaluate this process of knowledge acquisition in terms of reliability and veracity.

Consider education as an example. The two prime directives of theoretical (academic) education is knowledge transfer, and cultivating critical skills in students that allows them to: 1. Evaluate information for truth. 2: Learn how to acquire new knowledge.

Empiricism, when used to understand politics and society, requires systematic understanding of political, social and military history; furthermore, empiricism studies society and politics as a complex set of systems — such as ecology.

Studying the past offers us the closest thing to freely occurring experiments in politics and society. The study of history offers us the chance to spot patterns, to notice recurring features, to learn from mistakes and successes of the past. It can offer, at its best, a resource for trying to understand, predict and control future events. I think, however, that history offers us two key things specifically. Firstly, to notice the ever-present reality of arms-races, competition, conflict and Thucydidean traps. Secondly, the study of history allows one to notice signs of social disorder and decay, degenerative trends and to recognise cults and mass movements of madness —In short, human stupidity.

Political empiricism seeks systematic understanding of political phenomena. Most people approach politics in two ways. Firstly, they engage in, as James Burnham defines it, “politics as wish.” They want X or Y and think the government should, therefore, do X or Y. Secondly, I contend, that the majority of people think in terms of intentions, labels, categories and “buzz words”. We need to be X, we need to be Y. He is an A, or she is a B — they are bad, stupid or mad don’t listen to them. Real reasoning on political issues outside of narrow spectrum seldom occurs.

The empiricism of the Dark Reformation does, however, make use of three assumptions and makes use of three theories to analyse, evaluate and predict political phenomena.

Firstly, it assumes the overriding importance of good consequences and not good intentions. Secondly, it assumes the each individual and the various groups within society are largely self-interested (though not necessarily “rationally” self-interested). Thirdly, it assumes that human behaviour must be understood in terms of a system — a structure —of incentives. The Three theories are game theory, public choice theory, and Bertrand De Jouvenal’s theory of unsecure power.

Human social life is one long game of cooperation and conflict. Game theory, therefore, allows one to map situations that are either zero-sum conflict (winner takes all) or positive-sum (win-win) cooperation. Game theory can be used as a method of analysis and as a normative (strategise) guide to make decisions. Game theory can be applied when the following four conditions occur: players (agents who make decisions), information, actions and pay offs. Game theory can be applied as an analytical tool to morality, economics, politics, voting, war and negotiating. As a practical tool its chief benefit is to aid decision-making under conditions of uncertainty; secondly, it provides a framework for trying to engineer cooperation and trust in a group or between groups.

Public choice theory is a subset of game theory when applied to government agents (such as bureaucrats). The chief insight I take from public choice is that the incentives of agents in a system will never perfectly align with the purpose of the system. Institutional designers should seek to align the self-interest of actors with those of the system as closely as possible.

While the previous two theories are well-known, French philosopher, Bertrand De Jouvenal’s theory of power, however, is not widely known. De Jouvenal’s theory of unsecure power is a central analytical component of reaction or neoreaction. What is it? I will let one of the best writers on reaction explain the core of the theory:
“Unsecure power is power with no potential to act in accordance with reason, and no incentive to act in a virtuous manner. Unsecure power follows its own logic, which is automatic destruction of society.”

“The current Liberal-Democratic system is unsecure power which is not formalised”

https://reactionaryfuture.wordpress.com/the-reactionary-summary/

The game of politics is to win power. While all power is unsecure, some powers are more unsecure than others. In a multi-party democracy, power requires winning elections. Winning elections requires winning over a sufficient number of people. Political parties, politicians and their supporters can try to appeal to voters using reason: facts and logic. However, most people are usually (and blamelessly) ignorant of the issues involved; furthermore, they often have no desire to be informed; and thirdly, many would not be capable of understanding the issues even if they tried. The result is that the system (democracy) incentivises politicians to use any and all means necessary to win (including fraud, deception, bribery and coercion.)

This creates an “arms race” of “dark arts”. However, this is not the core of the De Jouvenal’s theory. The core is the “high-low strategy”. We have roughly three groups in society: the political elites, the middle classes, and the lower class. The elites are those with wealth, power and influence. The elites and their supporters are the politicians, aides, spin-doctors, bureaucrats, capitalists, lawyers, journalists, professors and teachers, political activists and community leaders. The elites are, however, a minority. They are substantially different in their thinking than the vast majority of even their fellow countrymen.

The middle classes are the professional classes. They are largely indifferent and unconcerned with politics. They are the technicians, the managers, the police, the doctors — people who keep society running.

The lower class are indigents, criminals or those who work in low-paying, unskilled or service jobs. The lower class outnumber the middle and the middle outnumber the highs. While the lower could never govern a country, the middle class could, however. The fear of the political elite, because their power is insecure, is that a middle-class reaction occurs which displaces them from power.

Consequently, the elites (the highs) form alliances (a system of patronage) with the lows against the middles. In a democracy, numbers win the game. However, in a modern democracy, the command and control of information and ideology are essential to winning and maintaining power because political behaviours are (in large part) consequences of beliefs. The system that maintains this control, is what Mencius Moldbug (Curtis Yarvin) terms the Cathedral. The “Cathedral” appears throughout Moldbug’ epic blog “Unqualified Reservations”, here is a good description, from his “gentle introduction” of what the Cathedral is and how it works:

The information organs secure their authority by their control of public opinion. It is this power that makes the journalists and professors’ own opinions important. It is why they matter. However, the cycle of power from professor to election is, though certain, not fast. One would expect a more direct connection, and indeed one finds it.

Journalists and professors are part of the larger matrix of permanent power in the Modern Structure, which we can call the extended civil service. It is extended because it includes not only the civil service proper—formal govern- ment employees—but also all those who consider themselves public servants, including journalists, professors, NGOistas, etc. Note that regardless of the formal details, the same superiority to politics is enjoyed by all.

And, importantly, it is one social network. Thus, for a faithful follower of the Party, there is never any doubt about what policies or ideas are legitimate or illegitimate. In the form of “public policy,” power flows directly from Cathedral to Congress, often leaving public opinion a decade or two behind. There is no reason to worry. The people, as always, will catch up with their leaders.

http://atavisionary.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/A-gentle-introduction-to-unqualified-reservations.pdf (Chapter Five: The Modern Structure.)

I will put aside the chicken or egg question as to whether unsecure power or progressive ideology is responsible for the Cathedral. Here I will outline the Cathedral structure.

In a liberal democracy, free inquiry and the free market of ideas is not only claimed to be real (that it exists in fact) but that it is objectively correct that true and good ideas win out in the end. The opposite, however, has been the case. This is because of the Cathedral.

The Cathedral is a structure which produces and propagates progressive ideology. It filters out (like an immune system) people and ideas that are contrary or harmful to the system and the system of beliefs. The Cathedral structure is an education-media-government-NGO feedback loop. It is a progressivist echo chamber; one that has created a closed loop in Western civilisation.

The fount of the Cathedral is the modern university. Many courses are nothing more than cadre training centres for progressives, such as gender, post-colonialist, or ethnic studies. Their purpose is to create a new generation of progressives; even those who undertake more “conservative” degrees such as law, politics or economics, or even philosophy, are still imbibing progressive ideas. These students then go on to become part of the larger Cathedral structure, and in some cases part of the ruling elite.

Today, however, the most powerful part of the Cathedral is the mainstream media (though its power is now waning somewhat). The media compromises of television, newspapers, and the internet. The media consists of reporters, columnists, pundits, public intellectuals and celebrities. They set and control the agenda. They are, if you will, the new priests.

Professional politicians, (and everyone else), is at the mercy of the media. Since the media acts a bridge (or gatekeepers or curators) connecting politicians and the people, this gives the media tremendous power. The media decides:

1: What to present.
2: What to eliminate.
3: How to present.
4: Who to present.
5: The “narrative”, the “Frame” of a news item.
6: That a “gaff” or a “mistake” or a “slip” has been made.
7: What is framed as controversial or “extreme”.

De Jouvenal’s theory is not only explanatory (of history and the current political situation) but predictive as well. It offers an explanation of the past, the present and allows for predicting the course of political conflict in the future. For example, the theory explains why the progressives would have incentives for allowing huge numbers of Muslims to migrate and settle in the West because they are new customers (new voters). Even if some Muslims carry out atrocities, it allows for the highs to practice divide and conquer. Divide society via race or religion or inequality, and set the two against each other. It allows elites to implement greater social control of the population. Conflict and fear are also useful for motivating people to vote — either for the left or “right.”

However, in modern Western civilisation, there is no real “right” anymore. So-called “conservatives” —who have not done a good job at conserving —are really only 20 years or so behind the “left.” The truth is that all the main political parties are just different strengths of progressivism.

In short, the Cathedral (or the modern structure) is an apparatus of ideological control. It is the means by which culture changes occur, slowly but always progressively.

This empiricist epistemology is a far cry from the simple sight, sound, hearing, taste and touch. It is, however, resolutely committed to observing the world as it is, how humans actually behave, and to understand the structural reasons why they behave as they do.

2: Reductionism and Consilience.

The principles of reductionism and consilience neatly tie in with empiricism. These principles are the operating methodological principles of modern science. These three principles (empiricism, reductionism, consilience) form the core of the Dark Reformation’s science of politics. Reductionism means understanding phenomena (human behaviour in this case) in terms of more fundamental and simpler constituents. In short, this means understanding politics in terms of human psychology, and psychology in terms of biology.

Consilience is the second main goal (and the overarching one) of science or simply our effort at understanding the world. Science offers not just observations but systematic or unified knowledge. If reductionism is vertical then consilience is horizontal. In particular, it aims at unifying our understanding between the natural and human sciences and the understanding we have of humans in religion, art, philosophy and everyday life. The philosopher, Dan Dennett, using a term from Wilfred Sellars, considers this the modern task of philosophy the problem of reconciling the scientific and manifest image of man. From a physical or naturalistic perspective, how do we reconcile matter, molecules and motion on the one hand, and mind, meaning and morality on the other? The task is one of creating greater coherence in our web of beliefs. The Dark Reformation is about reforming our understanding of human nature, and that partly requires removing inconsistency and basing our understanding of human nature and society on the strongest evidential grounds available. The next two principles will bring out the tension very clearly between the two contrasting visions of human nature.

3: Darwinism. Darwinism all the way up, and all the way down: From gene to meme, from people to politics. If we have variation, competition and retention, then we have Darwinism. Darwinism as a theory of life, human behaviour and culture is a product of empiricism, reductionism and consilience. The task of consilience is to integrate this understanding into, well, everything: metaphysics, ethics, epistemology, politics, economics and culture.

If Darwinism is true then diversity will be true. Darwinian natural selection depends on three main principles: variation (diversity), competition and heredity (retention). The first two are clearly observable facts concerning humans and human society. The third principle (heredity) requires a replicator. Genes are the biological replicators that pass along information — Darwin could not have known about genes when he wrote Origin. The study of the human genome is still ongoing, but already it is safe to say that genetics have effects on human behaviour that are greater than zero. I choose zero because even a very slight genetic influence is sufficient to refute the most extreme of blank slate views (the unconstrained vision) which see human behaviour as socially constructed.

If you believe in Nature’s God, then you can believe that God used natural selection to bring about man. In Christianity, man is a fallen, sinful creature. Greed, sloth, lust, envy, rage, pride, gluttony are the seven deadly sins that man all-too-frequently exhibits. If you believe in a purely naturalistic view, however, you can understand these behaviours and emotions as a consequence of natural selection.

A Darwinian perspective, as Dennett aptly notes, behaves as a “universal acid” eating through everything. It is the core of the core of the Dark Reformation. It is the ultimate “Red Pill.” The Darwinian bounty is simply mountainous, so I will restrict myself to some essential pickings:

1:Human nature exists. There are human constants and universals, but there is also human diversity as well.

2: The inescapability of competition and conflict.

3: Multi-level competition: Gene and Meme —biological but also ideological, cultural and civilisational competition and conflict.

4: Humans believe things and behave in certain ways, not because the beliefs are true or that the behaviours are useful, but because they are adaptive.

4: Determinism.

There is no free will. The Dark Reformation acknowledges that humans have no free will, that they are fully caused beings. Free will is a Christian invention designed to get around the problem of evil; it has never made any philosophical sense, and now science is creeping towards a greater and greater deterministic view of man.

Determinism can be true but so can voluntary rational behaviour as well. Voluntary behaviour is behaviour that is under the control of the individual (it is not forced). The individual desires something as a consequence of their psychology, and then they act to acquire it. Rational behaviour is simply behaviour that is likely to achieve one’s goals. I take voluntary rational behaviour as both possible and frequently actual behaviour of humans. Determinism does not threaten these things.

Determinism, however, does have ramifications for our metaphysics of man, and political and social philosophy more generally. First of all, if man is determined, then he is constrained (by causes he cannot and could not possibly control). This vindicates the constrained (tragic, reactionary and conservative) vision of man. However, ironically, determinism may also serve to justify some progressive goals in terms of welfare and criminal justice reform.

Determinism transforms our understanding of man and society in many ways. Here are two of the most important:

Firstly, it will transform our understanding crime and punishment; secondly, economics. If free will does not exist, then moral responsibility (moral blame and retribution) must be either justified anew or abandoned. This means that concepts like guilt and retribution are, philosophically speaking, meaningless. Economically speaking, determinism puts paid to self-made man myths, and charges of laziness and indolence in people, or the possibility of fully eliminating welfare. This does not require giving up law, order, free-enterprise and a good society —not at all. But it requires putting these things on a truer and more stable foundation. That foundation is utilitarianism.

5: Utilitarianism.

Before I get to utilitarianism, I will say a few things about ethics and morality.

Some philosophers (Bernard Williams for example) draw a distinction between ethics and morality. Morality is a subset of ethics; it concerns the question of right and wrong action. Ethics is broader in scope, meanwhile. Ethics embraces concepts such as a “good life” values, codes, role models and virtues.

Let’s take morality first. Those with the constrained view see man as having a mixture of traits, dispositions and preferences. Some of these traits and preferences will be “good” or pro-social, and some will be “bad” or anti-social. Those with the constrained view are aware that conflict is always possible because it is an inescapable part of life. Limits in human life abound: limited resources, limited time and different time preferences, limited rationality and limited empathy. The constrained view seeks to minimise conflict and maximise cooperation. It seeks to create a system of rewards and punishments (incentives) that efficiently and effectively get the “job done”, so to speak.

How this is best achieved is a completely empirical question. Morality, therefore, is best conceived off as a social technology. The Dark Reformation asserts that there are right and wrong answers to the question of how to minimise conflict and maximise cooperation.

Now, those with the unconstrained (progressive) view agree that conflict is bad and that cooperation is good. However, progressives have different methods of trying to achieve this. They have different methods because they have different basic assumptions about human nature.

Those with the constrained view design systems (political and economic systems) which incentivise desired behaviour. Chiefly, they use material rewards and punishment: pleasure and pain. Now, this does not overlook man’s nobler motives or aspirations, nor should it.

By contrast, the unconstrained view relies on the use of intentions: virtuous intentions and “correct beliefs”. The focus is on ideology, ideological indoctrination and, to use a recent but apt phrase: “virtue signalling.”

Constrained or reactionaries design systems that produce satisfactory results.

Unconstrained or progressives preach, instil and implement good intentions and virtuous beliefs that may or may not produce the desired results (history teaches they frequently do not).

These are the basic principles of the two views.

Ultimately, however, the question of truth and consequences must be addressed. The claim that kicked off this blog is that modern life is rubbish. Modern life is increasingly violent and unstable, full of conflict; it is repressive, inefficient and ineffective. Ultimately, these results are because the basic assumptions of Western culture are not in sync with reality.

When one focuses on results, when one designs systems in terms of consequences, then one is thinking in a utilitarian or consequentialist fashion.

There are, unsurprisingly, many meanings of utilitarianism (U). I mean something different to how Peter Singer, for instance, thinks of utilitarianism. I conceive of utilitarianism as a public philosophy that should guide the decisions of decision-makers. Furthermore, U can also be used a criterion of judging something good or bad, in this case, institutions.

What do I mean by utilitarianism? Firstly, U can be used as either a criterion of right and or a decision theory. Here, I intend it here in both senses. According to U, the right thing to do, or the right rule or system to implement is the one that promotes the best consequences. What kinds of consequences? The answer to this question is consequences for institutions.

What distinguishes my conception of U from other kinds is that it governs the design of political systems or institutions — not specifically or necessarily individual conduct. The following is an approximation of how this would work.

Firstly, U assumes certain goals. The goals that I outlined in an earlier part are the protection of life, liberty and property. U takes into account any and all empirical knowledge for how best to achieve and maintain these goals. Then, the “political engineers” design a political system. A system consists of various interconnected parts that are designed to achieve a goal or goals. This is the constitutional design of a political system.

However, publicly articulated rules (laws) are required. They are required because they create stability, predictability and allow trust and cooperation to emerge among people. For example, clear, unambiguous and stable laws regarding property are a necessary condition for a stable society and a modern economy.

Nevertheless, while some problems can be anticipated, not everything can be decided beforehand. The clearest example of this is war. War evolves, and the nature of threats evolve. Security systems and defence protocols can be gamed, exploited and infiltrated. Simplicity and adaptability are then essential requirements of any security or defence system. Utilitarianism serves that purpose. Utilitarianism is an extremely adaptable system that can evolve to meet new challenges. It focuses on results, rather than good intentions. It is sensitive to evidence and changing conditions unlike other forms of moral thinking.

There is one final point I want to make about U. David Hume was the first western philosopher to make the concept of utility central to politics. While Hume was not a utilitarian (in Bentham’s or Mill’s sense); Hume analysed political systems in terms of their usefulness to society. Two criteria that Hume used were stability and longevity. Hume considered stable systems (ones that avoided factionalism and fanaticism) to be better. Secondly, and connected with the first, Hume considered the longevity of a system (an institution) to indicate that it was stable and therefore conducive to utility.

Stephen S. Wolin, in his article Hume and Conservatism, writes that Hume’s approach to politics used “objective analysis” distrusted “obscurantism”, shunned the a priori, used “empirical data” and “had a strong emphasis on the criterion of utility.” Wolin further claims that Hume believed that “institutions were to be understood in terms of human needs.” Furthermore, “Historical time imparted to social arrangements a qualitative element. Time implied experience, and experience in turn provided the motive for gradual adjustment.”

Hume (in a very Darwinian way) considered both violent innovation and rationalist schemes (mutations) to be more likely to produce negative outcomes. Hume’s entire philosophical project was deeply skeptical of any kind of rationalism, including political “rationalism”. This is a point that many constrained (or conservative) thinkers have made often — Smith to Burke to Oakeshott to Hayek. For those with the constrained vision, the already existing, the tried and tested, is preferred to the untested, the fashionable and the new.

Prudence then, and not “social justice” is the key political virtue of those with the constrained view and that of the Dark Reformation. Prudence is concerned, firstly, with the basic, essential things (life, liberty and property) it seeks to avoid losing or degrading these things. Thus, it is concerned with decisions made over an indefinite time scale. Prudence is thus a low-time preference an attitude. Lastly, prudence is a attitude and a mental state of caution, skepticism and wariness; however, prudence can be decisive, bold and determined when the situation requires it.

Summary.

The foundation of the Dark Reformation is empiricism. Empiricism is the epistemology that attempts to understand the political and social world as it is, and not how we would like it to be. This is a different kind of empiricism to the one commonly presented in philosophy textbooks. Yes, it makes use of observation, testimony and causal inference; however, it resolutely seeks to understand human behaviour and human society not as we wish or want, or believe to be moral, but how humans actually behave.

The goal of inquiry is the replacement of doubt with understanding. The aim of science is systematic understanding. This is the same in political science. Like with the other sciences, our method and goal is reduction and consilience. Reduction attempts to understand and explain what one observes in human nature by reducing it first to psychology, then to biology. The task of consilience is one of constructing greater coherence between our metaphysics, biology, our understanding of psychology, ethics, politics and economics.

The two key implications from modern science for politics are Darwinism and determinism. Darwinism has enormous implications for nearly every area of our understanding. Chiefly, it has implications for how we think about human nature and cooperation, conflict and competition.

Empiricism, reductionism and consilience is process (information acquisition and structuring knowledge); Darwinism and determinism are product; utilitarianism is prescription. Utilitarianism uses the previous four principles as weights when attempting to design and implement social and political systems that will work, that will bring about the best consequences.

Consequences for whom?

A self-identifying political community. And that requires formalisation.

And formalisation requires contract.

Political formalisation via individual and social contract, I claim, is the essence of neoreaction.

Humans should be able to form sovereign, independent political communities based on their personal, political, moral, economic and religious preferences and natures.

Different communities can create different moral, economic, and religiously based systems of government.

There is no guarantee that they will be the same, or be equally successful (however you measure success. However, the point is that humans (because of their diversity) should have the freedom to choose how to live and who to live with. The choice to separate, segregate and self-identify is simply prudential. The main reason for this is to avoid destructive conflict.

Progressives can choose their preferred moral and political systems, while reactionaries can choose theirs.

In the next part, I will compare two enlightenments: progressive and reactionary.

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The Dark Reformation Part 7: The Dark Enlightenment

The world is becoming more violent, unstable and conflicted. Aeroplanes and airports are attacked. Police officers are ambushed in America. In France, a senior police officer and his wife were stabbed to death. Again, in France, a track kills over 80 people. We have witnessed the rise of Donald Trump, Brexit, growing animosity towards Muslims in Europe, the rise of “far-right” parties in Europe; we see politically correct authoritarianism in universities and workplaces — all these things point to the fact that politics is becoming more polarised, tribal, and emotionally charged. Many different kinds of conflict can be observed in our new chaotic age: physical conflicts but also political, religious, cultural and philosophical.

Globally, there are now serious tensions developing between America, Europe and Russia. America and China; the West and Islam; EU supporters and skeptics; as well as the old divisions of “left and right” and now globalists and nationalists.

Political analyst, Christopher Coker, in a recent talk on Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations thesis, stated that the world has never, in his view, been more divided. Coker’s claim, echoing Huntington’s, is that culture — and thus cultural conflict — has returned; In fact, as he claims, it never went away.

Coker in his book The Improbable War claims that great power conflict is over the “rules of the road”, the laws, norms and values of the international system. It is, also, Lenin’s formulation of power dynamics: who/whom? Who should rule and whom shall be ruled?

The conflicts that we all observe today are concerned not just with power and material conditions (wealth, prestige and power,), but with ideas as well — ideas that are both religious and philosophical.

Contrast the present with the past. When Caesar fought the Republicans, it was not because of ideology or religion. It was a war to determine who would rule Rome — Caesar or the Republicans, it was a question of power and status, as much as it was about governing effectively. Likewise Augustus, Rome’s first Emperor, he did not have a missionary religion (like Christianity or Islam) or a universalist ideology (such as Communism or Fascism) when he ruled Rome. Despite this lack of universalist ideology, Augustus increased the power and prosperity of Rome and ruled prudently.

Many of the wars of the last several centuries, by contrast, have been bitterly fought over religion and ideology. The 21st century is not likely to be any different. Given the technology that currently exists and the technology that will, this is quite simply terrifying. Perhaps this is — as Martin Rees thinks, and is the title of his book —our final century. Technologically advanced human civilisation is possibly self-defeating due to human conflict.

There is a pattern to political conflict, however. One observes eerily similar patterns throughout history. This pattern emerged clearly in the French Revolution. One also observes a systematic pattern to moral and political beliefs as well. Don’t you find it curious that someone who is in favour of the free market is also likely to be critical of the welfare state? Is it not odd that someone who has long hair and supports drug decriminalisation is also likely to support abortion and gay marriage? Why is it the case that if someone supports the death penalty, and believes in gun rights, they are more likely to oppose abortion?

This pattern is not accidental; the pattern is not the product of cultural indoctrination, but an expression of human nature — two different types of human nature. We are all familiar with the left and right (from the French assembly prior to the revolution), but the division did not originate there; it is a persistent theme of Western intellectual history.

This distinction, this recognition of difference, became clear during the enlightenment and the revolution. However, one can see the similar patterns of division in the past: Athens and Jerusalem; Athens and Sparta; Plato and Aristotle; Stoic and Epicurean. The Chinese philosophers, such as Mencius, speculated much like Greek philosophers, on the nature of human nature: one thought human nature was inherently good, one thought it inherently bad.

The economist and author, Thomas Sowell, has elegantly provided us with a framework for understanding the conflicting visions of human nature in his masterpiece A Conflict Of Political Visions. Following Sowell, there are two visions of human nature and two visions of politics. Philosophers have articulated and refined these visions for the last 400 years. The visions of human nature — the kind of animal humans are — more or less lead to their political visions directly.

For example, if you believe that human nature is basically good by default (peaceful and cooperative), then any observed incidents of aggression or exploitation is because…. because society is aggressive and exploitative. However, if you think that humans have a natural (a biological) capacity for aggression then you will have other explanations. Clearly, the policies that the governing class will adopt will reflect their understanding of what causes what.

Sowell calls the two views the constrained and unconstrained visions of human nature. The constrained view of human nature sees human nature as real, persistent and determining man’s physical, intellectual, moral, political and economic possibilities. Man, in this view, is literally constrained as a physical being. Man has a physical, moral and emotional constitution — a given nature. At the more extreme end of this view, man is fixed (constrained) completely and is impossible to change. The unconstrained view, however, sees man as unconstrained, as self-determining, without any natural, biological desires, and is, therefore, capable of being educated and moulded into anything society desires.

The constrained view of human nature produces the tragic vision of politics; the unconstrained view, meanwhile, produces the utopian vision.

The tragic vision of politics is a vision of perpetual trade-off among competing goods at best, endless conflict and oppression at worst. The utopian vision, in its most utopian, sees a society free of conflict and competition, where perfect equality has been obtained for all.

The unconstrained vision ground the tragic vision, because if human nature is more or less fixed, then conflict over the liberty to live differently, over scarce resources, over the need to prevent cheaters and free-riders will always occur; furthermore, human desire for power, wealth and prestige — driven by greed, envy and ambition — will always happen, because humans have natural desires.

The unconstrained view of human nature leads to the utopian vision, meanwhile, because human nature is either sufficiently malleable or non-existent and so can be morally guided and political instructed to be “virtuous.” Furthermore, conflict, competition and oppression can simply be engineered out of society by political managers.

Sowell’s framework corresponds to the left/ right pole. The reason that political conflict among “left” and “right” persists to this day, and has a discernible pattern, is because the conflicts can be traced to basic, unspoken and implicit, assumptions about human nature. Human nature is the base, while culture, politics and economics is the super-superstructure

The two towering figures of each pole — unconstrained and constrained — is Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Edmund Burke. Sowell perceptively notes that you could be forgiven for thinking that these two men were writing about two different types of species in their work.

The point that Sowell correctly makes is that, if one starts with different assumptions about human nature, one will design social, political and economic structures based on those assumptions, and naturally there will be different consequences given those designs because of those assumptions. Many of these consequences will be, of course, tremendously important for the stability and wellbeing of people and society. In fact, they can be horrific. Also, ironically, many of the consequences are the exact opposite, or the very thing, the political design or policies were meant to avoid. Furthermore, supposing that there are, at least, two very different kinds of human nature, a society in which one vision triumphs may well be “right” and pleasurable for one type of human, but it will be uncomfortable and oppressive for another type of human. Consequently, the basic assumptions, the fundamental premises matter.

William James remarked that in his view the history of philosophy is a consequence of a clash of different temperaments. Nietzsche remarked that a philosopher’s worldview was a confession of his own soul. Plato, in The Republic, outlined different types of human, as did Aristotle. Hume talked about human nature as consisting of elements of both the wolf and dove. I would wager that practically every great philosopher who has reflected on the fundamental questions has a vision, a theory of what human nature is.

Nevertheless, how did philosophers and thinkers like Hobbes, Mandeville, Shaftesbury, Hume, Smith, Rousseau, Godwin, Kant, Darwin, Marx, Nietzsche, Freud and Franz Boas come to such startlingly different, and mutually contradictory conclusions about human nature? Did they just make it all up? Is it not plausible that observation, historical reading and philosophical reflection played some role in their writings?

So far, we have the fact of conflict and division. There is a pattern to such conflicts. Throughout history, philosophers have observed, theorised and proposed theories about human nature that serve as a foundation for their subsequent theories of political organisation. Thomas Sowell, reflecting
upon philosophy, history and economics, claims that we have approximately two different views of human nature and as a result two different kinds of political and social philosophies. Continuing on in this vein, I ask, as an empirical (not moral) question: are humans all the same in temperament and character? Before answering, let’s look at Jungian archetypes.

Many worry that archetypes and the concept of type personality (such as Myers-Briggs) is no better than astrology. I won’t concern myself with this dispute here. My point is that even considering the possibility of different personalities (Jung has four) can be an interesting thought-experiment and a useful consciousness raiser against the prevailing backdrop of what Steven Pinker calls the Blank Slate view of human nature.

Jung postulated four basic types: Artisans, Guardians, Idealists and Rationales. Guardian types are seen as traditional, commercial, family orientated, agreeable and reliable. Guardians are the backbone of any society. Rationales, however, are analytical, critical, unconventional and often disagreeable. Could anything like this be even approximately accurate? Is it possible that different personalities, different thinking patterns, intensity (or lack) of emotions and dispositions could lead to fundamentally different views about human nature, philosophy, politics and society?

Psychological dichotomies abound as much as philosophical ones: introversion v extroversion. People orientated v thing orientated. Preference for efficiency v other’s feelings; openness to new experience v preference for routine; agreeable V disagreeable etc. Social psychologist, Jonathan Haidt, proposes six different “flavours” to moral thinking and feeling: liberals and the left focus on harm and care and equalitarianism; conservatives, meanwhile, conservatives not only have these two values but also on group loyalty, authority, and purity. These ways of thinking are inseparable from personality. Parents who have more than one child understand intuitively personality differences. Teachers understand it, as do managers, as do the great novelists and poets. Yet, it seems, Western civilisation as a whole, and especially the elite within it, seem to have forgotten this.

Personality typology — such as Myers-Briggs — are used by companies and career consultants to help people in their careers. Certain jobs require certain skills and personality. A dour, critical hyper-rationale introvert is not likely to make for a masseuse. Or, an empathetic, fun-loving extrovert might not enjoy being an accountant. Some jobs require memorising vast amounts of detail, razor-sharp reasoning, fluent verbal skills and mathematical ability. While the concept of multiple intelligences may be both true and useful, it seems to be plausible that for many careers IQ really does matter. IQ is clearly correlated with power and wealth. Supposing that IQ is a predictor of power, wealth and social status, our question is: does everyone start at the “start”?

The philosopher, Bruce Waller, his book Against Moral Responsibility, criticises fellow philosopher Dan Dennett’s racetrack as life analogy. While Dennett thinks the runners in the race of life don’t start in the same position (the starting line) he thinks that, nevertheless, luck evens out in the end. Does it? Waller thinks not. Waller claims that, on the contrary, those blessed with good cognitive capacities, a “good” personality, supportive family, good social position and a modern country will, on the whole, have an easier time succeeding because “luck” is cumulative. Success leads to success in other words. Dispositions, temperaments and cognitive capacity are not doled out equally, as in a welfare system but operate more like a lottery

Is this not the most obvious thing in the world? That people don’t start at the “start”. Surely, the political left and right can, at least, agree on that.

Here, again, our spade is turned.

Bedrock.

This is the dark enlightenment. This is what it all has been building up to —reforming and restoring our understanding of what it means to be human. The dark enlightenment is ultimately about the philosophy of human nature. The claim is twofold:

1: Radical human diversity is real. Physical and psychological diversity is real. Intellectual, emotional, psychological, cultural, moral and political diversity is real. The cause, the reason, the explanation for this, is, ultimately, biological. Nature and nurture interact, of course. But biology is the base because man is an animal.

2: This understanding, this fact about human nature must form the basis of any modern worldview if it is to prove sustainable, never mind preferable.

A third claim, however, follows naturally from these two:

3: Any universal ideological moral or ethical code, any universally prescriptive political or legal doctrine is false and dangerous — except for the universal claim of universal diversity (in all its many forms, good and bad).

While these claims appear rather sheepish and blandly obvious; they are, however, momentous in their ramifications for Western civilisational self-understanding. These claims and the claims outlined in Part 1 (Modern Life Is Rubbish) are nothing less than a wholesale reactionary rejection of modernity— a reaction against the “enlightenment” — or at least the received enlightenment, the enlightenment of the French Revolution, Rousseau’s revolution.

In the next part, I will outline the basis of a reactionary worldview: the dark reformation.

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Dark Reformation Part 6: Levithan Awakes

(In Part 1, I claimed that modern life was rubbish. In Part 2, I looked at the problem with democracy as a system of government. In Part 3, I looked at the flawed belief system of progressivism. In Part 4, I looked at the “Islam Delusion”, I also outlined a framework for a possible peace treaty between Islam and the West. In Part 5, I outlined A system of government and a modern vision for “New Arabia.”

In this instalment I outline an “answer” to the problems that plague the West — Europe and America. While I only state the answer here, I will spend some time undertaking a “philosophical justification.” In the next instalment I will discuss political strategy.)

What can be done to reform the West?

What does the West need?

Answer: Competent secure authority.

What is a competent authority?

Answer: Before answering that question, we must answer a prior set of questions. These questions are:

What is the purpose of a state? Why do humans need a state — an organised political community? Why, individually and collectively, should people consent to the state? Why consent and obey competent authority within a state?

Answer: These questions are the fundamental questions of political philosophy. So here I will engage in some good old fashioned armchair philosophising. Here is my answer, it is concise, but I believe it to be more or less correct.

Humans are animals. The naked, individual human animal is not as strong as a gorilla, as fast as a cheetah, or as tough as an alligator. Humans, in their natural state, are weak. A naked, unarmed human —even an body-building male — has no chance in a fight against lions, tigers and bears.

Rousseau was wrong when he supposed (if perhaps he really did suppose) that humans in the state of nature were solitary. Humans are animals. They have been produced by the same process as all other animals — evolution by natural selection. (You can, for I cannot stop you, believe that God guides this process). Our closest cousins are Chimpanzees, Bonobos, and Gorillas — all form troops, parties, coalitions etc. The Orangutang however, is a true solitary ape, and it is the more distant from us in terms of genetic ancestry. We have been selected to be social.

Humans are the “party-gang-species.” We are social creatures. Evolution (or God if you like) has made us this way. Human clannishness or tribalism is what has allowed humans to survive in competition with other animals, other predators. However, despite the fact that we can overcome other animals with intelligence, planning, teamwork and spears, the dark truth remains: the greatest enemy of man is man.

In a state of nature there is constant uncertainty. A state of constant uncertainty is no different from a constant state of war. Thus, life for the human animal, in a state of nature, is, as Thomas Hobbes described it: nasty, brutish and short. Competition among early humans is war. Men fight for biological reasons (food and females), psychological reasons (status, honour, resentment — mental states which exist for sound biological reasons — if not hedonic reasons). It is only later however, much later, that men fight for religious and ideological reasons.

War, is the grand-father of civilisation. War is a rapist whose bastard offspring is order, and whose grand-daughter is civilisation.

It is perhaps no accident that the ancient Greeks considered Athena to be the goddess of war, strategy and civilisation — for they are all connected. To win in war requires many things. It requires men ready to kill and ready to die. But it also requires numbers. Numbers require organisation. Organisation requires structure. Structure allows for the division of labour. The simplest of all human structures is the gang. A gang must have a gang-leader. The gang-leader provides structure. The gang-leader provides order. The gang-leader provides direction and purpose. In short, the gang-leader has power: power to command and control. To make rules, clarify rules and abolish rules. The gang-leader thus comes to have authority within the gang. The authority is more or less informal, based on fear, self-interest and the leader’s charisma. In time, if the gang survives, the process of selecting and obeying the leader becomes formalised and traditional. This is the origin of human civilisation.

How does war produce civilisation?

Answer:

War produces civilisation as a unintended consequence of competition. Gangs, bands, clans, tribes, nations and civilisations compete against each other. There are winners and there are losers. The survivors of the losing team are sometimes killed, in a blood rage or as a considered exercise of instilling fear among any potential rivals. Females however are absorbed into the winning “team”. This process (competition or war) —which is exactly like how other social animals behave — such as Chimps and Ants — is a constant ongoing one among humans.

When the population of humans grow, a division of labour becomes possible. War brings land, slaves and treasure to the victor. Furthermore, when you add in agriculture, writing, numeracy, and commerce — you get civilisation. As the population grows however, the management of the territory and people becomes impossible for just one person to effectively command and control. Thus a primitive bureaucracy is created and kind of feudal structure develops.

If the grand-father of civilisation is war (a rapist) — whose (bastard) offspring is order —then commerce is the mother of civilisation (who is a whore.) Commerce leads to even greater specialisation and complexity in a civilisation. It also leads to contact among different people, which leads to a mixing of customs, ideas, religions, etc. Successful commerce require many things. At the very least it requires order, security, law, contracts, property rights, with law enforcers and impartial judges to administer this system. Civilisation requires civilised men. Civilisation requires a “civilising process.” Family, education, moral values, religion and outlets for masculine nature — aggression, competition and status seeking is required to civilise men.

There are many different civilisations, both in history and today. Civilisation, as I define it, is a lawful state, or a state of law. Civilisation is a regulated human community. A lawful state, a regulated community, allows for greater trust. Trust allows for cooperation. Cooperation brings benefits. I assume that most — but, importantly, not all — humans enjoy this state of affairs. Humans, mostly, want civilisation. This I assume here for the purpose of argument.

Now that we have completed our little armchair philosophical anthropology, let us return to our questions:

What is the purpose of the state? Why consent to political authority?

The answer, the fundamental answer, the answer upon which any and all other answers are based on, is that the state exists to defend its people — people who self-identify as a political community — from all enemies foreign and domestic. You willingly and justifiably consent and cooperate with the state if (and only if) the state provide these services. No muss, no fuss. No divine right theory needed. No Platonic noble-lie needed. No veil of ignorance or original position required. The state — the formalisation of a coherent community into a political entity — exists to defend the life, liberty and property of its people.

I now want to change direction and examine the question of tax collection.

Why pay tax?

Everyone — well not everyone — pays taxes. People complain, but everyone more or less goes along and pays their taxes.

Reframe the concept of taxes as “protection money.” Does this sound odd and unsettling to you? It should do. I venture that philosophy professors would sweat the difference distinguishing a protection racket from the IRS.

We assume that coercion in life is, nearly always, unjustified. That is to say wrong (in the moral sense). Coercion is when person A uses threats against person B to have B do something that B doesn’t want to. Consider the following: A male rapist uses coercion — the threat of force (physical violence) or the threat of violence — in order to (you get the picture). The female, however, does not consent. She is not a willing party.

Everyone agrees (I hope) that a woman, faced in such a situation, is justified in taking any and all means necessary to protect herself.

A different kind of coercion occurs when a gang threatens a small-shop owner with property damage or a beating if she does not pay protection money.

The state sets (demands) taxes. It has the power to do that. It also has the power to take people who refuse to pay to court. It has the power to take away people’s money. It has the power to take away people’s liberty by imprisonment. It has the power to confiscate people’s property. The state has the power to do all these things.

Power can be illegitimate or legitimate — this we all assume. The question we must now answer is:

What makes taxing power, and thus the authority who wields taxing power legitimate?

Answer: the consent of the people or the voluntary choice of the customers.

How is consent achieved?

Answer: in the same way as all other agreements —by explicit, written, contract. The authority (or GovCorp) and the contractor create a written contract that clearly and explicitly, sets out the powers and prerogatives of the authority, and the rights and responsibilities of those who consent and contract with the authority.

Our key question was:

What is the purpose of the state?

Here is a slightly different way of answering this question:

The state is like business, the people are its customers, and the first duty of customer care is security (from all enemies foreign and domestic). The second duty is the protection of liberty and the protection of property. The enforcement of criminal and civil laws. That is the basic, fundamental duty of any state — the authority who commands and controls the machinery of the state.

Here, we now stand.

Here, our spade is turned.

Here we see, in a new light, why modern life is rubbish.

The West is not yet in a state of complete anarchy and collapse — at least not yet. What we have is Anarcho-Tyranny

We have anarchy because the criminals, the terrorists, the men of violence do as they will, and the rest of society suffer what they must. The police either cannot or will not enforce the law. The prisons are overcrowded, dangerous and drug-filled. Criminals and terrorists control the prisons. Criminals and terrorists control entire areas of cities.

We have tyranny, because the law-abiding, tax-paying, working members of society are milked by the state. Furthermore, people are unprotected by the state from criminals and terrorists, then demonised and lectured to by the state (and its supporters) for expressing dissent and dissatisfaction with these affairs. These same peaceful, productive people are increasingly living lives that are intruded upon by the state (and its supporters) in terms of speech regulations, thought suppression and association disruption. People who criticise and complain are demonised. They are often forced to recant their “thought-crimes.” Furthermore, many people, are forced to undergo political re-education. Sometimes people are just purged from their employment. Increasingly, critics are jailed, beaten or murdered.

It will only get worse. The source, the root cause of this problem (in ideological terms), is progressivism. Progressives engage in both a creeping, slow, stealth revolution and sometimes (as we see from history) an actual one — French, Russian and Chinese revolutions. Like religious fanatics, progressivists engage in a “holiness spiral” — (sectional struggles, inter-party rivalries) as to who is the most virtuous or pure. This “holiness spiral” produces just more irrationality, ever greater departures from prudence and social responsibility. Progressivism is intolerant. It is totalitarian. Like the Catholic inquisition, like Calvinism, like Communism or even parts of Nazism (earlier incarnations of progressivism), progressivism is socially destructive and politically suicidal. It destroys civilisation.

The clearest evidence of this suicidal stupidity is that progressives refuse to acknowledge a problem with Islamic terror and authoritarianism. They welcome a virtually unrestricted number of Muslims into Western societies. This has brought tremendously negative social consequences. The same progressives then invade Muslim countries and incite revolutions and rebellions. Who then resettle “refugees” in the West. Naturally, Muslims will vote for progressive parties, so it is all win-win. This all ties back into what I said about democracy in Part 2 (patron-client relationship).

Now, everything things should start to become clear: the systematic interconnected nature of the West’s civilisational crisis.

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