The Dark Reformation Part 9: Two Enlightenments

The dark reformation requires either reforming or abandoning some assumptions of the European Enlightenment.

What was the Enlightenment? Or, to ask a different question, what are the common assumptions of what is thought of to be the “Enlightenment”? My source for this exercise will be the entry on Enlightenment in the Oxford Companion to Philosophy (edited by Ted Hondrich.)The entry states 8 doctrines —though it qualifies them with the remark that not all philosophers shared them. This is both true and telling. The point here is to try to understand this received view of the Enlightenment and how similar it is to the assumptions that underpin modern progressive thought. Progressivists assume that their pattern of thinking, beliefs and values is simply true, good and beautiful. That it is ahistorical and universal. It is not. And I think it would be useful to get them to see that — fat chance though. Here are the doctrines:

1: “Reason is man’s central capacity.”

2: “Man is by nature good. (Kant endorsed the Christian view of a “radical evil” in human nature, but held that it is possible to overcome it.)”

3: “Both an individual and humanity as a whole can progress to perfection.”

4: “All men (including, on the view of many, women) are equal in respect of their rationality, and should thus be granted equality before the law and individual liberty.”

5: “Tolerance is to be extended to other creeds, and ways of life.”

6: “Beliefs are to be accepted only on the basis of reason, not on the authority of priests, sacred texts, or tradition.”

7: “The Enlightenment devalues local “prejudices’ and customs, which owe their development to historical peculiarities rather than to the exercise of reason. What matters to the Enlightenment is not whether one is French or German, but that one is an individual man, united in brotherhood with all other men by the rationality one shares with them.”

Claims 2,4,5,6 and 7 are core planks of the progressive world-view. Claim 3 is the implicit assumption contained within progressivism, of course. Claim 1 — reason — presupposes all the other claims; because in the absence of God as an authority the only other option is using “reason.”

Again, it is important to stress that the above claims, while qualified by the writer, are hardly representative of all Enlightenment thinkers (David Hume being the most notable example.)

Let’s now take each entry in turn, and throw a little spanner or two in the works.

1: “Reason is man’s central capacity.”

In contrast, a very good case could be made that the capacity for self-deception and delusion is central to man’s nature. After all, despite hundreds of years of science, decades of “education”, and economic prosperity, religion and superstition still exist. The twentieth-century, meanwhile, offered many examples of secular belief systems run amok. Furthermore, our own societies, managed as they are by secular progressivists, are hardly bastions of reasonableness.

Calling reason “man’s central capacity” presents an overly intellectualised view of human nature. Man’s capacity for feelings —passion, — and imagination, and artistic and mechanical inventiveness could also be claimed to be central. Furthermore, habit, tradition, and tribalism play a major role in human life, indeed these things often override or undermine what would be considered “rational” (economic self-interest).

Finally, the portrait of man as a creature of reason invites a naively optimistic view of man’s capacities for rational thought and action. According to Thomas Sowell (introduced in part 7), the conception of reason in the two visions (reactionary v progressive) is different. In the constrained (conservative/reactionary) view trust in a single individual’s ability to understand, design and implement a rational system or policy is treated with skepticism. In the unconstrained view, however, there is considerably more trust placed on the intellectual capacities of one or a small view of intellectuals; intellectuals who can directly bring about the desired goal directly via a law or a policy. Michael Oakshott characterises the view well as “Cartesian.” A Cartesian political rationalism sweeps away all the existing structures, systems and institutions, and begins again (like drawing a picture on a blank slate.)

History has not furnished us with great examples of this sort of working well.

2: “Man is by nature good. (Kant endorsed the Christian view of a “radical evil” in human nature, but held that it is possible to overcome it.)”

One would think that the last century would put such nonsense to bed — forever. This century will, perhaps, bury it altogether — if humans are not buried all together. If Kant believed that man’s “evilness” could be overcome, he is sadly mistaken. We need not mention psychopaths who cannot be “cured” to refute this, stating that, in fact, there will always exist incentives to commit “evil” — force and fraud.

The assumption that man is by nature good, contradicts, of course, the view that man has no nature. That is just one more strike against the progressivist view, however.

Looking at this assumption in functional terms, however, we see that it is required to sustain the idea of “progress.” Problems such as war, poverty and inequality must be given a social explanation, which permits, of course, social remedies. If, however, these problems are more rooted in human nature (biology and psychology) then attempts to “fix” these problems may be impossible. In fact, the attempt to “fix” or eliminate them may even produce worse problems — American prohibition and the “war on drugs” would be one of many examples.

The assumption that man is good, but that it is society that corrupts him, should be seen for what it is: a secular theodicy. Like with religious theology, “progressive theology” requires locating the source of evil somewhere other than human nature (as theodicy does with God). If human nature is responsible for evil, and if human nature is not simply a blank slate, then progressivism takes a direct hit to its belief system.

The practical consequences of admitting man’s flawed nature would suggest a scaling down and prudent caution regarding social and political changes in order to change or improve human nature. This, of course, would threaten the reason for progressivist power. As such, the belief-system must be defended against doubt or questioning.

3: Both an individual and humanity as a whole can progress to perfection.

This is a statement of pure faith. It sounds a little bit like the Christian idea of providence. What does “progress” even mean? Here is the whole idea of “progress” which forms the basis of the progressivist faith. All “progress” is necessarily change, but not all change is “progress.” “Humanity” is, on the contrary, quite capable of sliding back into “imperfection”. Furthermore, the concept of progress and perfection is a dangerous idea. It is dangerous in that it fosters intellectual complacency and dogmatism— it could cause people to discount evidence against their beliefs that everything is getting better. If a policy proves to be a failure, for example, then the idea of progress incentivises politicians to simply “double down”. The assumption of progressive “progress” also foolishly blinds progressivists to the possibility and reality that people, especially from different cultures — such as Islam — can be “perfected.” Maybe these people don’t want “progress”. Looked at from a certain angle, it sounds like something out Calvin’s Geneva or Baghdadi’s Raqqa, in that it creates (and has created) a censorious, oppressive, culture. Finally, consider that Islamists and Jihadists also believe that God will grant them a final victory. That sounds a little like Islamic “progress”. This parallel should be disturbing.

That is the whole clash civilisations is one sentence: different cultures with different visions of what “progress” is.

5: Tolerance is to be extended to other creeds, and ways of life.

6: Beliefs are to be accepted only on the basis of reason, not on the authority of priests, sacred texts, or tradition.

7: The Enlightenment devalues local “prejudices’ and customs, which owe their development to historical peculiarities rather than to the exercise of reason. What matters to the Enlightenment is not whether one is French or German, but that one is an individual man, united in brotherhood with all other men by the rationality one shares with them.

4: “All men (including, on the view of many, women) are equal in respect of their rationality, and should thus be granted equality before the law and individual liberty.”

The first proposition is false: both in terms of rationality and intelligence. The acceptance of the conclusion (a value claim) does not require admitting the premise, however. It could be granted for different reasons. Furthermore, the more we learn about human nature, and given modern computers and “big data”, the sad reality is that individuals who may be criminally dangerous (or who will mentally “abnormal” can be identified long in advance of any “crime” they commit. Also, big data will allow governments and corporations to make statistical judgements about individuals regarding, for instance, employment and education based on the use of genetic, psychological, educational and socio/economic data. This is will likely prove to be a major source of progressivist anxiety in the future.

The assumption of equality in ability is metaphysical and moral. Further, it clearly has monotheistic (Christian) roots. It is contradicted by common sense and experience — never mind what science may or may not discover. If science ever started pushing back against this claim, it would clearly result in an epic culture war — with scientists and the integrity of science itself undermined by progressivists in order to sustain their worldview (which has already happened.)

5: Tolerance is to be extended to other creeds, and ways of life.

This is a value statement. While Dark Reformation argues for a kind of super, global civilisational tolerance, The concept of tolerance (or diversity), that exists among the progressives is both flawed and duplicitous. Progressives, however, have elevated this concept into an absolute, quasi-religious principle. It is one of the reasons that European and American “culture” is now being slowly “colonised” by Islam. This is, of course, the point — to use other cultures to undermine both Europe and America in order to maintain power.
6: Beliefs are to be accepted only on the basis of reason, not on the authority of priests, sacred texts, or tradition.

Correct in theory. But in practice the reliance on “trusted” authorities for the vast majority of beliefs is inescapable. Today, the authorities are no longer priests of the Catholic Church but “priests” of the universities, the media — the “Cathedral” intellectuals.

Finally, liberal/left/progressive thought is itself a tradition. It has a history, it has its canonical thinkers etc.

7: The Enlightenment devalues local “prejudices’ and customs, which owe their development to historical peculiarities rather than to the exercise of reason. What matters to the Enlightenment is not whether one is French or German, but that one is an individual man, united in brotherhood with all other men by the rationality one shares with them.

Thus, what Mencius Moldbug calls universalism: Christian theology in secular dress.

Progressivism is a tradition, it has an ancestry. It is a “prejudice” (in the sense of pre-judging or filtering things on the basis of one’s own beliefs and values.) The moral principle that everyone, everywhere, matters equally is a particular moral view. One that is unsustainable with the maintenance of a particular community, a way of life, or differing ethical and religious traditions. Furthermore, the value system of universalism has become pathological. It can be exploited, it can lead to perverse consequences, as we are seeing with Islamic “immigration.”

The attempt by the progressives to impose a one world order is not working out. Islamic countries such as Turkey (as the recent coup demonstrates well) or Russia and China are rejecting Western, progressive values. Progressivism is imperialism.

8: In general, the Enlightenment plays down the non-rational aspects of human nature. Works of art, for example, should be regular and instructive, the product of taste rather than genius. Education should impart knowledge rather than mould feelings or develop character.

On the contrary, we must emphasise the irrational nature of man! Not necessarily to celebrate it, or encourage it. No — far from it. But we must rationally plan for the irrationality of others. More seriously, art, as Aristotle would add, has a cathartic aspect by exploring the “dark side”.

The claim that art should be instructive sounds a little like political correctness. In what, should art be Instructive? In moral instruction. Whose morality? That-is-indeed-the-question. This can begin to sound a little like “political correctness.”

The trouble with education would require a book, needless to say, education in the West has failed — both on an academically and morally. Progressive education has robbed children of a decent education. Furthermore, schools and universities now serve as propaganda instruction centres for progressivism. “Feelings” and “character” are, indeed, moulded and shaped — resentment, entitlement and the sense of victimhood.

Can these beliefs and values really be said to be derived from reason?

Or, are they really evolved Christian memes?

The philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer, made this claim about Kant’s philosophy (as did Nietzsche.) The English philosopher, John Gray, makes a similar claim about humanism.

Mencius Moldbug claims that modern progressives (Universalists or Ultracalvinists, in Moldbuggian ) are memetic descendants of Protestant Puritan memes. Moldbug:

The “ultracalvinist hypothesis” is the proposition that the present-day belief system commonly called “progressive,” “multiculturalist,” “universalist,” “liberal,” “politically correct,” etc, is actually best considered as a sect of Christianity.

Specifically, ultracalvinism (which I have also described here and here) is the primary surviving descendant of the American mainline Protestant tradition, which has been the dominant belief system of the United States since its founding. It should be no surprise that it continues in this role, or that since the US’s victory in the last planetary war it has spread worldwide.

Ultracalvinism is an ecumenical syncretism of the mainline, not traceable to any one sectarian label. But its historical roots are easy to track with the tag Unitarian. The meaning of this word has mutated considerably in the last 200 years, but at any point since the 1830s it is found attached to the most prestigious people and ideas in the US, and since 1945 in the world.

The trouble with “Unitarian” as a label is that (a) it exhibits this evolutionary blurring, and (b) it at least nominally refers to a specific metaphysical belief (anti-Trinitarianism). So I took the liberty of coining “ultracalvinist.”

The “calvinist” half of this word refers to the historical chain of descent from John Calvin and his religious dictatorship in Geneva, passing through the English Puritans to the New England Unitarians, abolitionists and Transcendentalists, Progressives and Prohibitionists, super-protestants, hippies and secular theologians, and down to our own dear progressive multiculturalists.

The “ultra” half refers to my perception that, at least compared to other Christian sects, the beliefs of this faith are relatively aggressive and unusual.

http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.uk/2007/06/ultracalvinist-hypothesis-in.html

The principles of Unitarian Universalists:

1: The Inherent worth and dignity of every person; (compare with 2 and 4 above.)
2: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
3:Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; (compare with 5.)
4: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; (compare with 6.)
5:The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; (compare with 6.)
6: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; (compare with 3. World Supremacy!)
7:Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

UU are “Christians” but without any supernatural commitments — an adaption in a more secular environment. Now consider the principles of the United Nations Declaration Of Human Rights — a progressive document par excellence.

http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html

Do you notice any similarities? Consider what Muslim scholar, Riffat Hassan had to say about this document:

What needs to be pointed out to those who uphold the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to be the highest, or sole, model, of a charter of equality and liberty for all human beings, is that given the Western origin and orientation of this Declaration, the “universality” of the assumptions on which it is based is – at the very least – problematic and subject to questioning. Furthermore, the alleged incompatibility between the concept of human rights and religion in general, or particular religions such as Islam, needs to be examined in an unbiased way.

Of course, Muslims are playing the same game — universality and world supremacy.

A contest between memes. One meme to rule them all.

It would be funny if children were not getting burned alive.
Moldbug, further claims that there are four main beliefs in this “system”: “The four main beliefs are 1: Fraternalism. 2: Pacifism. 3: Social Justice. 4: Mandarism.

Moldbug:

First, ultracalvinists believe in the universal brotherhood of man. As an Ideal (an undefined universal) this might be called Equality. (“All men and women are born equal.”) If we wanted to attach an “ism” to this, we could call it fraternalism.)

Second, ultracalvinists believe in the futility of violence. The corresponding ideal is of course Peace. (“Violence only causes more violence.”) This is well-known as pacifism.

Third, ultracalvinists believe in the fair distribution of goods. The ideal is Social Justice, which is a fine name as long as we remember that it has nothing to do with justice in the dictionary sense of the word, that is, the accurate application of the law. (“From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.”) To avoid hot-button words, we will ride on a name and call this belief Rawlsianism.

Fourth, ultracalvinists believe in the managed society. The ideal is Community, and a community by definition is led by benevolent experts, or public servants. (“Public servants should be professional and socially responsible.”) After their counterparts east of the Himalaya, we can call this belief mandarism.

http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.uk/2007/06/ultracalvinist-hypothesis-in.html

How did people in the West come to believe (or publicly profess these beliefs) as true, good and beautiful? I will sketch out what Moldbug claims in his Gentle Introduction To Unqualified Reservations.

How do people acquire their beliefs, values and practices? Family, peers, and personal experience do play a major role of course, but what is, perhaps, the strongest influence is an institution: a school, a church, a university.

How should we characterise an institution of this kind? What is a Church? A church is something which tells people what to think, feel and do.

What is a democracy? In short, a democracy is a system of government. Individuals vote for candidates who then pass laws. A good democracy, in theory, has at least two necessary assumptions:

1: People are informed. (People have accurate information.)
2: People are free to exchange information (free market of ideas.)
3: Politicians are responsive to not only to the needs of the people, but to reason (facts and logic.)

Why is it a good idea to have separation of church and state in a democracy? (such as in America.)

Well, as Bill the Butcher says in Gangs Of New York: “Who tells the people how to vote? The priest. Who tells the priest? The archbishop? And who tells the archbishop? The king with the pointy hat who sits on his throne in Rome.”

You might as well dispense with the fiction of democracy and simply have the “Pope” or the Caliph rule.

The next point, which Moldbug claims, is that the separation — secularism — creates a “security hole”. Here I assume, what Moldbug means by “security hole” is a way in which a hacker can exploit to hack (or install a virus) into a computer system.

Moldbug’s next point is that memes (beliefs) and memeplexes (systems of beliefs) compete like genes to survive and reproduce. (Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett made this point earlier, of course.) Secularism and separation of church and state create a particular environment for Protestant Puritan memes to evolve. If antibiotics are used to eliminate a germ but fail to fully eliminate it, then the germ (the bug) will evolve. It evolves immunity to the antibiotic. In modern hospitals, this is why we have MRSA.

Moldbug claims that Protestant Puritan memes evolved into modern-day progressivism in order to survive and reproduce. It dropped God and Jesus, but retained the rest of the belief structure.

Moldbug’s next claim concerns the university. He claims that Harvard (created by Puritans) is the “official Church” of America and is now the “Vatican” (hence the “Cathedral”) of the West. Cultural change (evolution of memes) begins in the university by Professors who propagate memes to students. Students then go on and propagate the memes throughout the of society via the media, law and politics.

Democracy has, therefore, been hacked; it has been “pawned.”

Recall the necessary conditions of democracy?

1: People are informed. (People have accurate information.)
2: People are free to exchange information (free market of ideas.)
3: Politicians are responsive to not only the needs of the people but to reason (facts and logic.)

All three do not obtain. The result is chronic bad government: bad decisions, ineffectiveness, inefficiency and irresponsibility.

So, again, our spade has turned.

Modern life is rubbish. Modern life is rubbish because democracy is rubbish. Democracy is rubbish because of its own self-contradictory and incoherent nature, but also because of progressivism as system of belief is rubbish. The West has AIDS (progressivism). Islam (a virus) has entered the bloodstream and is now killing the West from within and without. Russia and China, who now have evolved immunity to progressive Western memes, (because of their horrendous experiences with Communism) are resisting and challenging Western memes. The world is thus becoming more dangerous, more divided and polarised. The Clash Of Civilisations is the clash of memes.

This is the reactionary enlightenment.

The truth about our world — politics, culture and future is dark. Nearly a decade ago, Moldbug wrote:

And I have no solution at all to this problem. I am hardly the first to notice that Washington is broken beyond repair – at least according to this spurious poll, 71% of Americans agree with me. Perhaps this is the simple beginning of wisdom: yes, this thing is broken; no, it is not going to fix itself; no, we cannot fix it, either; and yes, it is getting slowly but surely worse.

Honestly, I am happy just to stop believing in my government. The idea that, just because you are right and the State is wrong, you should be able to do something about it, is a nematode rather than a neuron. It is unique to the democratic era. We am lucky simply that I’m allowed to post these posts, that you’re allowed to read them, that we can both go to Google Books and scroll through politically unacceptable tomes from the 19th century until our eyes glaze over.

If you by some chance agree with what I’ve written here, please avoid the impulse to act on it. Surrender completely to the impulse to think on it. Remember that the inexorable slope of the line is slow, slow, slow. There is no shortage of time for thinking, none at all.

http://unqualified-reservations.blogspot.co.uk/2009/01/gentle-introduction-to-unqualified_29.html

Time, however, seems to be running out. In the next part, we will contemplate, what, if anything, can be done.

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