Friday, May 15, 2015

I just republished all my old posts. Most of which are decent, but latch on to the whole NRx thing. Which is disgusting.

Hopefully I'll post again soon, on more relevant topics. But I think having the older posts is good to see where I started from. Both for you and for me.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Nasty-Dirty Epistemology Part II - Myopic Empiricists

This is the continuation of my attempt to establish a simple framework for analysis. Some people go Machiavelli. I tend towards folksy. The two viewpoints are hardly exclusive. Actually, they're complementary. Moldbug basically stuck out his righteous foot of common sense to trip up the intricate mental gymnastics that the Cathedral excels at. Moldbug is basically the yuppie version of a redneck. The best part is that rednecks don't even have to pay tuition or even read a single book to think like a genius. They just watch Duck Dynasty.

Typically, people don't tend to limit themselves to a specific type of epistemology. That would be silly, unless of course you're a professional philosopher. But sometimes behavior tends towards either the empirical or the rational. Thanks to the wonderful movement known as positivism, it seems that empiricism has won out in basically every field of social science. This obnoxiously shows itself whenever one is informed that you "can't prove that" - (something like lower IQ in Africans or worse outcomes for those raised by homosexual couples ). Empiricism and relativism seem to be closely intertwined, as the primary claim of relativism -specifically culture relativism, the most obnoxious form-  is the inability to prove that one's values or culture are better than others. Otherwise known as me arguing with my ex-girlfriend, an ardent reader of Jezebel, about why one of the blackest cities in Tennessee is also the most dangerous. Argument via correlation is not causation ad nauseam, despite the black man who's beating you up, is the newest sign of liberal status whoring. Then terms such as verification and falsifiable begin to show themselves. How exactly can you prove via data that one way of living is better than another? Das Racist.

For the most part, I'm very partial to this way of thinking. So trying to reconcile a priori assumptions with the strange fetish for verification that seems to have been implanted in my head via Bachelors of Science in Political Science has been uncomfortable. Even less grandiose (or those that don't derive a set of ethics from a priori assumptions about appropriation of private property a la Rothbard) rationalistic arguments, such as the whole white people are doomed in 2040 argument, tend to strike me as too presumptuous. Despite my initial skepticism, one can at least learn something from such claims (such as the trends that underline demographic arguments). It's not a matter of being correct or verified, as much as it's a matter of actually learning something. In the phrase politically correct, there is the requirement of being correct. We have no need for such metaphysical nonsense. Being correct is about scoring points. White heterosexual men weren't invited to the game. So why the hell would you even need points?

The new intelligent white American is a radical empiricist (in the standard dictionary sense - not William James). He shan't extrapolate his knowledge of statistics, garnered from his worthless degree in some social science, to the real world. He will not even think for one moment that the group of people passing him are statistically more likely to knock him out than Harold or Kumar. Because that's rude. Maybe the answer to white passivity is putting testosterone in the food from Whole Foods Market. I'll go pray to the ghost of Phil Rushton and get back to you on that.

An argument against radical empiricism looks much different than one against the strange conclusions of over confident rationalistic theories (dark matter, catastrophic man-made climate change, etc). It seems that the radical empiricist is too indifferent, whereas the rationalist is going beyond the bounds of reason and common sense. The empiricist's plight is much more dangerous though. He will verify his experience by talking to each and every minority that he comes across. Every time he speaks to a black man and isn't stabbed, then once again, he's correct. A spasm of happy inducing chemicals surges through his brain, and he most likely achieves orgasm. Every time he talks to an intelligent Nigerian prince, he'll quickly rush home and post in the comment section of Gawker about how The Bell Curve got it all wrong. At some point, this poor soul was tricked into thinking that liberal status whoring will win him the eternal love of some beautiful young feminist. Tumblr provides a defective feedback loop, and viola, you have pajama boy.

So the first argument against this type of empiricism is aesthetic. You'll look like a fag. You'll look, sound, and feel like a fag. Don't do it. No woman will sleep with someone like you. Then at some point, you'll end up becoming part of a campaign for Obamacare, and then you're life is over. Your genes will come to an end and 10-20 Jamals will take your place. From a Darwinian perspective, don't do it. I think even the Bible and Phil Robertson agree with me.

Secondly, it's truly not an effective strategy for survival. I won't use the tired blind men and the elephant analogy, but rest assured, rationalism and empiricism should both be a part of your cognitive process. You shouldn't be worried about metaphysics - well, unless you're tenured. Let's assume that reality is a thing and then function effectively within it, shall we?

My next post will be the final one. And it will end on the note of the Scottish Cambrian Explosion.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Nasty-Dirty Epistemology Part I - Befundled Rationalists

As a society, it seems that we've come to rest firmly in the camp of rationalism. That is, we love to think that we can use reason to learn about truths beyond our sense experience. Even a moderate type of rationalism seems to strike most as basically true, otherwise, what are numbers (though much controversy still exists - otherwise, how would PhD philosophers make a living?). Starting from the basic assumption that numbers can give us at least some form of truth, modern science has created the most extravagant and untestable theories possible. Working in tandem with theories, such as those supporting dark matter or catastrophic man-made climate change, is a certain type of smugness - i.e. it is the truth and the whole truth. It seems that having learned nothing from the proofs attempting to show God's existence, science has instead looked to invent whatever is necessary to fill in the gaps. All the strange entities from physics -the suggestion that we are holograms, string theory, dark matter, etc.- are becoming too numerous to keep track of.

Rather than thinking that there might be an issue with the mathematics or the model itself, the conglomeration of statistics and mathematics that goes into something such as climate change is assumed to be true. A simpler person might suggest that it is much more likely that there is a flaw in the math, rather than catastrophe being inevitable. Friend of science, and general intellectual powerhouse Salon shows us how to deconstruct such a preposterous idea. Hopefully those damn morons will shut up and quietly pay their CO2 tax. As we all know, taxes are only one to two steps away from providing us with all the solutions. If only there were sufficient tax dollars flowing into science, then perhaps we could finally prove that we are all holograms and fund the ultimate end of such an endeavor - Humanity: The Trading Card Game. Egalitarian of course, because each of every one of the us deserving of our hologram status. There are obviously bigger political implications here, but that's something we can worry about later.

Of course, rationalistic mathematical models give us good things. Such as a 50% chance of knowing whether or not it's going to rain on each given day. Well, at least we know when a tornado or hurricane is going to destroy our homes again, so that we can give FEMA a reason for existing. That's comforting. And Amazon's algorithms know exactly what I want to buy months before I do, so there are a few victories to be sure.

However, there is another side to these types of rationalistic thinking. And it's perhaps the reason I'm most uncomfortable with Austrian economics. The whole a priori economic truth thing seems to fall into the same kind of trap as decadent rationalism is wont to do. But there seems to be something...different about many aspects of the Austrian system. What do you mean that if there is a majority of welfare intoxicated immigrants, they'll vote themselves more benefits?! What proof do you have of that? You think people are more concerned about their own private property, as opposed to their concern for public property? Because the homeless who is defecating in the trashcan while staring me in the eye certainly has a lot of compassion in his soul; I can see it. Time preference? No thanks, I just want that new iPad.

The distinction between the popular quasi-religious theories (because what the hell else could support something as unintuitive as multiple dimensions and holograms) needed to prop up aspects of some modern physics and the common-sense notions of many Austrian claims, is just that - common sense. The most dirty of words. It's something that rednecks do. I don't know - rednecks and retards and inbred hillbillies playing banjos. That's common sense! Unless your concept has the sufficient amount of calculations, then it's not even sophisticated enough for us to consider. Sorry Duck Dynasty. I'll be covering common sense in my last post on the subject. And as usual, Back to the Damn Scotts we will go. And no, it's not Hume. Or Carlyle. Or Smith.

Rationalistic thought brings fantastic rewards whenever it obeys its servant, common sense. Sometimes this turns into a gray area. Germ theory was a real bitch I'm sure. And electrons? I've never seen one. I drew a picture of one once though. This can raise some difficulties of creating distinctions between what is ridiculous and what is not. And that's where our good friend empiricism comes in. Which will be covered in succinct detail in my next post.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Neoreactionary Metaethics - MacIntyre, Aristotle and Federalism

(Most of this discussion is found in MacIntyre's After Virtue)

After discussing a very general worldview of empiricism and tradition in my last post, I have decided to discuss a slightly more specific topic in philosophy. And how it relates to the Dark Enlightenment is rather important. The extent to which emotivism pervades modern culture is rather striking and also rather unknown to most (even the most politically aware, though they may have an intuitive awareness of emotivism). Emotivism can most effectively be thought of as the boohoo/hoorah form of ethics. It consists in moral judgments that are based on how something strikes ones fancy. It's almost an unconscious form of moral judgment (thus a very irrational form of judgment), and its presence is seen everywhere. From the most benign topics of judgment -what shall we eat for breakfast; I like the feeling that McDonald's gives me, therefore, I judge to eat McDonalds - to the most important of moral judgments. Politics. The agenda of the Progressive, which is intrinsically tied to the Enlightenment project of ethics, finds its foundation in this type of ethical system (though you could argue it is combined with a type of Nietzschean perspectivism and/or Bentham's ultilitarianism, which I would easily concede - these will be briefly discussed later under the guise of subjective moral systems).

The severance from Aristotelian teleological accounts of ethics has its genesis in the time period where most topics were removed from purpose driven explanations, namely, the Enlightenment. Enlightenment thinkers were encouraged by the success of a mechanical physics, which was in opposition to Aristotle's teleological physics. And by most accounts, this was the proper route to take. But with the success in physics, as philosophers with physics fetishes are want to do, such a framework was applied to ethics as well. And thus, ethics was severed from its telos, meaning that what is right and wrong was no longer related to particular context, history, or the culture. Morality became a study of subjective universal moral principles. Relativism, utilitarianism, and emotivism subscribe moral agency to individuals, thus making them case-by-case bases of subjective morality. But each system is universal in that it is to apply to everyone, regardless of history, context, etc. And despite this severance, ethical discussions kept the previous vocabulary of teleological ethics (I will refer to telos based ethics as virtue ethics from now on), keeping an appearance of apparent objectivity implicit in the language of virtue ethics. Sadly, the quasi-objectivity that is possible with an ethical system related to a specific culture and context is not even remotely possible with modern subjective notions of morality. Whereas language related to ethical notions was intrinsically connected with particular places and contexts, the schism and attempt at universality removed the actual content of such language. Modern ethics has evolved into empty talk about empty things that literally tells us nothing about what is right and wrong. But hot damn, it sure does make us feel good and give us the same tingly brain feelings that our ancestors felt whenever they were actually building civilization and generally not being shitty people.

How is it that we can hope to re-infuse meaning into our ethical system? How can our morality exist apart from the very institutions and history that created it? Is the progressive use of emotivism as a system of what is right and wrong a salient and effective way of legal and ethical existence? Under emotivism, how could one argue against categories of degeneracy that even progressives hate, such as pedophiles or rapists? Certainly, child molestation is ethically permissible to the molester and rape is permissible to to the rapist, as each moral inquiry is supported by each agent's subjective judgments of right and wrong. This isn't a matter of relativism, but a matter of the implications of subjective moral values. Despite my objections to the attempts to objectify moral values via God's divine command or some other promiscuous endeavor, I do see a need for something better. Whereas in the past, ethics were derived from the traditional, and thus collective empirical experiences of a group or culture, such a return to form is highly necessary. Ethics based on collective experiences arise from actual utilization of moral systems. Namely, what does and what does not work for a certain group. And not only is such a type of ethics able to give meaning back to morality, it is also very possible in the traditional system of federalism. The system of federalism from which the United States has increasingly fled, but upon which it was founded.

Not only is federalism completely and totally compatible with a type of virtue ethics that is focused on telos, but the two are the perfect fit for each other. A cursory example of federalism and particularist values going hand-in-hand is gun control. (Let me offer this caveat before this brief example - I'm from Tennessee. I own guns. My culture is very conducive to gun ownership, and the county in which I live simply does not have murders, and when murders do occur, they involve people who are not a part of our culture.)

In Chicago, African-American gang members can be seen as the principle cause of gun violence. Perhaps, a very rational means of helping to curtail this violence (let's assume gun control works for the sake of example - since the 1990's and the implementation of gun control and despite the hysterical cries of the media, gun deaths have fallen since their zenith in the 90's - if you want statistics do 5 seconds worth of google searches) is gun control. Limiting the amount of guns available to these tribalistic criminals, in terms of empirical study and not matters of principle, has worked. And it may or may not continue to work. Regardless, with federalism, its that city's/state's responsibility to do what is in the best interest of its citizens. But whenever such attempts at applying ethics becomes universal and are attempted at the federal level, the results become hysterical and irrational and are comparable to boohoo/hoorah system of morality (see Sandy Hook and the won't someone think of the children argument). Why would there be a need for gun control in my county, where the levels of gun ownership are astronomical and the levels of gun deaths are zero? How could anyone ever think this is rational idea?

Objectivity exits legislative policy and is replaced with universalism, which is based on good feelings and intentions. A central government utterly lacks the ability to incorporate particular and contextual empiricism to its decisions. A stronger system of federalism fits hand-in-hand with the feedback that comes from implementing legislation on a more local level. Not only would local regions have the ability to tailor their moral codes to that particular region, but so-on for districts and states. Such systems allow a significant amount of voice, especially at the more local levels. And the ultimate method of voting, exit, would be a substantially more powerful form of voting than anything in our current system of so called federalism.

This ignores the other problem of hierarchy, elites, and how does one keep stupid people from electing stupid leaders. But a strong turn toward federalism would be a great start at the very least. Then you could work on say, repealing the 17th Amendment...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Tradition and Empiricism

Unanimity of voting, — that will do nothing for us if so. Your ship cannot double Cape Horn by its excellent plans of voting. The ship may vote this and that, above decks and below, in the most harmonious exquisitely constitutional manner: the ship, to get round Cape Horn, will find a set of conditions already voted for, and fixed with adamantine rigor by the ancient Elemental Powers, who are entirely careless how you vote. If you can, by voting or without voting, ascertain these conditions, and valiantly conform to them, you will get round the Cape: if you cannot, the ruffian Winds will blow you ever back again - Carlyle

The rallying cry behind the neoreactionary movement seems to be one most aptly expressed by this oft-repeated verse from Thomas Carlyle. Whereas Carlyle focuses purely on the chaos of the so called democratic political system of modernity, I continue to find mostly an absence of the discussion of the Humean condition. More succinctly, the chaos surrounding basic human epistemology. Of course, most humans are naive realists when it comes to what they think it is possible to know, and how we can come to know it. Though we can trace the origins of modern epistemology back to more ancient sources, I'll start my brief essay with an examination that occurred during the period of enlightenment, which seems to be the most appropriate context in which to discuss this issue. This discussion can be framed as rationalism versus empiricism. Of course, the historical connotation of rationalist is far and away different than the general use of the word. Another way of putting the debate, is the tension between how much we can rely on experience versus how much we can know beyond experience. (If you're a reader of Nick Land and understand him for the most part, then this is probably elementary to you - and make no mistake, his writings are fantastic)

 If we subscribe to Cartesian epistemology, then we can feel rest assured that we have time for introspection and planning, as we slowly build our ship to take the trip around the Cape. You would tend to believe that we can structure our democratic institutions in such a way that will allow us to escape the gravity of nature's consequences. Beyond the basics of knowing what has been taught to us by experience as to what will allow us to effectively build a ship, Cartestianism will allow us to go beyond our experience. In essence, we will experiment with designs of knowledge that we feel are deduced from previous truths. Descartes assured us that the best way to formulate a method is to start with reason, our most certain of certainties, -the tired phrase "je pense, donc je suis" - from which we can deduce a system of thought which will lead us to truth and not error. In short, we will take some time off from the real world and lay out our schematics for the most perfect ship possible. Is this fracturing of knowledge from natural experience even possible? Can we ascertain as to how we can escape reality so that we can then create systems of thought that allow us to master the natural world? This is a very tricky area. For concrete and mostly unchanging subjects (i.e. physics), this seems to be somewhat possible, though the slight confusion in modern physics shows that we perhaps have had a bit of trouble of mapping out the structure of atomic interactions. Though, since I'm typing from a machine that utilizes electronic circuits that were derived from quantum systems, we have obviously done fairly well for ourselves in this regard. 

One can also frame the tension between the rationalist and the empiricist with the germ theory of disease (views in philosophy of science have different terms, but we're keeping it as simple as possible). Initially, it was obviously a rationalistic endeavor, as we couldn't see microbes. But the use of the theory eventually led empirically justified results. People's lives were saved. Disease was more effectively fought. The emphasis, without trying to sound like a member of the Vienna circle, was that it was empirically tested and verified. Whenever one gets into the examining other theoretical phenomenon, such as the ontological status of electrons or the like, things began to get more fuzzy. Regardless, these are [mostly] physical things that are substantially less dynamic than a single human being. And thus, quasi-infinitely less complicated than aggregations of human beings in terms of political systems. 

The theories of politics are hopelessly naive, in the non-pejorative sense of the word. Not only have we yet to formally systematize human behavior (I've yet to read more Mises, but I'm skeptical a priori of a priori systems of human actions, and you should be as well), but that fact alone shows how far (if it's even possible) we are from formalizing human behavior on a societal level. What then, can we hope to frame as the ultimate virtue of a political system?

I would argue that it is results or at the very least, a more future-oriented outlook. Without any sort of effective scientific or rationalistic way to analyze human political endeavors, we're left with a rather naive version of analysis that is similar to Aristotelian virtue analysis. Which is to say that what is effective and what works is what effective and what works. But before one can come to such dismally self-evident truth, the difficultly in such a framework of governmental analysis arises. Namely, we have to know what we are trying to achieve with a government before we rate it as effective and working. As much as I hate teleological language, you can't know what you're hoping to achieve without knowing where you hope to end up. What is the purpose of a political movement? Thus, one can easily see the errors inherent in something such as the Occupy movement, third-wave feminism, or really, any of the Cathedral's championed causes (strange how the Cathedral is able to concoct a movement against its self while at the same time remaining its self - but it seems that's one way in which legitimacy of the system is achieved - or to put it more concretely, the Cathedral knows exactly how to create a continued illusion of progress), as they strive for change.

When questioned as to what change, one receives vague terms such as fairness, justice, equality, or any other benign term of the Enlightenment. How can one effectively change without actual purpose or an actual goal that resides in reality - rather than appealing to some Platonic Form such as justice. This also raises the interesting fact that these post-modern movements, which are opposed Enlightenment thinkers in general (post-modernism, in its most simple form, being a reaction against modernity/enlightenment), sees it fit to employ the language of Locke, Jefferson, etc., though post-modern genealogy of thought abhors such characters and concepts - and that's ignoring the fact that they are hijacking the inventions of cis-gendered, "racist", WASP males (The most ultimate of progressive sin!). Perhaps we should imagine post-modernism as a carrion, picking what it wants from the (supposedly - though we know better) long dead carcass of past intellectual thought. 

The neoreactionary cause seems to be adherence to tradition. Which is where the title of the essay is derived from. What is tradition, if not other than the collective experiences of a group. In terms of very basic selective processes, we could argue that it is collective experience that has been empirically verified in a sense. It is safe and effective because we know it's worked because we have seen it work. It's almost a circular argument that nearly always goes back to experience. As Carlyle illustrated (with me horrendously paraphrasing), we think that we shall want to tear down one of the four walls holding our home intact, to open up the place and let in the light! But once the wall is torn down, we can finally observe that perhaps that wall was structurally necessary to keep the roof over our heads and to keep the elements of nature at bay. Essentially, we always want to do things differently and to change, but such drastic measures tend to have unintended consequences.

To finally complete the ship analogy with which I started, we'll examine the empiricists view of ship-building, the tired old philosophical cliche. Rather than believing that we have safe harbor from which to build our ship to navigate the Cape, empiricists know otherwise. We know that not only are we not safely tucked away in our dry dock constructing the next indestructible ship, but that we are already proverbially out to sea. We are in fact, floating out at sea on a piece of drift-wood, as we cautiously search for the next piece to add to our meager ship. There is no time to plan, for the temporal ocean jostles us back and forth as we attempt to construct a structure capable of keeping us afloat as long as possible, while we attempt to round the Cape - which we are increasingly skeptical of whether such an endeavor is even possible. Rather than adherence to grand plans and schemes that are oh so mighty in design and moral superiority, we know that survival is a fickle thing. How did the rationalist so misunderstand that he is actually already out to sea?

For further reading on tradition and empiricism: