Why liberal societies are necessarily metaphysically sociopathic

June 6, 2014 § 48 Comments

I’ve discussed for literally decades the fact that liberalism is a fundamentally self-contradictory political philosophy undergoing a continual process of logical explosion within the context of the real world as we find it. Because there literally are not and can never be “free societies” of the sort liberalism requires, the encounter of liberalism with reality continually produces new structures and forms of itself as liberals (which include almost all modern people) make unprincipled exceptions to their liberalism, and seek out what in their minds is an authentic implementation of political liberty.

Liberalism, including the ever new kinds of liberalism that sometimes label themselves conservative or reactionary, rests on the assumption that metaphysically neutral politics is possible within some scope.

Some kinds of liberals want metaphysical neutrality at the high levels of political hierarchy, creating a free market of different polities any one of which the superman can Exit if he prefers. These kinds of liberals are under the illusion that their liberal emperor will play nice and not insist on the liberal philosophy that governs the empire overall dominating the individual polities in the federation. They are also counting on the “free market” producing a bazaar of traditional artisan governments for consumption by hipster connoisseurs, not the political equivalent of Wal Mart and McDonalds. Both of these presumptions strike me as more than a little implausible, not least because we already have a free market of several hundred nations: all we are missing is the emperor.

Other kinds of liberals want to see liberalism “down in the streets”, with the superman exercising his free and equal Voice at the ballot box, tempered by a judiciary that ensures equality and protects the sheep from the culinary choices of a majority of wolves: that is, ensures that the democratic process can only result in liberal outcomes.

But in reality the choice isn’t between metaphysically neutral politics and metaphysically “opinionated” politics. The choice is between politics that is self aware enough to know that it is opinionated and politics lacking that self awareness. This is true at all scopes and levels of abstraction.

In faux-neutral liberal polities that lack this self-awareness, metaphysical bias still drives what is done. It is just necessarily sociopathic.

§ 48 Responses to Why liberal societies are necessarily metaphysically sociopathic

  • Ita Scripta Est says:

    I have not done a thorough archive search of your blog Zippy, but I was wondering what is your assessment of the Catholic Church’s recent strategy in fighting the HHS mandate? The bishops seem completely blind to the non-neutrality of American ideology.

  • Scott W. says:

    Zippy did an entry linking to Throne and Alter: https://zippycatholic.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/how-to-lose-the-battle-over-the-hhs-mandate/

    Sample from the second link:

    Wrong:

    “Catholic institutions shouldn’t have to pay for their employees’ contraceptives because it goes against our consciences, and we should have religious freedom not to have to violate our consciences.”

    Right:

    “Contraception is evil. It desecrates the marital bond, offends against chastity, and is a menace to public morals. It is reprehensible to engage in contraceptive acts or to cooperate in them in any way. This is a matter of natural law; it has nothing to do with religion. Public bodies should not be promoting or enabling this sin. Neither Holy Mother Church, nor any other group, religious or secular, nor any individual should be forced by government to divulge funds for such wicked purposes.”

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    I do not claim to understand your definition of a “free society” but common sense tells me that America, India or England are free in a way North Korea, USSR and Maoist China are not. It is not merely a matter of varying standards of authoritative discrimination or what not.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24

    It is not merely a matter of varying standards of authoritative discrimination or what not.

    Yes it is. Your “common sense” is just labeling countries with a permutation space of authoritative discriminations that you prefer “free”. The idea of “freedom” is used as a proxy for “good”, but with a (dishonest) connotation of metaphysical neutrality.

  • […] lie at the center of liberalism is its claim to metaphysically neutrality within some political scope, when in fact metaphysical neutrality is always impossible. Politics […]

  • c matt says:

    ensure, not insure (the only contribution i am qualified to make).

    [Hah! Fixed thx. — Z]

  • vishmehr24 says:

    CCC tells us to obey “civil authorities”. The word “civil” presupposes a certain freedom. We are not obliged to obey a Mao.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    We are not obliged to obey a Mao.

    How about a Caesar?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Rome qualifies as a free society.
    I wonder whether CCC would today advise a slave to obey his master?
    If not, why not?
    To my mind, an unfree society is diabolical. A man possessed by demons, he cuts and mutilates himself, and similarly the unfortunate societies possessed by demons.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Rome qualifies as a free society.

    May I direct you to this Zippy post?

    By the way, we are obliged to obey a Mao in all things not sinful (assuming you live in his country, that is).

    Conversely, we are obliged to disobey a Mao in all things sinful. It may even be morally acceptable (perhaps even obligatory, in some very specific sets of circumstances) to rebel against a Mao if he initiates force to make you obey in something sinful.

  • CJ says:

    Conversely, we are obliged to disobey a Mao in all things sinful.

    This is equally true of Thomas Jefferson, President Ron Paul of Counter-Earth, or any other civil authority.

    Probably didn’t need saying, but just in case.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    But is Mao a civil authority in the first place?
    Were Nazis in Warsaw Ghetto a civil authority?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Just Some Guy,
    In my opinion, Zippy is lacking in only considering one-way relation of authority and subject. He repeats and repeats We must obey authority.

    But inquiring minds want to know what justifies a particular assertion of authority. How come US President has authority over US soil and no authority one inch over the border?

  • Zippy says:

    But inquiring minds want to know what justifies a particular assertion of authority.

    Inquiring minds want to know where tigers and prokaryotes and DNA polymerase come from too. Positivist dissatisfaction with the lack of a reductionist theory of where they come from doesn’t call into question their existence though.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    But is Mao a civil authority in the first place?
    Were Nazis in Warsaw Ghetto a civil authority?

    Yes and yes.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    I had a feeling that consensual relations did not obtain between the Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto.
    PS What makes Nazis a civil authority rather than a military authority?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    You answer a reasonable question flippantly. You go on telling people Obey them! Obey them!

    I naturally question Why?

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:
    If you think my answers are flippant, or that your caricatures are accurate, then you have not understood them.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    I had a feeling that consensual relations did not obtain between the Nazis and the Warsaw Ghetto.

    Part of the nature of authority is that it is binding regardless of whether or not those whom it binds are consenting.

    What makes Nazis a civil authority rather than a military authority?

    I’d say they were probably both, but this is really getting off topic. It actually doesn’t matter what words we put in front of “authority” – if the word “authority” is there at all, they were… well… an authority.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Just Some Guy,
    I know the defns. I can even rephrase it in a more reactionary form:
    “Sovereign assertion is an unanswerable argument”

    Zippy could tell you that acting towards the common good is what makes an authority legitimate. Now, by defn, Nazis were not actuated by good of the warsaw ghetto. So, at least Nazis were not any kind of authority over the Warsa Ghetto.

    But, notice, the Nazis had an authority over Germans present in the Ghetto, since the Nazis could be presumed to have some good intentions towards the Germans. So, simultaneously, in the same geographical areas, nazis are an authority over certain people and are not an authority over other people. Thus, it is personal relation between the authority and those subject to the authority that determines the legitimacy.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy,
    Possibly I did not understand too. So I retry.
    Is morality a matter of reason?
    Authority is a matter of morality, as you say that the assertions of authority are morally binding.

    So, the authority itself is a matter of reason. Thus, the assertions of authority must be capable of being justified (starting from certain moral premises).

    Notice that the Lockean homesteading argument that used to claim ownership authority is an ARGUMENT of precisely the sort I am demanding.

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    So, the authority itself is a matter of reason. Thus, the assertions of authority must be capable of being justified (starting from certain moral premises).

    By this you seem to mean that absent a comprehensive positivist theory of authority, authority does not exist.

    But theories don't give rise to reality. At best they provide partial, always incomplete explanations of reality.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    I do not know what a positivist theory of authority might be and what relation it has with my comments.

    The incomprehensible allegations of positivism do less to advance discussion than actually pointing out the errors you find in my comment.

  • CJ says:

    So, the authority itself is a matter of reason. Thus, the assertions of authority must be capable of being justified (starting from certain moral premises).

    Perhaps it would help if you were to clarify what you mean by “matter of reason.” Do you mean that 1) it is something that exists and can (at least theoretically) be described rationally or 2) it only exists once a rational argument is made. I believe (2) is dead wrong, while (1) can be true, but not always. That is, something can be a “thing” and not irrational, even if we are not capable of making a comprehensive argument for it.

    If you actually do believe that nothing is true (or real/rational/reasonable) unless an comprehensive argument can be made for it, or unless it can be described in all its particulars, you are what Zippy calls a positivist.

  • Zippy says:

    As an example, in the domain of the philosophy of science there is this thing called the demarcation problem. For centuries philosophers of science attempted to create a theory which would show a non-arbitrary definite division between scientific claims and unscientific claims; a positive theory with a verification criteria, a procedure or method for deciding which truth claims are scientific and which are not. Bacon’s ‘scientific method’ is probably the first such attempt. Popper famously proposed falsification – that scientific statements are empirically falsifiable, while unscientific statements are not – as a verification procedure for demarcating science from non-science.

    The attempt by positivists/verificationists to solve the demarcation problem has been a total failure, because their assumption that the project is even rationally coherent is positivist and false. Most people are still taught the scientific method in school, but are almost never taught its epistemic shortcomings. And atheist types still invoke falsification all the time, blissfully unaware that the whole
    positivist project completely failed – was demonstrated to be rationally incoherent – before most of them were born.

    That doesn’t mean that there are no scientific statements and unscientific statements. The fact that there is no non-arbitrary demarcation between a few grains of sand and a sand pile doesn’t mean that there is no such thing as sand piles.

    It appears to me that vishmehr24 is an “authority positivist” or “authority verificationist”: absent a positive theory or procedure demarcating true authority claims from false ones which can be applied to all cases, he refuses to concede the truth of particular authority claims. Underneath is the assumption that a positive verification procedure for ‘true authority’ is a rationally coherent possibility and actually exists. He is baffled that I reject his underlying assumption, and therefore misinterprets my specific counterexamples to his way of thinking as flippancy.

    But I am not being flippant. Positivism is incoherent, and there is only so much I can do to even communicate with positivists as long as they cling to their false epistemic ground.

  • Marissa says:

    the whole
    positivist project completely failed – was demonstrated to be rationally incoherent – before most of them were born.

    What are some sources people should read to see this demonstrated?

  • Zippy says:

    Marissa:

    As always you have to do your own thinking, and extracting modern errors from our thoughts is not an instantaneous process, but here are some decent reads in order from easiest to most difficult:

    The End of Science by John Horgan

    Incompleteness by Rebecca Goldstein

    The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn

    Beyond the Postmodern Mind by Huston Smith

    After Writing: on the Liturgical Consummation of Philosophy by Catherine Pickstock

    Other books “in the vicinity”:

    Not Even Wrong by Peter Woit

    Quantum Mechanics: Historical Contingency and the Copenhagen Hegemony by James Cushing

    There are probably others and may be better selections, but I am away from my library at the moment.

  • Marissa says:

    Thank you Zippy, I added those to my reading list. I’ll definitely start with the easiest as philosophy is not my strong point.

  • Scott W. says:

    Perhaps Carl Schmitt’s Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy? That is, if you are ok with the fact that Schmitt eventually drank the brown poison (i.e. became a Nazi).

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Zippy, CJ.

    “the assertions of authority must be capable of being justified (starting from certain moral premises).”

    But I nowhere claimed that a procedure exists or should exist for justification. So I do not see how I can be accused of positivism.

    To act for common good, an authority must know the common good. To know anything is a rational thing. Basically, authority is a matter of words, and not of brawn.

    If I say, a maths theorem must be capable of being proved, does it mean I am maths-positivist?

  • vishmehr24 says:

    I did gave the example yesterday of how Nazis were (possibly) an authority to Germans in the Warsaw Ghetto but certainly no authority to the Jews there. Where is the positivism you see lurking in my reasoning?

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    But I nowhere claimed that a procedure exists or should exist for justification.

    Um… you’ve asserted that courts do just that over and over again in this thread.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    You said:

    The legitimacy of ownership claims is always determined in the courts of law. There does not exist and never existed and would never exist any other way to determine the legitimacy.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    Where is the positivism you see lurking in my reasoning?

    You said:

    acting towards the common good is what makes an authority legitimate.

    If that’s your be-all-end-all criterion for where authority comes from, that’s positivist.

  • vishmehr24 says:

    There is no algorithm that courts follow, none that I know, at least.
    Perhaps in your part of country, property disputes are resolved with duels or guns or with poetry contests.

    ———————————————————————-
    acting towards the common good is what makes an authority legitimate.

    If that’s your be-all-end-all criterion for where authority comes from, that’s positivist.

    And your is perhaps somebody says I am authority here, and all must obey. As you wrote
    “. It actually doesn’t matter what words we put in front of “authority” – if the word “authority” is there at all, they were… well… an authority.”

  • vishmehr24 says:

    Indeed, one who says that the Nazis had a civil authority over Jews resident in Warsaw Ghetto and thus the Jews were morally obliged to obey the Nazis, that one is inarguable.

    And why indeed the Nazis had this authority? Just because they asserted this authority? Because Nazi flag flew in Warsaw town hall (Zippy’s town hall criterion)? Because they conquered Poland (conquests are immoral-Zippy)?

  • Zippy says:

    vishmehr24:

    Zippy’s town hall criterion

    That’s a cute paraphrase, but keep in mind that I wasn’t proposing a demarcation criteria for some political theory. I was just suggesting that for folks with the spare time and resources to do Internet political theorizing, finding the government you are required to submit to is as simple as finding City Hall.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    And your is perhaps somebody says I am authority here, and all must obey. As you wrote
    “. It actually doesn’t matter what words we put in front of “authority” – if the word “authority” is there at all, they were… well… an authority.”

    You’re taking me out of context to try and make my words mean something they don’t.

    That statement made no claims about the authority’s source. The point was that if there is an authority, it doesn’t matter what words we put in front of it.

    Whether Obama is a political authority, a civil authority, or a military authority doesn’t matter. His grant of authority is the same regardless.

    I can’t help but notice that you didn’t deny your own positivism on anything more than Tu Quoque grounds.

  • JustSomeGuy says:

    There is no algorithm that courts follow, none that I know, at least.

    They’re called “laws”. Perhaps you’ve heard of them?

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