Wars of religion by other means

August 2, 2014 § 18 Comments

In politics we have no choice but to try to figure out what is good and initiate force to make other people conform to it. Some political philosophies pretend to avoid the question, but they are simply deluded. Every political philosophy is necessarily authoritarian. Every political philosophy necessarily discriminates in favor of its particular conception of the good and restricts freedom based on the discriminations it asserts. Political theories like liberalism and its close cousins, which make pretenses of metaphysical neutrality, do not actually achieve metaphysical neutrality: they simply lack self-awareness and are therefore sociopathic. Political theories which pretend to “leave people alone” do not actually leave people alone: they force their presupposed background assumptions on everyone independent of who does and does not consent.

So it is no use objecting that there is no peer-reviewed scientifically demonstrable objective concept of the good with which everyone must agree by intellectual necessity. It is useless to object that the public manifest facts about the world and ourselves underdetermine theories of the good, because every politics necessarily and prejudicially forces its understanding of the good in particular circumstances on everyone, even when partisans of a particular theory dance around and try to pretend otherwise.

Understanding this might bring advantage to some, it might lead others to despair, and it might lead still others to find priorities in their lives other than politics. It is perhaps what led the Prophet Soul Asylum to sing:

And now I know there are no secret tricks
No correct politics
Just liars and lunatics

But whatever its personal implications, what matters is whether or not it is true. Politics is necessarily about exercising authority and enforcement to make everyone conform to a particular understanding of the good, backed by an initiation of force to which those who are governed did not consent.

Any political theory which denies that it is doing just that is lying lunacy. And that is why when you look around yourself in the modern world, it looks like we are living in an asylum.

§ 18 Responses to Wars of religion by other means

  • donalgraeme says:

    Any political theory that denies that it is doing just that is lying lunacy. And that is why when you look around yourself in the modern world, it looks like we are living in an asylum.

    Pure Gold.

  • Zippy says:

    DG:
    Ironically, your citation made me see an impurity in the expression which I have since corrected in the OP: too many subsequent “that’s”. 🙂

  • Mike T says:

    Political theories which pretend to “leave people alone” do not actually leave people alone

    By degrees they can. A state can be highly activist, actively restricting autonomy whenever it sees something its leadership considers worth doing for the public. In doing so, it can heavily regulate and tax the population, providing them little room to do what they’d prefer to do except where the state has taken no interest. Even as that sounds regimented, it may also be able to provide a very clean, well-ordered and peaceful society that generally succeeds in looking after the welfare of the public and restraining injustice. Another state can take a much more hands off approach by using its authority sparingly causing it to have far less of a role in directing public life. Since freedom is superfluous who is to say that one is better than the other? Japan is a much more regulated society than the US with significantly less freedom in a number of areas, but it works. Heck, China even more so but aside from forced abortions which they’re walking away from, on what basis would right authoritarians criticize the actual real policies of the Central Committee since all things considered, the Communist Party of today is doing a much better job of governing China than most rulers in China’s past?

  • Zippy says:

    Mike T:

    By degrees they can.

    No they can’t. You are conflating configurations of rules that you prefer with “leaving people alone”.

    Blindness.

    Since freedom is superfluous who is to say that one is better than the other?

    Your phrasing betrays you: you consider “freedom” to be the measure of what is good.

    The fact that freedom is not a measure of the good does not imply that the good does not exist.

  • Zippy says:

    Governments are perceived by a particular person as ‘leaving people alone’ when the rules in play are aligned with what that person expects and wants. When people aren’t ‘bumping into’ the rules and bruising their elbows, they feel free. When the rules support them in doing what they want and expect to do, they feel free. When the rules come down hard on people they disagree with, they feel free.

    But that doesn’t mean that a given set of rules is inherently, objectively more free than some other set of rules. And it certainly doesn’t mean that the “perceived to be freer by a particular set of people” rules are better than other sets of rules.

    In evaluating whether a given set of rules is good in a given situation, the inherently subjective measure “freedom” is useless.

  • Zippy says:

    Put differently, “freedom” is a way of saying “I think this society puts the right kind of people in prison.”

    As a label or tag, “freedom” just refers to an arrangement of rules and practices that the speaker prefers. Because he prefers those rules and practices they do not constrain his will; so they become invisible to him.

    But rules that he is against represent a failure to “leave people alone”.

  • …but aside from forced abortions which they’re walking away from…

    This is like saying “How can one argue that the Nazi government was bad when one considers the shape Germany was in beforehand…besides the whole Holocaust thing”.

    Just sayin’.

  • […] to what they are actually able to choose. Freedom as a political priority requires us to subvert all transcendent conceptions of the good – all concepts of the good which transcend what people happen to want – to whatever […]

  • donalgraeme says:

    “freedom” is a way of saying “I think this society puts the right kind of people in prison.”

    When you get down to it, that’s it, isn’t it? Does society empower me and those who share my views, and does it dis-empower or imprison those who oppose my views?

  • Silly Interloper says:

    By degrees they can.

    Maybe it would help to examine the fact that there has never existed a despot, dictator, tyrant, pharaoh, king, chief, or ruler of any kind anywhere that has not had “degrees” of freedom. Ranges of freedom will exist in all possible governments, so, Mike T, you are making issue out of something that is completely irrelevant and has no bearing whatsoever on the value of libertarianism. You are simply advocating a system that chooses ranges as determined by your conception of what is good. It distinguishes libertarianism (or whatever it is you are selling) from no other government ever.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    In the pursuit of a truth, can the Christian reactionary not respond that he has truth where the others have only lies?

    It would seem to me that the arguments for a government under Christian theonomic principles can justly and ably be defended as absolute truth should one impose it on a society already immured in zealotry.

    Liberalism has consistently held itself out as a neutral political structure and as you say, it is not. This mask that it wears slips more and more with every passing day. Once it is disowned of it, the choice will be clear once more, people either live in modernist squalor or the vision of a reactionary state governed under a distinctly Christian ideology, in whose constitution there is no vagueness with regards to the ‘Creator’ and there is no vagueness on the truth, however authoritarian it may seem to those who cannot shake off the security blanket of liberal democracy.

  • Catholic Economist says:

    In the pursuit of a truth, can the Christian reactionary not respond that he has truth where the others have only lies?

    Indeed, he should do just that.

    Liberalism has consistently held itself out as a neutral political structure and as you say, it is not.

    This is why, at least in my opinion, it is impossible to be both a “liberal” and a Catholic. To be Catholic, is to (hopefully) know that you possess the Truth. To be a liberal is to (falsely) claim moral neutrality. Therefore, claiming to be both Catholic and a liberal is to consent to the notion that the Truth is on equal footing with un-Truth, the very idea of which is risible.

    There is always a state religion. One of the advantages of being a Catholic reactionary is at least being explicitly honest about that fact.

  • Zippy says:

    Mark Citadel:

    In the pursuit of a truth, can the Christian reactionary not respond that he has truth where the others have only lies?

    Yes and no. Unlike Islam, Christianity doesn’t prescribe a comprehensive way of life or even a particular form of government. The two most common gripes about the Catholic Church are that the Church is always telling everyone what to do, and that we need to know what to do but the Church isn’t telling us what it is.

    Said more generally, Christian doctrine underdetermines metaphysics. (The magisterium even says as much: the Church has no “official” philosophy).

    The domain of politics is in significant part a domain of prudence; so we just have to do the best we can. But our approach will never be metaphysically neutral, so pretenses to neutrality can only lead to dysfunction.

  • Mark Citadel says:

    “The domain of politics is in significant part a domain of prudence; so we just have to do the best we can. But our approach will never be metaphysically neutral, so pretenses to neutrality can only lead to dysfunction.”

    There can be no pretense of neutrality, and this is a positive thing. Claiming to possess the truth is far more compelling in many circumstances than having no answers whatsoever. I agree that Islam has a far more rigid set of political guidelines, but in some ways that is limiting to Islam’s political success. One of the good things about speculative Christian administration is that without straying from Biblical principles, you have a lot of room for general societal considerations as well as empirical-based politics intertwined with the national theology.

    As far as I can tell, no reactionary and especially not Christians, should be endorsing a neutral form of government in which there is a pretense that all ideas get a hearing, For one, the governments who do this are lying about it anyway, and secondly when we have the word of God, there is no need for human opinion on such matters to which God has already made His will clear.

    It is why on my blog just recently I wrote a piece denouncing secular judiciaries, and favoring a return to ecclesiastic courts.The law would be far more straightforward were it not an idea in the minds of men, but rather the enactment of God’s will.

  • […] I predict at least 50 more years of longevity in the current system, and would not be surprised by 500 years. We’ll all be long dead before anything new and sustainable replaces political liberalism – whether that replacement is some other configuration of lies, or a Catholic Christian society. […]

  • […] camouflage effect is caused by the combination of its surface plausibility with its underlying incoherence. On the surface it sounds reasonable, even moral, and – precisely because it is rationally […]

  • […] actually exercises of discriminating authority which bind subjects to obedience and cooperation. It falsely assumes that there is such a thing as a concrete exercise of authority which “leaves other people […]

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