An army of clowns in floppy jack boots
January 14, 2016 § 15 Comments
A number of folks believe that I am not interpreting some of the authors I am citing and linking to correctly: that I just don’t get it, in a phrase. That is certainly possible. In fact it would be astonishing if I managed to always interpret what other people are saying correctly, let alone fit that interpretation into a correct understanding of reality. That’s one reason why actual citation is important.
Language is a fragile medium to begin with, and combined with my own very fallible humanity it may be that I am interpreting incorrectly when Foseti says that “the one key tenet of the neoreaction … [is that] Progressivism is a nontheistic Christian sect” and “Instead of arguing against Christianity, [atheist Richard] Dawkins is arguing for one sect of Christianity over all others,” or when Moldbug says “If there is one general weakness in the conservative strategy, it strikes me as this unwillingness to admit that ‘liberalism’ is actually mainline Protestantism, which is actually Christianity,” or when Nick B Steves says “Better a godless Japan than a Jesus-luvin Baltimore,” or when Gary Pettersen says “…most of us [on the ‘alternative right’] are consequentialists …”.
Examples can be multiplied. The point is that it is possible that when people say these things, I am not interpreting them correctly. There are a number of reasons why this could be the case. I will discuss a few of them, with no pretense of making an exhaustive account.
For example, it could be that the people saying these things are nominalists. A nominalist can say ‘a is a B’ but he cannot really mean it, because to him there is really no such thing as B. B is just a convenient label which we apply to similar particular things for our own purposes; but actual categories of things with essences – essences which determine the categories to which a thing does or does not belong – don’t exist. In practice nominalism tends to be a ‘for me but not for thee’ thing, since nobody can be consistently nominalist and remain sane. Nominalism, as with many perverse ideas, cannot come in a pure form: it must be doped by unprincipled exceptions to avoid winking out of reality entirely.
Another problem though may be that taking these words seriously is to misinterpret them. When Jerry Seinfeld equates cheering for a football team with cheering for the team clothing, what he says is humorous precisely because it is not to be taken seriously. He is making a joke, not describing reality accurately. So part of the problem may be in taking what people actually say seriously when they don’t really mean it seriously, either because they are intentionally unserious or because they don’t really have any idea what they are talking about. They are just clowning around.
If they do not actually mean what they say seriously, it would be a mistake to take what they actually say seriously.
Bonald recently wrote on a different topic:
This reminds me of an afterward of one volume of Father Copleston’s history of philosophy, regarding Marx’s and Nietzsche’s theories of everything. If you say that economic relations or the will to power determine everything, that’s clearly wrong. But if you weaken the claim to say just that these things are important forces, that sometimes they motivate actions, then you have a statement that is true but obvious and uninteresting. So the theories of Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud (the latter being a very similar case) are either interesting but false or true but uninteresting.
Peter Blood observes that some of the alt-right appeal is that:
… argument with other such sociopaths will at least be more interesting. Arguing with run-of-the-mill liberals sucks the life out of you, it’s so boring.
And it is all fun and games until someone actually takes the ideas seriously.