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.

§ 15 Responses to An army of clowns in floppy jack boots

  • Josh says:

    It’s hard time fathom how one could call the collected magisterium of the Church founded by Christ “churchianity” (i.e. Not Christianity) on the one hand, and, on the other, call the ethical theory of Richard Dawkins authentic Christianity.

  • Wilbur Hassenfus says:

    They’ve been agonizingly precise about exactly what they mean when they say that progs are a mutant Christian sect. Again, and again, and again. I understood it perfectly the first time I read it. It’s a very simple and clear idea, which resonates powerfully with anybody who’s lived among progs (especially the New England ones, as I have). They trace the line of intellectual descent from the Puritans. You honestly managed to block out the memory of having read that? Really? Yeah, sure you have.

    There are people I call “stupid Christians”. You tell them fifteen times what you mean, in fifteen different ways, as simply as it can be stated, and they pose as a sad little victim just asking questions. Why won’t anyone answer his questions! Poor baby, they’ve been trying and trying, but you refuse to listen.

    You’ve been told. You’ve clearly read enough to have no excuse not to understand what they’re saying. I don’t know if you’re stupid, or bullheaded. A little of each maybe: Perhaps, like a woman, you can’t parse any language that tells you something you don’t want to hear. It just turns into mush somehow at the input stage.

    Or you’re knowingly lying to smear people you consider a threat. Stupid Christians are like progs not just in their imperviousness to information, but also in their driving compulsion to lie all the time.

    Funny observation, under the circumstances…

  • I hope you keep engaging with this stuff. I think there’s a lot of people like me who read it for its social science, while passing over the easily-identifiable consequentialism, reconfigured liberalism, shoddy exegesis, etc. But they would not be as easily identifiable if I weren’t also digesting your commentary.

    The explicitly-anti-explicitly-Christian thing is not as universal as you suggest, from what I’ve seen. For example, it’s not at all found in Mark Citadel, and this just showed up in my feed. http://socialpathology.blogspot.com/2016/01/2015-raisins-and-turds.html

  • And I do think you make too much of the way they use the term “Christian.” It’s not very different from the way Islam has been identified as a Christian heresy, e.g. recently in detail by Feser.

  • Zippy says:

    Ioannes Barbarus:

    Citadel’s stuff is good, what I’ve read at any rate.

    I hope you are right about the extent of the e-a-e-C thing. When bad ideas are left to fester – because of misguided ecumenism or for other reasons – they often go septic. Something needs to excrete them from the body, and there are certainly those who see me as the right kind of organ for doing just that. I don’t mind. It is a necessary hygienic function.

    Actually though I’m not as optimistic as that sounds. I’d like to think that the alt right is going to develop differently from how I expect it to actually develop. But (to repeat myself) I don’t expect it.

  • Zippy says:

    If Richard Dawkins is a Christian, then Presbyterians are Muslims.

  • King Richard says:

    Wilbur,
    I know a great many laissez-faire Capitalists that explain in excruciating detail how they are Conservatives; actual Conservatives; maybe the only real Conservatives.
    Problem is, they remain Liberals.
    I know a lot of Progs (your term) that call laissez-faire Capitalists Conservatives; they go to great lengths to explain why they are Conservatives; maybe the worst Conservatives.
    And yet, laissez-faire Capitalists remain Liberals.
    Now please pay attention, because this is crucial for you to grasp.
    No matter how many times someone you like calls something by a certain word the definition of that word does not change.
    While the NRx observation that some New England WASP derived weak-tea Calvinist theology had influenced some elements of Modernist UMC Progressive rhetoric in the USA was not inaccurate it was not new, nor was it profound, nor did it add anything to existing thought on the subject.
    [my dissertation was on a related topic almost 2 decades ago and I was cautioned it was a “well-worn path” then]
    Calling this influence a ‘sect of Christianity’ is actually a great example of what Bonald was referring to when he wrote,
    “…either interesting but false or true but uninteresting.”

  • Josh says:

    Zippy (and dr bill if you are reading this), did you actually order the Wemhoff book? Mine came today.

    It’s a fidelity press book. We can bet on which page we find the first typo.

  • Zippy says:

    Josh:

    My copy arrived a couple of days ago. You’ll win the typo contest though — my brain usually just skips right over them.

  • Hoyos says:

    I actually think there is a point to thinking of progressivism as a heretical Christian sect the same way the medievals thought of Islam as a heretical Christian sect. Heretics and apostates have a different psychology to normal pagans, it’s a corruption of the best being the worst situation.

  • Zippy says:

    Hoyos:

    Sure, and I think there is some truth in seeing protestantism as a heresy of Islam. But someone who says ‘presbyterianism is a trinitarian sect of Islam’ is just being an imbecile. Or a clown.

    King Richard and Hoyos:

    Wilbur Hassenfus is correct that I understand perfectly well what the people saying these things (think they) mean when they say them. The problem isn’t that I don’t understand what they are saying. The problem is that they don’t understand what they are saying.

    The discussion is supposed to go something like this:

    “Assume that my entire world view is true, even though I am blissfully unaware of it myself. Assume that everything I unconsciously believe about ontology, deontology, epistemology, and language is true.

    Now, taking all that as given and unquestioned and unquestionable, here are a couple of sentences as premises and it follows that Richard Dawkins is a non-theistic Christian! Red Pill FTW.”

    I think part of what happens is that after someone has discovered one banal ‘red pill’ truth, one should-have-been-obvious case of the emperor having no clothes seen as an absurdity by our insane zeitgeist, he tends to fall in love with absurd conclusions. So when he hears himself saying something that ought to make him reexamine his premises, rather than treating the absurdity as a reductio ad absurdam he treats it as ‘red pill’.

    But creating an equal-and-opposite anti-realism is not a rejection of modernism’s anti-realism. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and sometimes an absurd conclusion is just an absurd conclusion — which implies something wrong with the reasoning process which produced it and/or the world view upon which it is founded.

  • Dystopia Max says:

    “The discussion is supposed to go something like this:”

    Nah. At the time, the “discussion” did presuppose a level of personal experience and personal awareness of 20th century Western liberals to make the comparison click, which is why the comparison worked so well, inspired so many people, coined so many phrases, and rustled so many jimmies. The most powerful memes operate not in a pure abstraction, they rather pull in shared experiences.

    “it follows that Richard Dawkins is a non-theistic Christian! Red Pill FTW”

    In this current age, we would say that “Richard Dawkins, for all his autistic tryhard atheist pretensions about living by SCIENCE and REASON, is, by the evidence of his lived life and declared morality, just as cucked and pozzed by the Post-Christian ZeitGeist as the Archbishop of Canterbury. He follows a heretical form of Christianity easily recognized by serious Christians while denying its power.”

    New vocabulary, new understanding!

    The truly ‘absurd conclusion’ was the prior mainstream practice of treating Richard Dawkins seriously as an atheist, based only on his declared atheism, when the fruit of his life showed that he was just as lukewarm a cultural Christian as any other random upper-class Brit at the time. The real shame is that it took an atheist Jew to say it, and have it treated as a new discovery, because he was reading R.L. Dabney and you weren’t.

  • Zippy says:

    Max:
    It has the air of almost truthiness about it, as long as we don’t take it seriously.

  • […] applied selectively in a context of more or less heavy doping by unprincipled exceptions and other impurities of the mind. The heavily doped semiconductor is an archetype of modernity, with the will providing base-emitter […]

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