Putting des cartes before des whores

April 27, 2017 § 18 Comments

Modern people tend to think that the exercise of authority is a matter of writing a priori rules for a subsequently constructed society.  This leads them to believe that it is possible to constructively design a “free society” by running the right software, software which magically produces the results they want.  (If it doesn’t achieve the results they want, that can only be because someone is cheating).

This is especially egregious among technologists, because that is how we design the things that we build: we conceive of the desired outcome in our mind, apply the constraints of nature as we understand them, assemble raw materials, and build the artifact that we want.  In software especially this design-the-rules, achieve-the-outcome, impose the ghost into the machine model is the main pattern of thought.  This pattern can be seen throughout the writing of post Enlightenment thinkers and is made explicit by John Rawls.

Authority and the civilizations which rest on that authority are not like that. Authority is never a matter of designing rules before a polity exists and instantiating that polity in conformance with those rules.  Authority is never a matter of the de novo creation of a polity by some ‘social contract’ construction. So-called Enlightenment thought on authority and politics is disconnected from reality at its very foundation, because it assumes this kind of de novo construction of social reality, instantiation of the City from the raw materials of nature through the imposition of rules chosen a priori.

Back in the real world, authority always involves particular men discriminating and restricting freedom in response to particular controversies or potential controversies. Even wars and massive political discontinuities develop in and from an already given preexisting social context.

Human social reality is a fractal of the organic family, not a fractal of a constructed daycare.  The more modern people attempt to treat human society like a mechanical device of their own design, the more it becomes a cyborg monstrosity which treats its human subjects as raw materials for consumption.

§ 18 Responses to Putting des cartes before des whores

  • djz242013 says:

    Modern people prefer the rule-based conceit to reality in part because it shields them from the intolerable fact that you are always under authority to someone.

    If you just have to follow the rule, and I’m just enforcing the rule, neither of us is really in “authority” over the other, we’re all equal. Or so the daydream goes.

  • Zippy says:

    Rules are preferable to rulers, even when those rules make no sense — cannot makes sense, even on their own terms. Better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.

  • Aethelfrith says:

    In the beginning of The Everlasting Man GKC punches holes in the myth (because that’s what it is really) of the caveman because, I think, the Enlightenment (or Whig-Version-Of-History, take your pick) attitude of “everything that came before us sucks” does not stand up to any serious scrutiny.

    Of course, the basis of all Enlightenment thinking is “There is no God therefore Man is the measure of all things.” What they get wrong is that there IS a God, and without Him a lot of what ancient and primitive people did make no sense.

  • djz242013 says:

    Without Him it is impossible in principle for anything to make sense

  • TomD says:

    Every family I’ve seen that tries to “rule by rules” has discipline problems, whereas the ones that “rule by authority” have other problems, but not usually discipline ones.

    Laws are necessary but should be minimal. In a way, they’re shorthand for “don’t bother the next highest authority about THIS”.

    And it’s totally “unfair”. But totally just and fair.

  • “Without Him it is impossible in principle for anything to make sense..”

    Ha! That is quite true. So isn’t it true that any system of authority, any system at all outside the context of God, is going to automatically be incoherent?

  • Zippy says:

    Yes. Starting with “assume this true thing to be false” or “assume this false thing to be true” always leads to a contradiction. One of the basic ways to show that something is true is to assume that it is false and show that that assumption leads to a contradiction.

  • itascriptaest says:

    We see in Rawls an (unsuccessful) attempt to pull back from the necessary implications of utilitarianism, an ideological species of liberalism. Having served in WW2 Rawls understood that the fascist ideologies of the 20th century drew quite a bit of their essence from 19th century utilitarian liberalism. Jingoism, imperialism, scientific racism and eugenics all developed out of a utilitarian mindset. I think Rawl’s attempt to return to liberalism’s sources in figures like Locke demonstrates a serious ongoing crisis in liberalism. At least some modern thinkers began to recognize that the Enlightenment itself paved the way for the horrors of the 20th century (see the Frankfurt School). But as Zippy shows above Rawls is unable to escape the anti-human implications of liberal thought as his concept of rights I believe directly helped pave the way for such horrors as Roe v. Wade.

  • GJ says:

    Modern people tend to think that the exercise of authority is a matter of writing a priori rules for a subsequently constructed society.

    Related to this, most liberals (who aren’t in position to design society) are stuck at the intention stage. Right-liberals are like those who think that their intentions are good, and hell is bad, therefore their intentions will never pave the way to hell; their liberalism is so shiny and good-intentioned while progressivism is so bad, therefore their right-liberalism must have nothing whatsoever to do with paving the way to the terrible telos of progressivism.

    Left-liberals, on the other hand, see nothing wrong with trying to instantiate yet another round of communism since it’s all well-intended.

  • GJ says:

    Relating to the idea of society as a fractal of the family, oft-condemned ‘nanny statism’ would often be appropriate for immature citizenry, just as stringent and restricted rules are needed to deal with unruly children. Mature polities don’t need such restrictions.

    However, the liberal inevitably interprets the difference in terms of ‘freedom’, never pausing to contemplate if the difference in citizenry might have something to do with the rules deemed necessary to rule over them.

  • Zippy says:


    Related to this, most liberals (who aren’t in position to design society) are stuck at the intention stage.

    Exactly right. Liberalism is good intentions by definition (that is, by nominalist fiat). The ruins left in the wake of liberalism’s triumph are always the result of inauthenticity and oppressors, never attributable to liberalism itself.

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