Future Families

Been thinking about the confluence of technology and people considered both as individuals and as members of a family. The loss of family estates and the rise of existential dread by Adam Lane Smith inspired me to blog about it.

Mr. Smith’s short essay is about how human being have always tended to organize themselves along the lines of an extended family. He maintains – and I agree – that it is within such a family that human happiness is best obtained. This need for family is not limited to natural tribes. St. Benedict, when he created the Western monastery – literally, a collection of solitary hermits, as the ‘mono’ here refers to alone – he was reining in the dangers of individualism untethered from social relationships. Monks – again, the name comes from being alone – now lived in community. They had plenty of time to pray and study alone, but had reciprocal duties with the community: monks take care of the community, and the community takes care of the monks.(1)

The bug in my brain: we may or may not like the idea of a society organized around a family estate headed by a patriarch, but I think technology is going to push us in that direction, or push us over a cliff.

Consider two factors: for centuries now, since, perhaps, the first troglodyte knapped a good flint blade, technology has been eliminating jobs almost as fast as it has created them. Take any remotely modern job, even, say, a farm working picking crops, and you can back up into a million bits of technology that make that job possible: trucks, refrigeration, irrigation, pumps, herbicides, supply chain management, communications, and on and on. It’s a truism that each of these technologies puts the case-specific buggy whip maker out of work, but the greater fact is that technological advances generally create 10 times as many jobs as they destroy, each of them generally safer, more productive and more highly remunerated than the jobs lost. We would not have 7 billion people on earth if this were not the case, and fewer impoverished people both as a percentage and absolutely, than at any time over the last century or two.

Image result for robby the robot
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords, especially if they’re as slow and clumsy as this thing. Cool styling, however.

The fear is that, eventually and possibly very soon, robotics will put almost all manual laborers out of a job. Maybe. Sure has and will put a lot of people – warehouse workers, burger flippers – out of job. The reason for this fear seems to be the belief that robots, broadly understood to include AI, will soon be able to do not only virtually all blue collar jobs, but many or most white collar jobs as well. A robot can not only flip your burger and fulfill your order in a warehouse, it will soon be able to design the warehouse and all the robots in it from scratch, and design and build the robots that fix the robots, and the spec out and design the AI that will replace it. And do the taxes and fill out the forms. And then run the software that produces the increasingly life-like CGI replicas of dead people and put together the propaganda movies that will help keep us sedated…

And so on.

I have my doubts. But let’s grant this – dystopia? Here’s what it would mean in practice: those jobs that the robot AIs can’t do economically will fall into two classes: comparatively trivial jobs such as hairdressing or lawn care, which could be done by robots, but why bother? And jobs that are really tricky, involving human judgement and creativity on a level AIs can’t match.

This second class of jobs, which will include work such as directing the robots, marketing (no, really – there’s some serious voodoo involved on occasion) and perhaps the creative end of ‘creative’ jobs (anybody really think a bot couldn’t write most pop music? But you’d still need, for example, John C. Wright and Brian Niemeier to write their novels) will become increasingly better paid.

Jobs that the robots can’t do will be needed in order for the robots to do the jobs they can do. Someone will need to direct them towards an end, even if the bots can figure out the optimal way to get there. Robots creating movies will still need the parts of the stories that make it real and tend to defy algorithmic solutions – plot twists and character arcs, for example. (2) Those people whose jobs defy automation yet are critical to the workings of the automation would do really well, in other words. So well that they could easily support many other people.

So: I’m seeing a future with many ‘family estates,’ where the patriarch has a job that pays so well that he can support many people on his income alone. He will follow two paths: build capital over his lifetime so that the estate can continue without him, and groom successors. He will provide opportunities to his ‘family’ to work in various ways, as managers of the estate or creative contributors toward its functioning and beauty. Maybe they want to grow and cook their own food, or make their own furniture, or paint the family portraits, or write family biographies. Who know?

Over time, more and more people will belong to such estates, either as patriarchs or his family, or as ‘clients’ in the old Roman sense. If – big if, largely contradicted by history – his successors can maintain the family fortune, generations of people may live this way.

Lot of speculation here. The point I think I’m making: one option that may appear if robotics do in fact obviate most jobs is the reemergence of the ‘family estate’ broadly understood. The good side, as in Smith’s description, is that natural familial affection would be given room to grow; the down side is that those inside who have no other economic options may come to feel trapped. And the potential for human evil never goes away, but that can hardly be uniquely laid at the feet of the family estate.

Just dumping something that’s been running through my mind. Of course, the evidence suggests that many such tech and creative overlords, perched upon their piles of cash, will behave very badly. They certainly do now. Such are unlikely to leave offspring capable of continuing a family estate in the unlikely event they ever form a coherent family in the first place.

There could be conflict between those wanting to build for the future and those who believe they are the future. It could get ugly. I doubt I’ll live long enough to see how this comes out, as predictions of this ‘singularity’ (yeech! What a dumb expression!) being right around the corner seem to always be a few decades off.

  1. An illustrative fact: since to the Catholic, especially medieval Catholic, mind, rights are an emmination from duties, monks could own no property. Unlike a farmer or a knight or even a parish priest, a monk had no duty to support others. His duty was to obey his abbot; it was his abbot’s duty to direct the activities of the monastery to make sure the monks were taken care of. So there was no justification for a monk owning anything. His vow of poverty simply fixes this idea to the front of his mind.
  2. No doubt bots could produce 90% of what passes for art/movies/music/literature/whatever. If they in fact don’t already. That other 10% may prove difficult.

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The Scary True Believers

Earlier, I wrote about C. S. Lewis’ graduation address concerning Inner Circles, and how the recruitment and advancement in such circles was illustrated in That Hideous Strength. The ever-increasing entanglement of the victims of such circles is lubricated by appeals to ego: now that you’ve reached our level, you are just so much smarter and cunning than those jokers in the circle you just advanced from. (Pay no attention to how you were played right up until you were welcomed in. That might trigger some actual thought, and we can’t have that.)

Anyone who leaves such a circle must be denounced (or denounced and assassinated, as the situation requires, as Prof. Hingest in Lewis’ book), not merely for the damage they might do by disclosing what they know, but by the psychological damage of such a direct assault on the self-image of the larger circles nearest the inner ring. How could anyone leave something so desirable, so powerful, so knowledgeable, so cool, as the inner ring? It must be demonstrated, for the sake of the little people, that the ex-inner-ringer was a problem, a fool, a traitor, someone to be disposed of.

It helps to appeal to people’s vanity. Hegel, Marx and Freud all use the old ‘of course, only enlightened people like you, the smart people who agree with me, truly understand; those who don’t hold and profess all we hold and teach are hopelessly benighted’ schtick to create their own cool kids club. Such a club is immune to all criticism, since such criticism only proves the critic to be hopelessly unenlightened and evil. Hegel, Marx and Freud are fundamentally Mean Girls; their followers’ deepest belief is that they are smarter than you. Every other belief is secondary: how do we know, say, all statements of being are false yet true insofar as they are suspended in dialectical synthesis, that everything is a social construct, that sexual repression is the origin of all psychological pathologies? Because we’re smarter than you, that’s how!

Since most of the tenets of these systems are, when stated in plain language, kind of stupid, it is required that you use the established vocabulary and phrases to make sure you never express them in words that reveal how stupid they are.

Read somewhere (oops, scholar fail!) that the management levels of idealistic organizations such as charities and religions are full of people with surprisingly little attachment to the professed ideology that supposedly drives the organization. On the more innocent end of the spectrum, they just like the people and the feeling of belonging; at the other end are, I imagine, power-hungry sociopaths. Current events in the Catholic Church and in our fine major political parties would do not appear to contradict this.

I would suppose the rank and file would be where you’d find the true believers, and in those who rise up through the ranks because of fervor and hard work. There must be, no doubt, some interesting dynamics, as the winners under Pournelle’s Iron Law might once in a while need some people who do the organization’s actual work, to keep up appearances. True believers would be handy for this. So I’d expect the higher reaches of an organization to have both those there for the power and true believers, with some interesting jostling when something needs to be done.

These thoughts brought to mind this exchange from Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness, where Dodd, who has finally become an open Communist after decades of working undercover in the New York teachers’ union, placing Reds and sympathizers in positions of power and influence. She gets a job with the US politburo – she is invited into what seemed the inner ring – and needs to go through the files:

As I began to prepare for the work I was assigned to do I was amazed at the lack of files of material on social questions such as housing and welfare. When I complained about this, Gil said: “Bella, we are a revolutionary party, not a reform group. We aren’t trying to patch up this bourgeois structure.”

I began to realize why the Party had no long-range program for welfare, hospitals, schools, or child care. They plagiarized programs from the various civil-service unions. Such reforms, if they fitted in, could be adapted to the taste of the moment . But reforms were anathema to communist long-range strategy, which stood instead for revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat .

What I find amazing here is that Dodd, obviously an intelligent woman, could work for the Commies for years and years, and not get a point that, even to this day, they are constantly making: the goal, the point of all their activities, is to bring about the revolution.(1) Marxists don’t want racial equality, good working conditions and pay, good social services, or any kind of justice. In fact, insofar as any of those things may occur, a Marxist would want to destroy them. Peace, harmony, justice and prosperity are the enemy. According to neo-Marxist dogma, anything that placates people, makes them happier with their lot, helps them live fulfilling, peaceful lives, can only be a tool of hegemonic oppression. Happy people must be made miserable; whatever makes them happy must be destroyed. Any steps taken that might improve things must be just that: steps. Those steps must lead to the revolution

Dodd became a communist in the first place because, in her eyes, they were the only ones doing anything to help during the Great Depression. It was precisely their activism in helping the downtrodden that attracted her. She them spent the next couple decades immersed in Marxist literature:

… I was at last beginning to see how ignorant I had become, how long since I had read anything except Party literature. I thought of our bookshelves stripped of books questioned by the Party, how when a writer was expelled from the Party his books went, too. I thought of the systematic rewriting of Soviet history, the revaluation, and in some cases the blotting out of any mention of such persons as Trotsky. I thought of the successive purges…

…In my time with the Party I had accumulated a large store of information about people and events, and often these had not fitted into the picture presented by the Party to its members . It was as if I held a thousand pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and could not fit them together. It irritated me, but when I thought of the testimony of witnesses before the Congressional Committee, some of whom I had known as Communists, much of the true picture suddenly came into focus . My store of odd pieces was beginning to develop into a recognizable picture. There had been many things I had not really understood. I had regarded the Communist Party as a poor man’s party, and thought the presence of certain men of wealth within it accidental . I now saw this was no accident. I regarded the Party as a monolithic organization with the leadership in the National Committee and the National Board. Now I saw this was only a facade placed there by the movement to create the illusion of the poor man’s party ; it was in reality a device to control the “common man” they so raucously championed.

Yet, somehow, she was surprised to discover that the Party’s interest in actions that might actually improve people’s lives was simply expedient, that it had no interest in improving people’s lives, but only in steps that lead to the Revolution. This goal of destroying the system is hardly a secret, yet Dodd could somehow miss it, even in all the works she’d read in the Party library. She was little more, if, indeed, anything more, than a Useful Idiot.

How many people who think Marx got a bum rap (e.g., every college kid), who think they support the general goals of the Marxists as they understand them, you know, fairness and justice and an end to bigotry and hatred and stuff, don’t realize that the goal is real, live violent warfare and the deaths of millions (e.g., me and mine)? If Bella Dodd can pull living with that level of cognitive dissonance off, how many others are doing so now?

But the scary part: there really are informed true believers, those who know what the goals are and enthusiastically support them. True, most of these folks – Antifa is the poster child – do not get the part where they, the enthusiastic purist revolutionaries, are the first to go once the Revolution succeeds in putting some vanguard or other in power. But that’s another kind of cultivated cluelessness.

And, of course, the top levels are occupied by the kind of sociopaths who generally get those kind of jobs, people for whom all this dogma and maneuvering is just a game. These folks are scarier still.

  1. Read somewhere (man, I got to start taking notes!) that when Mussolini took over and began to suppress the Communists, it was a largely popular move even among workers. For years, whenever they organized and struck, the workers were after improvement, while the leaders were after the revolution. This lead to some conflict and animosity, and worker frustration, to say the least, with the Communists.

‘Remedial’ College Classes

I took about 2 years of remedial college classes, although that’s not what they were called. I came to St. John’s College in 1976 from a self-identified college prep high school, St. Paul’s in Santa Fe Springs, CA, with a mediocre GPA but killer SAT scores. The reality is that, at that time, St. John’s was in a down cycle, so that anyone who submitted all the essays required to apply (in something like English, I imagine, but maybe that was too high a bar?) got in. That was about the most writing I ever did up to that point, the petulant whining of a kid who was convinced that k-12 had been a total waste of time and had heard the siren’s call of all those wonderful books.

I was about as ready for college, especially the 22-25 units per semester, no ‘easy A’ classes that St. John’s demands, as I was to perform brain surgery.

Almost bombed out. The subject that almost killed my college career was Greek, which also happens to be the ‘remedial’ class. If only I were enlightened enough to be ashamed of myself. Reading education history, I come across random stuff like this, regarding Mary Baker Eddy, founder of Christian Science, describing her course of study. Starting from before she was 10, and despite (?) being kept out of school:

My favorite studies were natural philosophy, logic, and moral science. From my brother Albert, I received lessons in the ancient tongues, Hebrew, Greek, and Latin.

photograph
Mary Baker Eddy, a very well educated yet very loopy person. Education isn’t everything, but it beats the alternatives.

She was farm girl, the last of 6 kids, surreptitiously taught by her older brother, since her father thought her brain was too big for her. She evidently mastered them all. This was in the early 1800s.

Eddy’s case might be extreme, but the fact is that a nation of farmers and shopkeepers produced a steady stream of kids who knew Latin, Greek, and even sometimes Hebrew from a young age. Later, when the wedding of math and science had been successfully consumated, an educated kid also knew a bit of calculus, needed, for example, to understand Newton – who wrote in Latin.

Thus, the floor, the baseline, for someone wanting a college education was knowledge of Latin, Greek and calculus – because no self-respecting college was going to waste time getting kids up to speed with what farm girls and boys with any intellectual aspirations already knew.

But that changed. Ancient languages have been disparaged for some time now. In the topsy-turvy world of modern education, knowing ancient languages, far from being seen as the door to a wider intellectual and cultural world, is seen as sign you’re a narrow, musty specialist.

Thus, upon reaching St. John’s, I, like about 99.9% of modern Americans would, needed remedial Greek.(1) Having had no experience studying anything really hard, as in, you simply MUST memorize a boatload of rules and forms before you can make any real progress, I just about bombed out. I buckled down after being vaguely threatened with expulsion after my freshman year (“Mr. Moore knows no Greek,” I still hear my prof saying during don rags, the annual terrifying meeting where all your ‘tutors’ meet and talk about you as if you aren’t there. But you are.)

The happy ending, after a fashion: I really didn’t want to get thrown out of St. John – hey, reading all those books is really fun! – so I spent much of my sophomore year pulling late-nights with Liddell & Scott, a well thumbed tutti i verbi greci, and Sophocles, eventually writing a paper on Oedipus Rex tracing and commenting on every usage of verbs of sight throughout the text – it was good. Didn’t actually learn much Greek, but the paper won the day.

I’m still a terrible student, still know little Greek and less Latin, and could never have gained admittance to a real American college from 100 years ago. My respect for those who did graduate from real colleges is profound.

Back to today. One of my favorite education tidbits, often referred to here, is that about 50% of incoming UC Berkeley students must take remedial English, math, or both. Let that sink in: these are kids with 4.X GPAs, who took all the AP classes – and aced them – who had good SAT scores, who are the best of the best of best – but they can’t write or do math at a college level, as Berkeley imagines it. These kids are bright, so it should come as no surprise that the majority of them ace the remedial classes and go on to ‘succeed’ in their chosen fields.

I expect this percentage to go way down, not because students will suddenly start learning more math and better English before applying to Cal, but rather because Cal will move the goalposts and simply relabel what would have been remedial classes as something else, or eliminate or dumb down the requirements. It’s happened before – Latin, Greek and calculus, anyone?

The sad part, tragic, even, is not that so many need remedial training (however labeled), but that so many get degrees, including Masters and PhDs, without ever having their shortcomings remedied. Mine have not been remedied, alas, but I did get a peek into that larger world. It’s not all accessible to me, but I at least know it’s there.

To get college applicants to know Greek, Latin and math, all that needs to be done is to demand it -if kids 150 years ago could learn this stuff, so can kids today. We’re not born stupider today, we’ve been very intentionally and systematically made stupider. It starts with expectations.

Of course, that would result in many fewer people, under 10% I’d imagine, doing college. As giant, evil corporations, our fine colleges can’t have THAT. Why, if we gave the people what they needed and even in our better moments, wanted, we’d end up with a small population of college educated people and lots and lots of glorified trade schools. Which, in itself, would not be a bad thing.

I’d be in favor of trying to really educate everybody, starting at a young age, and then seeing how it comes out. Man’s gotta dream. Any real education starts with the utter destruction of pre-K – 12 schooling, the instrument by which we are made and kept stupid.

  1. Originally, when the Great Books Program was started, students took one year each of Greek, Latin, German and French. By the time I’d got there, they’d already throttled it back to 2 years of Greek and 2 years of French. To get into your Senior year, you had to pass a French reading exam, which I passed after the manner of St. Joseph of Cupertino: the text for the test was de Tocqueville, from a section I happened to be very familiar with. Lucky me? Still only know a little church Latin. Sigh.

Basics: How to Run a Nation

Like I know how to run a nation. As usual, more or less thinking out loud, given the insanity that is current politics. Seem there are a few obvious points:

  • To have a nation in the first place, the people in it must recognize some overarching interests they hold in common with everyone else in the nation.

Overarching in the sense that this common interest can be used to settle the inevitable disputes. Or, put the other way around, when there is no recognized interest that can be appealed to that everyone agrees is more important than the dispute to be settled, you don’t have a nation, or soon won’t. The obvious case would be the Civil War: the appeal to national unity itself was not enough, and this appeal was only made when appeals to God and His Justice had failed. Much of the South was willing to risk the judgement of God on slavery, and saw national unity as something already defeated as an overarching interest in the Revolution and the Declaration of Independence.

Not for one moment am I denying how messy and full of passion, intrigue and deceit the run up to the Civil War was, but, even given all that, division became inevitable once the appeal to unity, which is an appeal to shared interests, lost its power.

I am here following my understanding of Orestes Brownson. That shared interest, or set of interests, is what is meant by a commonwealth or republic. In a nation that long survives, the Pilgrim’s feet, patriot dreams and alabaster cities count much more than the amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties – the shared history, goals and dreams much more than the shared physical place.

You can run an empire in which group A has nothing in common with group B, and so on, but an empire isn’t a nation. To run an empire, you must first realize that that’s what you’ve got: a collection of peoples, perhaps of nations, who would not be united except by the empire imposed on them. Empires have often, all things considered, been pretty acceptable arrangements for the people in them. But an empire is not a nation, and must be imposed. A nation must be formed by the people in it.

  • Some assumptions and ideas support a nation, while others destroy it. No nation can long exist unless the first dominate or eliminate the second.

Loyalty, patriotism, and a sense that everyone has a duty to obey the law are some ideas that can support a nation. Their opposites – treason, the idea one is a citizen of the world before a citizen of his nation or that citizenship is to be despised, and the rejection of the idea breaking the law is a serious matter with serious consequences – these work for a nation’s destruction.

The Protestant Christianity that was assumed by the American founders and patriots is empirically able to support a nation, at least for a while. The nation itself, at least according to Brownson’s argument, came into being once the colonists recognized that they shared both overarching interests in freedom and self-determination, as well as a contiguous territory, language, and history. They shared a vision of a future as a nation, and a willingness to fight and die for that the nation might continue.

Of course, as many have pointed out, the seeds of destruction were there as well: radical individualism, tissue-thin Enlightenment assumptions about human nature, and slavery. Blank slates call for someone to write on them – the line of volunteers has gotten long. And how can it be said an individual who is nothing but a void to be filled has inalienable rights? Squaring slavery with Protestantism was difficult, to say the least, and should have been far more difficult. These threads, and the battles fought over them, are playing out today.

  • Nations, if the term means anything, have the right and duty to reinforce those ideas and assumptions that are needed for its survival.

A nation shoots its traitors, deports those who express hatred for it, and brings the force of the law down hard on scofflaws. Of course, a nation should not pass laws that are unlikely to be obeyed or it is unwilling or unable to enforce. Machiavelli observed that a wise prince never gives an order unless he knows it will be obeyed, lest he come to be held in contempt by the people. Similarly, when a nation passes Prohibition or refuses to enforce its immigration laws, not just drink and illegal aliens are at issue, bit the very duty to obey *any* law.

bogatyrs
Soviet Nationalism. Um, sure?
  • If taken seriously, Marxist internationalism is an idea a nation has a right and duty to suppress.

No nation can tolerate a movement whose goal is the destruction of the nation. Most attention, it seems to me, is focused on the real-world outcomes of Marxism – totalitarianism, economic collapse, mass murder – but, even apart from the historical record, a nation must criminalize efforts to destroy it. That is the very definition of treason.

Yet this is all but the official position, and is taught in virtually all classrooms, in virtually all universities in America today.

  • There is no formal nation without borders.

It is not just a question of physical borders, although they are indispensable. It is also a question of citizens’ duty to protect the commonwealth. Reject the commonwealth, reject the nation. People can be physically in the nation without supporting the commonwealth of shared history, goals and dreams and the assumptions that underlie and support them. If you look at traditional steps naturalized citizens go through, you see the care given to inculcating these immaterial things as a condition for citizenship. Physical presence was not enough.

Back in the latter half of the 19th and first part of the 20th century, a significant number of bomb-throwing anarchists, mostly Germans, it seems, made it to America. Whether or not they committed any other crimes, the mere fact that they rejected the idea of our nation, or nations in general, made them invaders, not immigrants.

I didn’t watch the debates, as they have never been more than political theater, just a bunch politicians jockeying to unload their soundbites, for my entire adult life. But having read a little about what’s going down, it seems we’re in for a bumpy ride.

Links & Thoughts: Being Nice, Care, Membership vs Achievement

A. Was talking with a 6 year old of my acquaintance, nice little boy. He was telling me that he gets to go to first grade next year, because he was nice and followed the rules. He said almost all the kids in his class get to go to first grade, there was only one boy who was in doubt, because he was always in time out because he talked. I opined that it was pretty normal to want to talk when you’re with your friends, but my young friend said this boy talked all the time and almost never even raised his hand.

No mention of learning anything, except that the price of advancement is being nice and doing what you are told. The young woman who taught at our school (she quit – another victim of the gender fascists discussed here earlier) was in the room. Sotto voce, I asked: how subversive should I get? She seemed to be for it, but I, thinking of this boy’s immigrant single mom, decided not to sow discontent too directly.

His 8 year old brother showed up. He showed me a set of paper strips whereupon were written compliments from his classmates. These included ‘funny,’ ‘generous,’ ‘kind,’ ‘friendly,’ and so on – I half expected ‘punctual,’ as these comments didn’t seem like the kinds of things the 2nd graders I’ve known would come up with on their own. He gets to go to 3rd grade. He is a very nice boy, too.

Once in a while, these kids will tell me about something they’ve learned, all excited about reading hard words or being able to figure out some math. I wonder how much of their school experience is really about learning basics. It seems all but completely about learning to be nice and follow orders.

On a more subtle and damaging level, any sense of real achievement is subverted into awards for mere conformity. Real achievement allows a child to develop a healthy sense of independence, a notion that he, himself, can do worthy things that are not merely plays for somebody else’s approval. (1) Our schools systematically defeat this, by rewarding compliance and compelling empty compliments. It’s telling that one side of the political spectrum went so far as to make ‘you didn’t build that’ a sort of mantra and litmus test. The very idea of achievement is seen as a bad thing. As people of low or no achievement, they hate and fear precisely the independence their opponents admire and hold up as an ideal.

This process of rewarding compliance while defeating any sense of real achievement is an implementation of Fichte’s goal of reassigning a child’s natural loyalties to the state, based on his claim that what a child wants more than anything is the approval of his father. Fichte stated this desire can easily be redirected into seeking the approval of a (state certified) teacher. The goal, according to Fichte, is to destroy family and paternal loyalty and replace it with loyalty to the state (for the child’s own good, of course).

B. These two items over at Rotten Chestnuts are worth a read: The Man of the Hour and Haidt’s “Righteous Mind”. The first opens:

Academics, of course, are all in on “social” explanations of historical phenomena.  Being weak, ineffective people themselves, with no experience of life, the very idea of a Caesar frightens and repels them… so they construct theories of History in which it is impossible for a Caesar to exist.  On this view, “social forces” (what they used to call “the relations of the means of production”) tore the Roman Republic apart; the Empire was its inevitable next stage.  Assign whatever name you like to the Imperator — whether Caesar, Marius, Sulla, or Miles Gloriosus, he’s just the temporary face of the vast, impersonal social forces that control our fate.  None of this “History is just the biographies of great men” for them!

Academics as the type specimens of the “Kool Kids Klub membership is the only achievement” crowd. In connection with Great Men, Severian observes something that should be obvious: any culture recognizable as a culture over many generations produces people who are motivated and equipped to

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image.jpeg
Rome produced him on purpose.

continue that culture. This should be a night follows day level truism. He gives Julius Caesar as an example, who as a 15 year old kid was sent on family diplomatic missions, given command of family guards, and took it upon himself to hunt down and execute some pirates who had kidnapped him and held him for ransom. While Julius was likely more talented than the run of the mill scion of a Roman patriarch, his training was typical. A teenage boy is hankering for some responsibility. The Romans, even if they may seem to us to have gone a bit far, gave such responsibility to their sons as befitted the keepers of a Republic (or an Empire, as needs may be).

Image result for pride parade
Our schools produce these folks on purpose as well.

The second, regarding Jonathan Haidt’s book asserting politics is a function of morality, where he talks about classifying liberal and conservative, left and right, whatever, using 5 categories – care, fairness, authority, loyalty, and purity. (Note: that’s stretching the idea of morality past the breaking point, at least, as understood in the West for the last 1,000 years, but whatever.) Severian points out how Haidt’s analysis is exactly opposite of reality:

Start from the top.  Care?  Liberals very ostentatiously don’t give a shit if their policies actually help or not.  How’s gay marriage going, for instance?  Anyone bother to follow up on that?  Did that loving gay couple ever get those hospital visitation rights that we were told, in story after heart-wrenching story, was the whole reason for gay marriage in the first place?  As I’ve pointed out before, you’d think the Left would at least be doing some victory laps at this point — “haha silly wingnutz, you said the sky would fall if the gays got married, and look!”  But…. nope.  Obergefell might as well have happened in the 17th century, for all the Left cares about it now.  Ditto the Great Society, the War on Poverty, Head Start, and all the other great Liberal crusades of the past 50 years.  They very obviously did the opposite of what they were supposed to, but if Liberals bother to think about them at all — which they only do if you hold their feet to the fire — they just mutter “needs more funding” and change the subject.

Again, we have the dichotomy whereby, on the one hand, people who value achievement (and, therefore, more likely than not, have achieved stuff) tend to strongly care about if and how a proposal is supposed to work, meaning, among other things, they’ve had to wrestle with what ‘work’ means. On the other hand, there are the people I’m always going on about, for whom membership is the only achievement. They care only about signaling they are in the club, and seem truly baffled when people like me keep asking how a proposal is supposed to work, and, indeed, what work means.

My favorite example: when Obamacare was first on the table, I kept hearing wildly ridiculous claims, such as the profits of the drug and healthcare companies would cover the additional costs, and the implicit idea that ‘health care’ is like pork bellies or soy futures – completely fungible, so that the cost of healthcare in, say, Brazil, whatever that means, is somehow relevant to what we call healthcare here in America.

So I did a little research and crunched some numbers. Um, no. It was painfully clear that Obamacare supporters cared only about supporting Obamacare, as in no way was better, cheaper healthcare going to result from it, as events have since demonstrated. But to even go in the direction of considering likely results is a no-no, you hater, you.

  1. It should not need to be said that individual success and the healthy independence it engenders do not exclude appreciation the contributions of others nor make one antisocial. On the contrary, it seems more common for one to both achieve nothing and fail to be grateful. It’s difficult for ingrates to be sociable.

The Epistemic Closure of the Left pt 2: Method, Goals

Continued from part 1, Definitions, Origins.

Method

Just as the compulsory, state-run, graded classroom model, with the weight of government funding and enforcement behind it, eventually crushed all competing models, the research university crushed or assimilated all those classic liberal arts colleges. The complete conquest of k-12 took until the 1960s; post secondary education didn’t completely fall until the 1990s, it seems. True liberal arts colleges, and those few primary schools that don’t use the graded classroom model, are like those isolated Japanese soldiers who, holed up on their islands, refuse to admit the war is over. The goal – the creation of a docile and obedient population loyal only to the state through the destruction of the home, family, village and church – are the same as those of Fichte’s primary and secondary schooling.

How did this happen? Pournelle’s Iron Law states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Dr. Pournelle, who worked for and with any number of bureaucracies in his lifetime, concludes:

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

A moment’s reflection should convince anyone who has any experience with bureaucracies, or even with people in general, of the truth of the Iron Law. In colleges, professors dedicated to their field will gladly let others take care of what at first looks like routine administrative matters. These routine administrative matters include, or will soon come to include, screening applicants for teaching positions. Say three professors in the English Department volunteer to work with the administration’s hiring department to do the initial screening of all applicants. The professors who want nothing more than a chance to share their love of Milton or Melville and beat a little grammar into thick undergrad skulls will gladly let them do it. At first, the three profs may get to hire their guy once in a while, or screen out somebody who they find objectionable – the guy who laughed at deconstructionism, or thought that, no, really, Shakespeare is the greatest writer in English. Over time, and by winning all the close decisions, only professors who are kindred spirits will get hired. Eventually, the department will speak with one voice – the voice of those eager to advance their power in the organization.

By patient application of subtle or not so subtle bias and pressure over a long enough time, the professors in any university will eventually include only those the bureaucracy finds amenable. This is not an accident, nor something that might or might not happen. Given a large enough bureaucracy, take over by the career bureaucrats is inevitable. They will then “make the rules, and control promotions within the organization.”

Given that those dedicated to the bureaucracy are now in control, how did we end up with this particular Marxist epistemic closure, where our young are taught to think moronically stupid, self-refuting ideas like ‘everything is a social construct’ are the apex of intellectual achievement? As discussed at length on this blog, modern compulsory graded classroom schooling is a mechanism for producing docile, conforming people incapable, as Fichte put it, of thinking anything their teachers don’t want them to think. I concluded part 1 by observing that this mechanism can be used by whoever controls its application – by whoever controls the organization’s bureaucracy. In other words, while Fichte may have wanted the products of his schools to think one way and conform to one norm, there’s nothing in the system itself that prevents it from being used by others to enforce another set of thoughts or cause conformity to some other norm.

Here’s where a distinction needs to be made. We’ll start with something Goebbels said: Give me a Red (a communist) and I can turn him into a Brown (a Nazi) in 10 days. I have no doubt that an evil genius Marxist, parallel to Goebbels, could make the same claim in reverse. The mindset is the important thing, a sort of container that determines the shape of acceptable thoughts and actions while being able to hold different content, depending on the desires of those in control. (1)

The mechanism here works independently of any particular ideology. Fichte had in mind creating a Greater Germany of sorts, purified of foreign influences, that could take its place as leader of the world (nothing scary about that, right?). Mann, who along with Barnard became the early American champions of compulsory state schooling after having visited Prussia and seen it at work, seemed at first to want to get those stubborn New England farmers to be more reasonable (they didn’t seem to like working long hours at the new factories owned by him and his friends – go figure). Later, he seemed more inspired by the goal of making good Protestant Americans out of the unwashed Irish Papist immigrants. (He got a lot more support from the farmers for this second goal than for the first). That goal – Americanizing (Catholic & Jewish) immigrants (into good solid Protestants, after the manner of the Prussian Lutherans under Fichte and von Humboldt) – sustained the movement through the end of the 19th century.

In the 1890s, William Torrey Harris reimagined the goal to be good solid Hegelians, which is not so different on one level, as Hegel always considered himself a devout Lutheran. The critical distinction: Hegelians reject logic in favor of enlightenment, a direct infusion of knowledge into the soul. The Spirit is unfolding itself through History, after all, and cannot be limited by human reason. I suspect the distinction between Hegelianism and more traditional Lutheranism (and, by effortless extension, Protestantism in general) would have been lost on most all of Harris’s audiences, aided greatly by Hegel’s impenetrable prose, especially as deployed by a third-rate Hegelian like Harris.(2)

And so on – we’ll get to the details in a moment. Here, I merely want to call attention to how the goals of compulsory state schooling changed more or less dramatically over time, yet caused hardly a ripple of discontent among advocates. What really mattered was that the good, smart, forward-looking people get to control the unwashed masses. Mann, anticipating C. S. Lewis with a sort of Protestant Mere Christianity, thought all would be well if the many could set aside their differences and accept the sort of non-sectarian Protestantism shared by him and his upper class buddies.(3) I contend that the general desire of the well off and their courtiers was to control the masses; the details were not all that important, so long as those smelly poorer people were under control.

Goals

After the Great War and the Russian Revolution, and exacerbated mightily by the Great Depression a dozen years later, the idea that society and specifically the economy needed to be managed by the smart people came to be taken for granted by virtually all educated people, who, of course, assumed they were the smart people who would be doing the management. In such an atmosphere, Marxism and Fascism were seen as forward-looking models of state control, for the presumed benefit of the working classes.

On a more practical level, as recounted by Bella Dodd in her autobiography The School of Darkness, Soviet agents and their useful idiots began to recruit from and then infiltrate the schools. They did this by becoming, whenever possible, the bureaucracy of various teachers unions. Dodd, herself a teacher and then college professor, rose to the head of the New York City Teachers’ Union, where she then furthered the careers of like-minded individuals – that whole “write the rules, and control promotions” thing the Iron Law talks about.

Dodd states that 1940 -1942, when the State of New York got around to investigating Communist influence in their schools (the Rapp-Coudert Committee), the Communists were able to use misdirection to confuse the public, labelling the state’s efforts to root out Communist teachers as an attack on public schools in general. They also launched attacks on the politicians behind the investigation, using their well-organized activists to campaign against them. Sound familiar?

Communist teachers were coached on how to avoid being found out; those with too public track records of being Communists were sacrificed. Dodd estimated that 40-50 Communist teachers and professors were found out, leaving about 1,000 in place, to continue the work of remaking the New York schools in their image. Similar situations prevailed in numerous other state teachers unions.

Another thread: In 1923, the Frankfurt School, associated with Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany, was founded with the purpose of promoting Marxist social analysis in academia, commonly known as Critical Theory. In 1933, the Nazis shut it down; it moved to America and found a home at Columbia University.

In the fashion ubiquitous to Marxists, critical theorists practice a sort of philosophical pettifoggery, drafting all sorts of extraneous and peripheral ideas in supposed support of what are, essentially, a couple Marxist dogmas. It is not at all important that you learn what Hegel, Husserl or Heidegger said, merely that you can identify them as the Three Hs of Critical Theory. Marx, Lenin and Gramsci, in addition to not sharing a first letter, might make what you’re up to too transparent. All three of the Hs are legendarily obtuse (“It just is nothing foreign to consciousness at all that could present itself to consciousness through the mediation of phenomena different from the liking itself; to like is intrinsically to be conscious.” – 1st Husserl quote that came up on Google) and are the models and apex of that academic approach/pathology whereby mere obscurantism is presented both as the height of erudition and an impenetrable barbican against all criticism. How can one criticize what one doesn’t understand? For these reasons, incomprehensibility becomes a prime goal of Marxist academics.

In Sinclair’s notes to the Inferno, he comments on a scene in hell Dante draws from life – the preening of the condottieri, I think, but I’m not looking it up – by quoting a contemporary commentator: “Everyone has seen it.” I’m going the same route here: dip a toe into college life anytime in the last 30 years, and what you’ll meet, predominantly, are professors and their sycophants, some true believers and many useful idiots, the thinnest skinned, least happy people you’ll ever find, smirkingly sure of their superiority and hair-trigger brutal in their reactions to any challenge to it. They are the desired fruit of Critical Theory, incapable of thinking anything their teachers don’t want them to think. All that bluster and rage are there to ensure no evil thoughts get through. Epistemic closure has been achieved.

Marxist social analysis consists, for all practical purposes, of applying to all situations the dogma: all evil in the world is caused by oppression. Since this is manifestly contradicted at every turn (4), Marxists further promulgate the dogma that everything is a social construct. This latter dogma is a more pretentious rephrasing of the classic propaganda line “the individual is nothing, the collective is everything.” In turn, this rephrasing is itself a rephrasing of Marx’s famous, if poorly articulated (hey, the dude admired Hegel) claim that class determines consciousness.

How this works is trivial: merely by offering evidence and using logic, I reveal my class consciousness, and have identified myself as not a member of the tribe. As such, my claims, ideas and arguments are summarily dismissed and I am conclusively presumed to be unenlightened at best and an evil racist Nazi Fascist at worst. If I offer evidence and reasons why I’m not an evil racist Nazi Fascist – oops! I’ve simply reconfirmed the original judgement.

On a more general level, for example, a black man who murders a policeman is not only not a murderer, he’s not even violent, by definition. He is a member of an oppressed group, therefore the violence is being done *to* him, so that his actions are not themselves violent, but are the violence of the oppressing group expressing itself downstream, as it were. And so on, for all actions everywhere. All evil is the result of oppression. The oppressed as such cannot do violence. Anything that appears to contradict this is a social construct of the oppressors.

The final dogma, Gramsci’s contribution to the cause: All social structures are tools of the oppressors created and enforced to maintain their hegemony. Family, marriage, chuch, village, “gender,” corporations – etc. are not activities or characteristics of individuals but rather tools of oppression. Therefore, the only thing that can be done to improve the world is to promote the destruction of all social structures. Trying to encourage people to be better, let alone trying to improve yourself, is delusional. The individual is nothing.

The pretzel logic that results from any attempt to apply these dogmas, known as intersectional theory, means pretty much everyone is both an oppressor and a victim of oppression. A black man is oppressed by whites by virtue of being black but oppresses women because he’s a man. A well-off Asian lesbian oppresses the poor but is herself oppressed by men and non-Asians, and is a bigot if she refuses to have sex with a transgender man who claims he’s a lesbian. And so on, to whatever degree of spaghetti reasoning you care to take it. This results in such amusing sights as people simultaneously performing ritual self-shaming while claiming exalted victim status. With a glorious tear in their eye, of course.

All this activity is cloaked in spectacularly Orwellian euphemisms, of course. Since all simple direct speech, like all simple direct experience, puts these idiotic dogmas to the lie, we end up calling mindless conformity “critical thinking”; totalitarian power grabs by tiny minorities “democratic action”; fascist brutality “antifa”; using people’s misery to manipulate them “fighting for social justice.” Slavery is freedom, ignorance is knowledge, and war is peace. All brutality, misery, abuse and manipulation can be described in preformulated happy language that allows the speaker to avoid coming to grips with what he is doing. Allows them to keep at bay the cognitive dissonance which this epistemic closure generates on contact with reality, in other words.

Final historical note: as related by Menand in The Metaphysical Club, another key piece was put in place in the 1930s: the concept of academic freedom was elevated to the level of essential truth. The problem academic freedom was meant to address was that the people paying the bills, the poor rubes, imagined they might have a say over who got to be a professor and what the colleges taught. Professors who caused public scandal, such as Charles Sanders Peirce, were unemployable due to the pressure brought by parents and benefactors and the administrations that had to answer to them. The then-modern approach to psychology, with its dogmas of sexual repression and the sexualization of childhood, got some push-back in the same way.

Solution? Assert as a dogma that only those expert in a field are fit to criticize those who share their field. No non-expert understands enough of what is going on to offer valid criticisms. A corollary, unspoken as far as I am aware, is that the behaviours of such enlightened folks were also off-limits. Thus, somebody like me, for example, who is simply well read and intelligent, is disqualified from pointing out the Emperor’s nakedness (5).

Combine the two main points here, and you get: those who work for the bureaucracy make the rules and govern promotions AND everyone outside their little club is presumptively disqualified from offering any criticism. The faculty is homogenized; non-faculty disallowed from all discussion. The appearance of educated consensus is presented, cowing the ignorant children we send to college and helping the miseducated slavish conformists selected by the bureaucracy as ‘scholars’ to preen in their stolen glory.

The goal of the Frankfurt School and the Soviet agents and their teams of useful idiots was to commandeer the educational system in America and redirect it toward creating Marxist epistemic closure (getting ‘woke’) in all children and young adults. This goal has been all but achieved – what remains are efforts to eliminate all private schools. Google “ban private schools” to see how that’s going. Check out who backs such efforts.

All this takeover of the schools is a step in the ultimate goal of destroying all current social structures, so that the End Times will arrive, bringing with them a new heaven and a new earth, people by new Soviet men, living in a Worker’s Paradise. The best part is that this results from proper consciousness, so that the individual – who is nothing, remember – needn’t actually build the new superstructures. They just happen. All the individual need do is cooperate with other woke people in the destruction of the current society.

Notes to part II

  1. It’s also true that the feud between Marxists and Fascists is blood feud, a sibling rivalry, so moving from one to the other isn’t all that much of a move. Both are obsessed with purity, blame everything on a largely fictionalized set of oppressors, don’t believe in God (and, boy, do they hate Him!). The people in the oppressor class are largely the same individuals, it’s only a question of what order one puts the nouns: e.g., do you hate the Jews because they’re capitalists, or hate the capitalists because they’re Jews? Then, you pick a goal: class or nation? In practice, they’re almost the same thing: the Internationale was Russia in all but rhetoric.
  2. I can well imagine a future teacher or solid citizen, after hearing one of Harris’s lectures, innocently asking: “So, your plan is to make children into good solid Protestants, right?” and Harris answering with equal innocence: “Sure!”
  3. This, coming on the heels of the first few decades of the 19th century, a period where, for example, Methodists were sure Presbyterians were damned to Hell, and visa versa. (Spoiler: they got over it.)
  4. Freire says that a worker who beats his wife is not, himself, guilty of oppression or even violence, since he only beats his wife because he is oppressed – the real violence is being done by the Capitalists and their stooges. This presents a dilemma Freire doesn’t address: if Worker Juan beats his wife because he’s oppressed, what causes his equally oppressed neighbor Worker Pao not to beat his, but to bring her flowers? A non-Marxist might conclude there’s some personal culpability or virtue involved in this difference, the possibility of which is categorically denied by Marxists. The individual is nothing, the collective everything, after all.
  5. In the words of Katharine Hepburn: so few people look good naked.

Book Review: William Torrey Harris – The Philosophy of Education, Lecure IV

Continuing this review. Lecture I review here, Lecture II here, Lecture III here. Going into more detail than usually is possible, including just pasting the the entire lecture below, because of Harris’s importance in advancing compulsory state schooling, and the lectures are short enough to admit of it.

One more after this one. Another lecture written as one run-on paragraph. This one, more than the previous, appears to be just an outline or notes. I’d assume there was a lively discussion period afterwards?

LECTURE IV. January 25th, 1893. ROUSSEAU AND THE RETURN TO NATURE. REVOLUTIONARY PROTEST. (found here.)

The time of Louis XIV: the nobles attracted to Court and to a life of gayety, neglecting their estates and wasting the fruits of toil in riotous living ; the laborers deprived of the advantage of the directive power of the nobility fail in power of production. The French Revolution is the result. Rousseau its prophet ; he proclaims a return to nature. “Nature,” a word of ambiguous meaning; human nature versus physical nature; human history the revelation of man’s nature; it is realized in institutions and not by man as an isolated individual. Nature in time and space is under the dominion of necessity, everything constrained to be what it is by outside forces. Human nature is an ideal, and when realized it has the form of freedom and self-determination, each man a law unto himself and each one engaged in helping every other one, for by this each one helps himself. Rousseau appealed to nature in everything. What we call civilization was to him a mere artificial form. His plea was to be natural, come back to the point where nature leaves you. Rousseau came from Switzerland to France, and at an opportune time for him ; for there was a great ferment of ideas at this epoch. He was struggling along in Paris, barely securing a livelihood, when there came the offer from the Academy of Dijon of a prize for an essay on the progress of the arts and sciences, whether it has tended towards the purification of morals and manners. The negative side suggested itself more forcibly to him, as he was better fitted for it by his mode of living and morals, and by his literary style, and he found himself at once a “censor of civilization.” This essay was soon followed (1752) by one on the origin of the inequality among men. The great tension produced by the artificiality of the civilization of the Court life of the time had caused men to become anxious to get back to a simplicity of living, and Chateau briand painted the charms of the forest life of the Indians. In this reaction the meaning of civilization is ignored. Man emancipates himself from drudgery and compels nature by the forces of his intellect to feed and clothe him. The “Social Contract” followed (1762) this with an attack on the authority of the State; and in the same year his Emile undermined the School and the Church : and so he attacked all the social institutions one after another the family, civil society, the Church and State. He proposed to sweep all away by summoning them before the bar of his individual judgment and condemning all. In the opening paragraph of his Emile he declares that everything which comes from nature is good, while everything degenerates in the hands of man. The antithesis of civilization is savagery, and Voltaire wittily exposed the fallacy of Rousseau’s teaching in his letter accepting the book. He said “never has anyone employed so much genius to make us into beasts. When one reads your book he is seized at once with a desire to go down on all fours.” External authority is a perennial necessity for man in his immaturity. An appeal to nature is always a piece of jugglery with words. In mere nature we have matter and force. Everything inorganic is made by some external influence. But organic nature is the opposite of inorganic. The plant has the power of assimilation, and the animal the further powers of locomotion and feeling, or ability to select or choose its surroundings. In man this is still further increased by recollection and memory, by which the mind makes over its impressions. To do his duty properly he must look to higher things, and in ethical ideas the human becomes transcendental. The moral man acts as though the sole being in the world is humanity. No natural instinct is admitted as having validity against the moral law. If we adopt the doctrines of material nature and yield to our feelings and impulses, we remain animals. But if we take nature in the sense of our ideal, divine possibility, and realize it by education, we attain to human nature properly so-called, which is not something given us without effort, but only the product of culture.

Harris is an Hegelian:

With Brockmeyer and other of the St. Louis Hegelians, he founded and edited the first philosophical periodical in America, the Journal of Speculative Philosophy (1867), editing it until 1893. It promoted the view that the entire unfolding was part of a universal plan, a working out of an eternal historical dialectic, as theorized by Hegel.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Torrey_Harris

It is said that Harris, as the United States Commissioner of Education, tried to make Hegelianism the official philosophy of American compulsory schooling. He only succeeded in making it, as dumbed down(!) by his incorrigible idiot child Marx, the *unofficial* philosophy of American schooling.

Now, the primary and defining belief of Hegelians is that they’re smarter and, most importantly, more enlightened than everybody else. They worship the power they lack but feel they deserve. Therefore, in their world, ignorant masses need (and deserve) to be lead into the glorious future by better people: “…the laborers deprived of the advantage of the directive power of the nobility fail in power of production. The French Revolution is the result.” Catch that? One might suspect that Harris is not entirely on board with America’s idealized egalitarianism. Also, I’m thinking there might be a few more tiny steps between indolent French counts and marquis neglecting to guide the farm hands and the Committee for Public Safety decapitating nuns. But hey, I’m not an Hegelian.

Following right on the heels of this vigorous & evidently double-jointed self back-patting (1) and not so subtle petulance about not being in charge is the idea of Progress: there’s this universal plan, see, under which the Spirit (2) reveals itself to itself inevitably through History. Through, of course, the ministration of enlightened Hegelians such as Harris, whose belief in the inevitability of Progress doesn’t seem to extend far enough to stay the hell out of imposing it on others.

Rousseau is a manifest idiot. Figures he’d be the prophet of the murderous idiocy of the French Revolution.

Now we get to the hardcore Hegelianism:

“Nature,” a word of ambiguous meaning; human nature versus physical nature; human history the revelation of man’s nature; it is realized in institutions and not by man as an isolated individual. Nature in time and space is under the dominion of necessity, everything constrained to be what it is by outside forces. Human nature is an ideal, and when realized it has the form of freedom and self-determination, each man a law unto himself and each one engaged in helping every other one, for by this each one helps himself.

Digression: Generally, the world, or ‘Nature,’ can be understood according to two general steps. The base level is either/or, as succinctly stated in the Law of Noncontradiction. The next level is both/and, and is perhaps best expressed in the Schoolmen’s advice: “Seldom affirm, never deny, always distinguish.” Using these two steps, one first establishes what is logically necessary and what is common experience, and moves from there to what might be (conditionally) true about the world. The Church, for example, has for centuries issued anathemas and proclaimed dogmas as a first step, then seemingly splits hairs when considering the application of those dogmas and anathemas. Science works the same way: the definitions and assumptions are necessarily dogmatic; data collection is always thoroughly hedged in by the assumptions and definitions; conclusions are always conditional. In both cases, we may yearn for more forceful and unconditioned conclusions, but the careful thinker is not likely to give us them.

Hegel strove for a third way: he wanted a dialectic within which everything is conditional – nothing ‘is, everything is ‘becoming’ – where violations of the Law of Noncontradiction were never resolved but rather suspended in the synthesis, where the currently unknowable workings of the Spirit create a new reality in its unfolding through time.

If this sounds like bafflegab, that’s because it is. It’s meant to fend off – summarily dismiss, really – the sort of careful dissection of questions which is the hallmark both of the Aristotelian/Thomist schools and science insofar as science works. (3) Hegel, and Marx much more so, are simply nonsensical. They contradict themselves in word and deed at every step. But since they know they’re right – what superior individual does not? – these contradictions must not be valid. Therefore, etc.

Here’s where Harris gets evil: “…human history the revelation of man’s nature; it is realized in institutions and not by man as an isolated individual.” Under the both/and approach, one would distinguish as follows: it is the inalienable dignity of men as individuals that gives any meaning to the institutions within which man finds himself; yet it is true that men are formed and most fully realized within these institutions: marriage, family, village, state and church. Under Harris’s formulation, one would focus all efforts on changing institutions (sound familiar?): change the institution – school, in Harris’s case – and thus change the individuals.

One of the things naive supporters of more centralized control over people – progressives, socialists, Marxists (but I repeat myself) – seem unable to imagine is that this control, once established, will not long remain in the hand of the avuncular and well-intentioned as they imagine the Bern to be, but will in short order end up in the hands of Pol Pot. That’s the lesson of small ‘h’ history; that’s why capital ‘H’ History seeks to ignore and rewrite it.

Another historical aside: throughout the history of philosophy, there have been camps promoting multiple truths that need not gibe, and those after the beloved Emerson Cod: “The truth ain’t like puppies, a bunch of them running around, you pick your favorite. One truth… and it has come a knockin’.”

Here, Harris is proposing that there’s a material world of complete determination, and a spiritual world where, once idealized human nature is realized, everyone will be perfect little saints. Not one world of matter and form, but two worlds where different truths prevail. Subtle, but important: rather than a man striving to be personally better as a creature comprising an inseparable and essential body and soul, Gnosticism has crept back from the dead: the body is evil, only the soul is good. Gnosticism has proven many times over the centuries to ba an idea tending inexorably toward misery.

We have thus arrived at a situation that should sound very current and familiar: we are to focus our attention on changing institutions, which, once conformed to the enlightened ideas of the elect, will produce perfect, happy little people. Remember, enlightenment means never having to listen, let alone explain yourself, to the unenlightened – they just won’t understand! (This also conveniently absolves the enlightened from having to personally behave themselves, since their personal behaviour has no effect by definition: Weinstein can rape away and Gore and AOC can jet around like rock stars, just so long as they mouth the right platitudes in favor of *institutional* change.)

After thankfully disposing of Rousseau – hey! Stopped clock got one right! – Harris turns back to his own naive mysticism:

External authority is a perennial necessity for man in his immaturity. An appeal to nature is always a piece of jugglery with words.

That he considers man immature is almost a tautology; that he considers appeals to human nature ‘jugglery’ is an appeal to more Hegelian and especially Marxist nonsense: while Hegel merely denies any permanence to our understanding of human nature – it’s unfolding along with the Spirit, and is always becoming, never being – Marx just flat out denies the existence of human nature: it’s a social construct, man.

He and his will be happy to provide the external authority needed by us immature people until the point at which we are mature: by definition, when we agree with Harris. Not quite fair: when we agree with Harris, we will be counted among the enlightened and allowed to indulge our tyrannical jones over the less enlightened and sit at the Kool Kids Table until the Spirit is done unfolding itself. Not kidding: Harris worked his whole adult life to make the schools the instrument of the Enlightened.

He succeeded.

To do his duty properly he must look to higher things, and in ethical ideas the human becomes transcendental. The moral man acts as though the sole being in the world is humanity. No natural instinct is admitted as having validity against the moral law. If we adopt the doctrines of material nature and yield to our feelings and impulses, we remain animals. But if we take nature in the sense of our ideal, divine possibility, and realize it by education, we attain to human nature properly so-called, which is not something given us without effort, but only the product of culture.

Ethical ideas are spiritual. Natural instincts are controlled by morality. Going with feels is to remain an animal. So far so good. “But if we take nature in the sense of our ideal, divine possibility,” This sounds sensible, out of context “… and realize it by education, we attain to human nature properly so-called, which is not something given us without effort, but only the product of culture. OK, so we yearn to fulfill our divine destiny, which can be realized through – school? We’ll school kids so that they will change the culture? To bring about the Hegelian Valhalla?

What could possibly go wrong?

One more lecture to go.

  1. How do they not pull a muscle?
  2. Hegel may not have invented the practice of renaming old ideas in order to sound smart and hip, but he certainly advanced the art: here, anybody else would say ‘God’, but that turf had already been worked over pretty good by the Salvation History folks, most prominently Augustine. In contrast to Hegel’s Spirit unfolding and coming to know itself History, Salvation History posits, on the one hand, a God Who reveals Himself to us over time and on the other a lamentably realistic view of secular history as one long tragic train of failure punctuated every now and then by a passing victory, until, in the end, we all lose – and then Jesus comes! Hegel wanted God embedded, as it were, with the forward troops in a long march to Victory! Marx’s eschatology, all but indistinguishable in outline from traditional Christian eschatology
    excepting that that God person has been renamed History, reflects this persistence.
  3. The irony here: Hegel, writing in the early 19th century, assumes Progress is so completely obvious that his task is to explain the origins and workings of that Progress. In doing so, he dismisses scientists, mathematicians, and technologists as the little people, those who need to use logic and reason as traditionally understood – not *real* philosophers like Hegel, who have transcended all such crutches. Problem: the only really obvious progress has been made by precisely those scientists, mathematicians and technologist Hegel dismisses. Everything else we might want to call progress is highly debatable, to say the least. He saws off the branch he’s sitting on.