Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Wallow-Drunk. — “I think ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are either zombie or capture algorithms when not tied narrowly to a system’s persistence optimization”, says some fellow [1], who, I would guess, believes he is being scientific or rational: it is always the image such men are after, however far it may drift from reality; and I would say that this man has ended up much closer to modern performance-art.
     It is amazing to think that it has taken only a few hundred years from relative calm to this kind of madness. Lately I have had in mind the role of romanticism: the intoxication with feelings, the beautiful-soulism, the individualism which bids a man to fancy that he can define reason and truth in line with his passions, and the irrationalism which has made a fatal pact with the image of reason, science, and progress. [2] But the roots of the madness go very deep, seen in the mechanical philosophy of the seventeenth century, seen in the nominalism of the late middle-ages, and then we look at Old Greece, and there it is again: some kind of intoxication, some desire for formlessness, some humanity-denying animality. It was such that Plato saw and set out to fight.
     Things are not repeated in quite the same way, but it seems that man, when he reaches a rank whereat his humanity is starkly reflected back at him, may, if wisdom has not reached the same rank, conceive a desire to sink into beasthood, as if the sight of what it is to be specifically human frightens him with its calling and responsibility. For that calling is the good life, the rational life, the examined life, and the responsibility is always to it, far away from a life of moral indolence and devil-may-care free-spiritedness. But what a ghastly thing to the man who wishes to cut loose in a spree of thrills and feelings! Better to be a wallowing swine than a striving man — or so the pig-philosophers teach. [3] 
     By this desire for sinking, however, I do not mean the longing for a simpler life. On the contrary: therein one can be fully human. Oddly it seems that man can use all the sophistication of his rational nature to try and thwart that very nature. In our advanced technology and in our complex, long-accumulated systems of thought, we are far better able to bestialise ourselves than were the Old Greeks.

[1] Hopefully Anonymous, comment of 16th December 2010, to TGGP, “Barack Obama as Rockefeller Republican?”, Entitled to an Opinion (weblog), 2nd December 2010. (Transhumanists, in denying their human nature, that is, in refusing to understand themselves as essentially rational animals, or as anything spiritual, but rather in mistaking themselves to be mechanically-determined, algorithmic genebots, or somesuch, are slipping from the human towards the merely animal, whilst pathetically dreaming of reaching the godly.)
[2] See Irving Babbitt, Rousseau and Romanticism (Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1919). Therein: “Man is in danger of being deprived of every last scrap and vestige of his humanity by this working together of romanticism and science. For man becomes human only in so far as he exercises moral choice.” p.262.
[3] For vain protestation against the accusation of pig-philosophy, see J.S. Mill, Utilitarianism (London: Parker, Son, & Bourn, 1863), above all, pp.11-14.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

So Little a Thing. — Latter-day men are loath, in many subtle ways, to acknowledge truth. [1] Take the little matter of bowing. Formerly men would set forth this little bodily token in acknowledging the truth of their standing. It is by the repetition of such tokens that truth is etched upon them. Yet nowadays they fancy that they are freer or of higher worth since they do not have to bow to their lords. Here today untruth runs through everything. It is called for everywhere. There is not a day that goes by wherein our so-called freemen do not demand to be hoodwinked or lied to. They hold their little tokens of truth-spurning pride to be of greater worth: let us seem to be as we wish to be, they cry, and do not make us acknowledge the world by body or by mind; tell us that we are all of the same rank, or even that we are lords, and our lords, our hirelings. Very well, say their managers: this is one demand at least for which we shall readily seek to uphold a plentiful supply. What untruth could be more soothing to the sore and freed envy of the masses? — an untruth and a bare-faced lie repeated, strengthened, and boastfully taken up as a hallowed truth by those whom it is meant to mislead!
     In keeping with the depersonalising of the world, latter-day men are loath to acknowledge the rightfulness of any person standing over them. [2] Only systems, procedures, and processes are allowed this higher standing. Bowing to a person is for them a token of unrightfulness; for they link this to higherness and lowerness amongst persons: why should one person be higher than another? Being crushed under the dead weight of systematic process, on the other hand, being far from equal to it, not knowing how to begin to match it, or even how to live through it as persons — all this does not seem to bother them so much, but, on the contrary, they take it as the onrush of justice after a long dark age.
     Since they will not acknowledge, or let stand, personal power over them, so they demand impersonal power — procedure and process — as the impartial judge of all things: a clockwork god. Yet, steeped in the sins of pride and envy, and drunk on utopian spirits, they do not reckon upon the outcome: that the impersonal power over them will not acknowledge them as persons. By its nature it cannot. It has neither the will nor the facility for such: only persons can acknowledge persons. But how ironic that the revolutionary struggle on the part of the masses for their acknowledgement as persons of equal worth in the state has driven the building of a state which cannot acknowledge them as persons at all! Now it must render them into fit objects for its operation. Hereby it looms to bring them justice after all, namely, having shaped them into unpersons so far as it is possible to do so, and having done so by the freeing and the encouraging of their base materiality, it threatens to do only what is fit for them: to treat them as such.
     That to which bowing is an acknowledgement would have spared them this downfall, this gross indignity against manfulness; indeed this undoing would never have stricken the bond in the first place, for that power called for persons on both sides, it called for true men, to which sadly the latter-day world is too weak and sickly to give birth in numbers.

[1] They are of course loath to acknowledge truth in greatly unsubtle ways too. Race, for instance, the denial of the stark reality of which is weird.
[2] The drive for depersonalisation has been noted for some time. Cf.: Max Stirner, Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum (Leipzig: Verlag von Otto Wigand, 1901 [1845]), p.112: “Was will das Bürgertum damit, daß es gegen jeden persönlichen, d. h. nicht in der ‘Sache’, der ‘Vernunft’ u.s.w. begründeten Befehl eifert? Es kämpft eben nur im Interesse der ‘Sache’ gegen die Herrschaft der ‘Personen’! . . . Das Bürgertum will einen unpersönlichen Herrscher.” [“What does the bourgeoisie want by inveighing against every personal command, that is, against every command not founded on ‘cause’, on ‘reason’, etc? It is simply fighting in the interest of the ‘cause’ against the rule of ‘persons’! . . . The bourgeoisie wants an impersonal ruler.”] See also: the works of Carl Schmitt, in particular “The Age of Neutralizations and Depoliticizations” (1929), appended to The Concept of the Political, tr. G. Schwab (London and Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2007); and latterly those of Alasdair MacIntyre, Paul Gottfried, Bruce G. Chalton, and James Kalb, amongst others.
The Rule of Gearwork. — No art or skill can ever be fulfilled to the utmost merely by the following of rules and mechanical procedures. An art or skill behoves judgement, practical wisdom, know-how, understanding, a feel for the never-to-be-repeated circumstances, and so forth. It is for this reason that liberalism is so life-clumsy, unwise, and soul-crushingly wretched: its managers and administrators — never statesmen of the old art, let alone kings or lords — are but stopgap-helpmeets of rules and mechanical procedures. If one of them brings his judgement or wisdom to bear, he thereby steps outside the field of what liberalism holds as strictly rightful: he steps into the human field wherein liberalism sees only whim and arbitrariness; he steps away from the hallowed rule of law towards the loathed rule of men. I say “stopgap”, for there has yet to be found a way to replace men wholly with technical process, although it is that to which liberalism tends by its misthought of rightfulness (no man to rule over another; same freedom for all; no privileges; and so forth), and hence it must brook the intervention of men into the bureau-technocratic process, it must brook this slight rule of men, this thin willfulness, this depressed exercise of human judgement, reason, and wisdom, so long as it is scattered across tens of thousands to lessen the personal aspect; but it does so with gritted teeth, as it were, and narrowed eyes. Every personal intervention into the management of human affairs is a sign that a process truly neutral to sundry human values, perfectly “fair” to all cases, indifferent to wilful turns, is not yet fulfilled, that the process still contains personal elements out of which personal interests can arise to upset the dispensing of the perfect “justice” of neutral indifference. Liberalism awaits the day when all men will be overthrown. Kings and athelings were merely the first.