Archive for February, 2013

Harsh, but true

This argument is both empirically and rationally impeccable:

If you cooperate to kill and eat large animals, that is a lot more cooperation than if you live on fruit, nuts, and insects.

If you cooperate to make war and genocide, that is a lot more cooperation than if you cooperate to kill large animals.

Chimps and men kill and eat deer, monkeys and suchlike. Chimps and men make war. Therefore the common ancestor of chimps and men made killed and ate large animals, and made war – was a killer ape. The ancestors of men are that branch of the lineage that ate meat more heavily, the ancestors of chimps are that branch of the lineage that ate meat less heavily.

Cooperative killing is the killer application for intelligence.

February 28, 2013admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Uncategorized

The Living Faith

Comedy gem of the day, from Simon Jenkins, in the Guardian:

“You can fool a democracy only so long.”

February 28, 2013admin No Comments »
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Foseti writes:

There’s a lot of hand-wringing in these parts of the interwebz about what reactionaries should do.

I have no idea. I certainly have no grand plans to change the world. I like knowing what’s going on around me and I like open discussions – i.e. ones that are not choked to death by political correctness.

However, if I were to suggest a plan, I’d say tell the truth.

His (slightly) more detailed suggestions are also commendable. The Cathedral provokes reaction by mandating fantasy over reality, and there is no doubt much that could be done about that.

There is a sub-question about all this, however, which is scarcely less insistent: What do ‘we’ really want?

More cybernetics, argues the determinedly non-reactionary Aretae. Of course, Outside in agrees. Social and technical feedback machinery is reality’s (only?) friend, but what does the Cathedral care about any of that? It’s winning a war of religion. Compulsory anti-realism is the reigning spirit of the age.

The only way to get more tight-feedback under current conditions is by splitting, in every sense. That is the overwhelming practical imperative: Flee, break up, withdraw, and evade. Pursue every path of autonomization, fissional federalism, political disintegration, secession, exodus, and concealment. Route around the Cathedral’s educational, media, and financial apparatus in each and every way possible. Prep, go Galt, go crypto-digital, expatriate, retreat into the hills, go underground, seastead, build black markets, whatever works, but get the hell out.

Truth-telling already presupposes an escape from the empire of neo-puritan dreams. ‘We’ need to throw open the exit gates, wherever we find them, so the wreck can go under without us. Reaction begins with the proposition that nothing can or should be done to save it. Quit bailing. It’s done. The sooner it sinks the better, so that something else can begin.

More than anything we can say, practical exit is the crucial signal. The only pressure that matters comes from that. To find ways out, is to let the Outside in.

February 28, 2013admin 30 Comments »
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Big Bang — an appreciation

A few reasons to love the Big Bang:

— Time turns edgy again.

— The steady state model proved unsustainable — the most exquisite irony ever?

— Physical theories now have cosmic dates. For instance, the still-elusive unifying theory of quantum gravitation corresponds to the Planck Epoch, when the universe was still far smaller than an atomic nucleus, compelling gravity to operate at the quantum scale. Similarly, particle accelerator technology becomes deep time regression.

— The Planck Epoch is really wild: “During the Planck era, the Universe can be best described as a quantum foam of 10 dimensions containing Planck length sized black holes continuously being created and annihilated with no cause or effect. In other words, try not to think about this era in normal terms.”

— The void animates. Sten Odenwald quotes UCSB physicist Frank Wilczek: “The reason that there is something instead of nothing is that nothing is unstable”.

February 26, 2013admin 5 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Cosmos , Number , Templexity

What is Philosophy? (Part 1)

The agenda of Outside in is to cajole the new reaction into philosophical exertion. So what is philosophy? The crudest answer to this question is probably the most robust.

Philosophy is any culture’s pole of maximum abstraction, or intrinsically experimental intelligence, expressing the liberation of cognitive capabilities from immediate practical application, and their testing against ‘ultimate’ problems at the horizon of understanding. Historically, it is a distinctive cultural enterprise — and only later an institution — roughly 2,500 years old, and tightly entangled at its origin with the ‘mystical’ or problematic aspect of pagan religions. It was within this primordial matrix that it encountered its most basic and enduring challenge: the edge of time (its nature, limits, and ‘outside’, of which much more later). The earliest philosophers were cognitively self-disciplined — and thus, comparatively, socially unconstrained — pagan mystics, consistently enthralled by the enigma of time.

It is usually a mistake to get hung up on words, forgetting their function as sheer indices (‘names’) that simply mark things, before they richly describe them. Personal names typically have meanings, but it is rare to allow this to distract from their function as names, or pointers, which make more reference than sense. ‘Philosophy’ is no exception. That it ‘means’ the love of wisdom is an irrelevance compared to what it designates, which is something that was happening — before it had a name — in ancient Greece (and perhaps, by plausible extension, China, India, and even Egypt). What philosophy ‘is’ cannot be deduced via linguistic analysis, however subtle this may be.

Continue Reading

February 26, 2013admin 13 Comments »
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Next Stage of the Slide

As a prophet of the unfolding calamity, Angelo Codevilla has always been handicapped by his touching faith in ‘the people’. The ‘country class’ was already demonstrably unworthy of Goldwater in 1964. Things are far worse today.

As a guide to the next step in the crack-up, however, there are few better guides, and his latest ruminations on the disintegration of the American party system are highly convincing. The death of the Republican Party is a much-deserved necessary way-stage to pretty much anything, whatever one’s sense of the way. As always, the insightful commentary of Richard Fernandez on the topic is not to be missed.

Between even the sharpest conservative analysis, and anything that would pass muster amongst reactionaries, a daunting gulf yawns. As Codevilla muses in the new Forbes piece:

Representation is the distinguishing feature of democratic government. To be represented, to trust that one’s own identity and interests are secure and advocated in high places, is to be part of the polity. In practice, any democratic government’s claim to the obedience of citizens depends on the extent to which voters feel they are party to the polity. No one doubts that the absence, loss, or perversion of that function divides the polity sharply between rulers and ruled.

The confusion between legitimate republican government and political representation (‘democracy’) has been the disaster of modern history. Until this error is thoroughly purged from statecraft, reason will belong with kings.

ADDED: Sickness unto death

February 24, 2013admin 35 Comments »
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Shelter of the Pyramid

Moldbug’s ‘Royalism’ (or Carlylean reaction) rests upon the proposition that the Misesian catallactic order is, like Newtonian mechanics, true only as a special case within a more general system of principles.

He writes:

Here is the Carlylean roadmap for the Misesian goal. Spontaneous order, also known as freedom, is the highest level of a political pyramid of needs. These needs are: peace, security, law, and freedom. To advance order, always work for the next step – without skipping steps. In a state of war, advance toward peace; in a state of insecurity, advance toward security; in a state of security, advance toward law; in a state of law, advance toward freedom.

Alexander Hamilton (Federalist #8) pursues a closely related argument, in reverse:

Safety from external danger is the most powerful director of national conduct. Even the ardent love of liberty will, after a time, give way to its dictates. The violent destruction of life and property incident to war, the continual effort and alarm attendant on a state of continual danger, will compel nations the most attached to liberty to resort for their repose and security to institutions which have a tendency to destroy their civil and political rights. To be more safe, they at length become willing to run the risk of being less free.

This pyramidal schema is ‘neat’, but by no means unproblematic. Like any hierarchical structure operating within a complex, reflexive field, it invites strange loops which scramble its apparently coherent order. Even accepting, as realism dictates, that war exists at the most basic level of social possibility, so that military survival grounds all  ‘higher’ elaborations, can we be entirely confident that catallactic forces are neatly confined to the realm of pacific and sophisticated civilian intercourse? Does not this mode of analysis lead to exactly the opposite conclusion? Self-organizing networks are tough, and perhaps supremely tough.

There is nothing obvious or uncontroversial about the model of the market order as a fragile flower, blossoming late, and precariously, within a hot-house constructed upon very different principles. The pact is already catallactic, and who is to say — at least, without a prolonged fight — that it is subordinate, in principle, to a more primordial assertion of order. Subordination is complex, and conflicted, and although the Pyramid certainly has a case, the trial of reality is not easily predictable. An ultimate (or basic) fanged freedom is eminently thinkable.  (Isn’t that what the Second Amendment argument is about?)

February 24, 2013admin 7 Comments »
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Saving grace

“Mencius Moldbug has a typically shapeless piece on me [says Lawrence Auster] in which he pays me extravagant compliments which have precisely zero content. I defy anyone to say what Moldbug’s 2,600 word article means.”

Please let it not mean that Moldbug is on a journey to the cross.

February 22, 2013admin 28 Comments »
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February 22, 2013admin 8 Comments »
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The Odysseus Problem

Moldbug’s insistence that ‘Sovereignty is conserved’ surely counts as one of the most significant assertions in the history of political thought. It is arguably the fundamental axiom of his ‘system’, and its implications are almost inestimably profound.

Sovereignty is conserved says that anything that appears to bind sovereignty is itself in reality true sovereignty, binding something else, and something less. It is therefore a negative answer to the Odysseus Problem: Can Sovereignty bind itself? If Moldbug’s assertion is accepted, constitutional government is impossible, except as a futile aspiration, a ‘noble lie’, or a cynical joke.

In addition to Moldbug’s powerful arguments, we know from the work of Kurt Gödel that the Odysseus Problem is at least partially insoluble, since it is logically impossible for there to be a perfect knot. However well constructed a constitution might be, it cannot, in principle, seal itself reliably against the possibility of a surreptitious undoing. In a sufficiently complex (self-referential) constitutional order, there will always be permissible procedures whose consequences have not been completely anticipated, and whose consistency with the continuation of the system cannot be ensured in advance.

Yet it would be obviously misleading to assume that such concerns were not already active during the formulation of the American Constitution. It is precisely because some quite lucid comprehension of the Odysseus Problem was at work, that the founders envisaged the grounding principle of republican constitutionalism as a division of powers, whereby the component units of a disintegrated sovereignty bound each other. The animating system of incentives was not to rest upon a naive expectation of altruism or voluntary restraint, but upon a systematically integrated network of suspicion, formally installing the anti-monarchical impulse as an enduring, distributed function. If the republic was to work, it would be because the fear of  power in other hands permanently over-rode the greed for power in one’s own.

The American Constitution was, of course, destroyed, in successive waves. After Lincoln, and FDR, only a pitiful and derided shell remains. USG has unified itself, and the principle of sovereign power has been thoroughly re-legitimated in the court of popular opinion. Democracy rose as the republic fell, exposing yet again the essential political bond of the tyrant with the mob, Leviathan with the people.

Does this ruin refute the constitutional conjecture? Is there really nothing further to be said in defense of imperfect (but perhaps improvable) knots? This one came horribly undone. Might there be other, better ones? Outside in remains obstinately interested in the problem …

ADDED: Many relevant speculations and insights are to be found in this article on the practicalities of secession (especially section XI J, XII, XIII, and XIV). “Since it is important that the AFR [or proposed American Federal Republic] function as a constitutional republic, one of the first things it should do is to hold a constitutional convention. We anticipate that the resulting document will be similar to the present American constitution, but not identical.” It includes some (very modest) recommendations to curtail democracy.

February 21, 2013admin 9 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Neoreaction