Against Universalism II
Preliminary throat-clearing (as in part one): In its most rigorous construction, ‘universalism’ is robust under conditions of rational argument (i.e. evidence-based logico-mathematical criticism). Mathematical theorems, in particular [sic], are universal truths. Any assertions that can be constructed to a comparable level of formal rigor (and ultimately mechanization) can lay claim to the same status. However, with the slightest departure from this — rigidly algorithmic — criterion, controversy rapidly begins. This is not the place and time to argue the case for transcendental philosophy (within which praxeology in included), but such a case could be made. Ditto strictly proceduralized empirical science. All of this is a digression.
The question of universalism as it concerns us here is not a matter of meta-mathematics, epistemology, or the philosophy of science. It is rather directed at the political scope of argument. Is it mandatory to demand that argument, according to the highest principles of (logical) cognitive compulsion, be imposed globally? Does the quality of argument — however exalted — require its unrestricted application across space and time? It is the affirmative response to this question that defines universalism in its ideological sense. Pure Jacobinism, of course, answers yes. There is a universal duty to compel submission to the truth. This is the secular form of evangelical salvationism.
The contrary suggestion, here defended, is that — under real global conditions — universalism is a catastrophic mistake. The social scope of rational discussion is itself strictly bounded, and attempts to extend it (coercively) beyond such limits are politically disastrous. Laissez-faire envelops the sphere of imperative rationality, and respects its practical contour. Stupidity does not need to be hunted down and exterminated. All historical evidence indicates that it cannot be.
If the universal triumph of reason is an impractical goal, democratic globalism is exposed as a preposterous error. Minimizing the voice of stupidity is the realistic — and already extremely challenging — alternative. Rare enclaves of rigorously self-critical realism have as their primary obligation the self-protection of their (evidently precarious) particularity. In the wider world, fanatical ignorance and grotesque cognitive malformation rage rampantly. Borders, filters, tests, and selection mechanisms of all kinds provide the only defenses against it.
The universalist (Jacobin) model is always a conversation. You have to join together first, simply to talk, and after that reason will prevail. That’s the path of the Zeitgeist — Hegelianism at its most arcane, expedient progressivism at more common levels of popularity — with its twin-stroke motor of aggressive proselytization and mass embrace.
“Invade the world, invite the world” is the Sailer formula (quasi-random link). Amalgamate, then elevate (in the direction of ascending rationality). This isn’t a (theoretically convincing) claim about the unique structure of mathematical proof, it’s a (factually trashed) claim about the global uniformity of human brains. The ‘universality’ it invokes is that of convergence upon the authority of reason. In other words, it’s a bizarre progressive myth that all self-protective sanity seeks to maximally distance itself from.
People learn, but only very rarely through sophisticated argument, or its ‘cunning‘ socio-political avatars. They learn because they fail badly, and it hurts. ‘Mankind’ is a progressive myth, incapable of learning anything. When real cultures learn, it is because they have been locked in intimate particularity, such that the consequences of their own cognitive processes impact intensely upon them. Anything that separates an individual, or a group, from the results of its own thoughts, is an apparatus of anti-learning. Progressive universalism is precisely this.
Dis-amalgamation — isolation — is the way to learn. It’s how speciation happens, long before learning becomes neurological. Individuation (at whatever scale) establishes the foundation for trade, communication, and intellectual exchange. Micro-states commercialize. Macro-states decay into political resource allocation, and entropic sludge. Protect your own patch if you want to have anything to talk about.
There’s going to be a lot of talk about ‘universalism’ rolling in:
Apparently it's a neocon evil to say that Western Civilization is based in universalism. Funny. I thought it was Jeffersonian.
— John Podhoretz (@jpodhoretz) April 27, 2016
It’s a suicidal ideology in its death-spasm phase, but it won’t die quietly.
Imperialism is the necessary logical consequence of universalism…
– Huntington pic.twitter.com/u4TWycpPeu
— Spatel (@Rjrasva) May 15, 2015
If the West could still do imperialism, that would be one thing, but it can’t (and can’t even stop doing the opposite).