Archive for the ‘History’ Category

Quote notes (#89)

Taken from the second chapter of Matt Ridley’s Genome (1999), a superb popularization of human genetics:

… the remarkable truth is that we [humans] come from a long line of failures. We are apes, a group that almost went extinct fifteen million years ago in competition with the better-designed monkeys. We are primates, a group of mammals that almost went extinct forty-five million years ago in competition with the better-designed rodents. We are synapsid tetrapods, a group of reptiles that almost went extinct 200 million years ago in competition with the better-designed dinosaurs. We are descended from limbed fishes, which almost went extinct 360 million years ago in competition with the better-designed ray-finned fishes. We are chordates, a phylum that survived the Cambrian era 500 million years ago by the skin of its teeth in competition with the brilliantly successful arthropods. Our ecological success came against humbling odds.

June 15, 2014admin 6 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Cosmos , History


Bryce Laliberte has been thinking about Capital Teleology, from the perspective of human technological augmentation. One significant feature of this approach is that it doesn’t require any kind of savage rupture from ‘humanistic’ traditionalism — the story of technology is unfolded within the history of man.

Coincidentally, Isegoria had tweeted about Butlerian Jihad a few hours before (referring back to this post from December last year). The implicit tension between these visions of techno-teleology merits sustained attention — which I’m unable to provide here and now.  What is easily offered is a quotation from Samuel Butler’s ‘Book of the Machines’ (the 23rd and 24th chapters of his novel Erewhon), a passage that might productively by pinned to the margin of Laliberte’s reflections, in order to induce productive cognitive friction. The topic is speculation upon the emergence of a higher realization of life and consciousness upon the earth, as explored by Butler’s fictional author:

The writer …  proceeded to inquire whether traces of the approach of such a new phase of life could be perceived at present; whether we could see any tenements preparing which might in a remote futurity be adapted for it; whether, in fact, the primordial cell of such a kind of life could be now detected upon earth. In the course of his work he answered this question in the affirmative and pointed to the higher machines.

“There is no security” — to quote his own words — “against the ultimate development of mechanical consciousness, in the fact of machines possessing little consciousness now. A mollusc has not much consciousness. Reflect upon the extraordinary advance which machines have made during the last few hundred years, and note how slowly the animal and vegetable kingdoms are advancing. The more highly organised machines are creatures not so much of yesterday, as of the last five minutes, so to speak, in comparison with past time. Assume for the sake of argument that conscious beings have existed for some twenty million years: see what strides machines have made in the last thousand! May not the world last twenty million years longer? If so, what will they not in the end become? Is it not safer to nip the mischief in the bud and to forbid them further progress?

“But who can say that the vapour engine has not a kind of consciousness? Where does consciousness begin, and where end? Who can draw the line? Who can draw any line? Is not everything interwoven with everything? Is not machinery linked with animal life in an infinite variety of ways? The shell of a hen’s egg is made of a delicate white ware and is a machine as much as an egg-cup is: the shell is a device for holding the egg, as much as the egg-cup for holding the shell: both are phases of the same function; the hen makes the shell in her inside, but it is pure pottery. She makes her nest outside of herself for convenience’ sake, but the nest is not more of a machine than the egg-shell is. A ‘machine’ is only a ‘device.’”

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June 4, 2014admin 19 Comments »
FILED UNDER :History , Technology

Race to the Bottom

As the foggiest two-thirds of ‘NRx’ continues its devolution into ENR-style ethno-socialism and activist voluntarism, it is inevitable that Europe’s populist ‘far right’ will increasingly be seized upon as a source of inspiration, and even as a model for emulation. This is, of course, an indication of degenerate insanity, and all the more to be expected on that account. On the positive side, the practical incompetence of ‘activist neoreaction’ will most probably spare it from the full measure of the embarrassment it is due. Nevertheless, whatever applause it offers to the vile antics of the European mob will not be soon forgotten.

It would be a distraction at this point to seek to distinguish the classical (Aristotelian) conception of action from the mire of modern political activism, or mass mobilization. That is the topic for another occasion. It suffices here to accept the integrated democratic understanding of popular activism for what it is, and to seek distance from it with unreserved disdain, under any convenient sign. If passivism makes this point, the suitability of the term is thereby ensured. The important thing is to make no contribution to the triumph of the mob and, secondarily, to draw no vicarious satisfaction from its advances.

To be as clear as possible: What the ‘far right’ advance in Continental Europe represents is a consummation of democratic morbidity. It is nothing at all like a restoration. At best, it is what ‘hitting bottom’ is to an alcoholic — the crisis at the end of a deteriorating trend, after which something else can begin. (The bottom, it has to be noted, is a very long way down.)

Bastille celebration


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June 3, 2014admin 108 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Discriminations , History , Neoreaction

Religious Clades

Peter A. Taylor relayed this magnificent cladogram of world religions:

d8ecc07e906127bf0fd4623504b7eca8 (Click on image to enlarge.)

If there’s such a thing as a comprehensive cultural map of the world, it’s woven on to something very like this. No opportunity to comment on it right now — but I’m confident it will spark some responses.

April 29, 2014admin 35 Comments »
FILED UNDER :History , Images , World

Scrap snaps (#2)

Photography is forbidden in the Dunhuang grottoes, and under the close supervision of the mandatory tour, this prohibition is strictly enforced. Photography is also forbidden in the adjacent Mogaoku Museum …

The spine of the museum consists of a row of (extremely impressive) cave reconstructions, sampled from among the 492 decorated caves at the site. (A two-hour tour of the site takes in perhaps 10.)

The following images are of reconstructions, not originals. The photographic quality is especially dire, given the unusual lighting conditions and cramped space. What I’m posting here is what I’ve got. (Click on images to expand.)

Cave 003:



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April 13, 2014admin 5 Comments »
FILED UNDER :History , Images