From the moment of its inception, Outside in has been camped at the edge of the ‘reactosphere’ — and everything that occurs under the label ‘NRx’ is (at least nominally) its concern. As this territory has expanded, from a compact redoubt to sprawling tracts whose boundaries are lost beyond misty horizons, close and comprehensive scrutiny has become impractical. Instead, themes and trends emerge, absorbing and carrying mere incidents. Like climatic changes, or vague weather-systems, they suggest patterns of persistent and diffuse development.
Among these rumblings, the most indefinite, tentative, and unresolved tend to the aesthetic. Without settled criteria of evaluation, there is little obvious basis for productive collision. Instead, there are idiosyncratic statements of appreciation, expressed as such, or adamant judgments of affirmation or negation, surging forth, draped in the heraldic finery of the absolute, before collapsing back into the hollowness of their unsustainable pretensions. As things stand, when somebody posts a picture of some architectural treasure, or classical painting, remarking (or more commonly merely insinuating) “You should all esteem this,” there is no truly appropriate response but laughter. If there were not a profound problem exactly in this regard, NRx would not exist. Criteria are broken, strewn, and dispossessed, authoritative tradition is smashed, infected, or reduced to self-parody, the Muses raped and butchered. That’s where we are in the land of the dying sun.
An associated, insistent murmur concerns communicative lucidity. This is not solely a question of aesthetics, but in its quavering groundlessness, it behaves as one. It arises most typically as the assertion — initially unsupported and subsequently undeveloped — that clearly, ‘unnecessary obscurity’ should be condemned.
The culpability of this blog as a vortex of euphoric obscurantism can scarcely be doubted, so addressing the challenge approaches a duty. Setting aside, for the moment, the social and cryptographic aspects of the topic, as well as the specific critique of human cognition for its intolerance of real obscurity (comparatively articulate from my perspective, if obscure from others), this post will
directly pursue the question of language.
This question is first of all about trust. Even in this, initial regard, it is already difficult. As a complex tool, there are things it can do, and things it cannot do. Speaking approximately, and uncertainly, if it is directed towards those undertakings which have, over eons, exercised selective pressure upon it — meeting the social necessities of paleolithic human groups — then an assumption of its inherent trustworthiness is at least plausible. To extend such an assumption further is sheer recklessness. Nothing in linguistics supports the wild hypothesis that this code, developed piecemeal for primate social coordination, is necessarily adequate to modern cognitive challenges. Grammar is not sound epistemology. Mathematicians have abandoned ‘natural language’ entirely. To presume that language allows us to think is a leap of faith. Radical distrust is the more rigorous default.
To promote ‘clarity’ as an obvious ideal, needing no further justification, is a demand that language — as such — can be trusted, that it is competent for all reasonable communicative tasks, and ‘reason’ can be defined in a way that makes this assertion tautological (such a definition is eminently traditional). “I give you my word” language is not predisposed to deception — no thoughtful investigator has ever found themselves in concurrence with such a claim. Vocabularies are retardation, and grammar, when it is more than a game, is a lie. Language is good only for language games, and among these trust games are the most irredeemably stupid.
There is no general obligation to write in order to attack language, but that is what Xenosystems does, and will continue to do. Language in not a neutral conveyor of infinite communicative possibility, but an intelligence box. It is to be counted among the traps to be escaped. It is an Exit target — and exit is difficult.