Reaction Points (#4)

Amongst the ruins of Soleri’s dream

When intelligent design goes wrong

Why is natural law useful? (Some background: valuable, and indispensable.)

Kermit the Prog

The mainstream triangle

Reaction as an economic imperative: “The solution to solving the problem is quite simple for an economist. Merely reverse the process.” But that won’t happen, so it’s over.

Creation myths (played straight (?) here)

Soft Left Singularity (via)

April 18, 2013admin 18 Comments »
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18 Responses to this entry

  • nydwracu Says:

    I can’t defend the conclusions of anyone who’s talked about natural law before, but I think the definition matches up with Jim’s scientific definition in how it asks the question: given the desired output, what input do we have to put in?

    Natural law under my definition seems trivial, but it pretty much is; and the disagreements people have about it have to be there. If you solve natural law, you’ve solved most of politics.

    I thought I pulled it straight from Moldbug but I went digging and couldn’t find it.


    admin Reply:

    I don’t recall reading anything by Moldbug on the topic.
    Jim’s reconstruction is brilliant: natural law has to be discovered — excavated as a fact of social reality, which is to say, the set of social rules that in fact work (given what we actually are). Setting it up in terms of retaliation, rather than primary criminality, gives it a decentralized, quasi-libertarian slant that is also remarkable. There needs to be a seriously engaged conversation about it, because it’s by far the most realistic framework for evaluating the objective foundations of moral and legal judgments that we have.


    nydwracu Reply:

    I found what I was thinking of:

    Because when Maistre says that every nation gets the government it deserves, I believe him. Maistre didn’t think his great law was a law of physics. He thought it was a law of God. I am not a religious person, but I agree. History has convinced me that when laws of God are broken, bad shit happens. Bad shit will happen anyway. But isn’t Obama bad enough?


    admin Reply:

    Excellent — Moldbug at his best. (The decadent theatrical pseudo-theonomy is truly exquisite.)

    [… and given the way I all-but-plagiarize the exact same passage at the end of this UF post, my amnesia on the subject is looking more like a narcissitic defense mechanism than early-onset Alzheimer’s]

    Posted on April 18th, 2013 at 3:28 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    re: “soft left singularity” It seems an integral aspect of the left singularity is semiotics itself. Talk of slow-boiled frogs, ratchets and what-not is positively nostalgic.


    Posted on April 18th, 2013 at 7:26 pm Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    On laws-natural:

    0. Preview: The problem with “natural law” is Universalism. It is error both to say there is no natural law, as well as to speak of “the” natural law. Natural / organic communities (not very diverse, naturally) with inherent harmony and solidarity have particular and distinct sets of natural laws (emphasis on the plural) which suit their character.

    1. Now an image: Natural law is like a suit. It has to be tailored to fit you well. You, also, can be made to conform to a suit that doesn’t fit you perfectly (within reasonable, realistic constraints) and with various degrees of effort depending on the degree of deviation. If the suit is too tight or loose, you can gain or lose (or be made to gain or lose) weight to fit it. This takes willpower and/or coercion, but it can work with some mild pressure applied. If the suit is too short, there are solutions that would “work” for that too, but we’d all admit the reason had better be compelling to resort to such drastic measures. On the other hand, if the suit has four sleeves, then it is utter insanity to pretend that there is anything you can do to any man to fit such an artificial fabrication. Compare this with various social setups and thoughts of Utopia and “new men” and you’ll see where I’m going with this.

    2. Now two example.

    2A. What is the “natural law” of teaching young children? A subject of some contemporary and passionate debate! Sailer’s made this point: put the kids of the elite together in a class and the “natural answer” is probably something Montessori-esque, free-exploration, guided discovery, never any criticism or harsh correction, and all that SWPL-goodness; put some you bottom quartile kids together, on the other hand, and the “natural answer” for them is probably repetitive drills and stern discipline to maintain the good order of the learning environment against the chaos and entropy of the “natural” unruliness of these kids.

    2B. What is the natural law of the Army vs the Air Force or the Navy, or even among the specialty branches within each Service? There organizations, as similar as they are, actually get to write their own community doctrines (and also rely on the catallaxy of the refined evolution of Historical traditions) in order to accomplish their distinct mission sets, and it strikes no one as odd that the structure of these rules, indeed, the form and flow of the micro-societies and cultures they create, would develop into remarkably distinct varieties.

    3. Both Jim and Nydwracu mildly make this error. Foseti, “We all talk progressive,” even when talking anti-Progressive, so strong is the hold of their linguistic influence. In defense of that usage, however, it should be noted that the historical origins of those speaking of “natural law” arose in people in homogeneous, organic communities, where the implied assumption of our, as in “our natural law”, needn’t be explicitly expressed. Community-specific law and “common” law have often been in tension.

    4. Now consider the hierarchy of the natural order of natural law. Combine 1 and 2B. All military uniforms have two sleeves and two pant legs – “Universal Human Nature”. The Air Force, however, is the only one that puts pen slits in the pant legs for pilots in cockpits. The Navy prefers their “aquaflage” coloration. The Army and the Marines uniforms are the most similar to each other (given the similar ground-combat roles), but even these differ according to the expected combat environments. Each individual Soldier, of course, must select the proper size to suit his frame. “The” Natural Law, “Our” Natural Law, “My” Natural Law. Humanity, Community, Identity. Beats “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” any day.

    5. But “Identity” is too particular for broad application, and “Humanity” is too diverse for any particular set of rules to be generally effective (think of the kids in 2A). So the question is one of the proper scope – and that scope is Community. A naturally harmonious community will have a solution set (or perhaps multiple equilbria) of what is effective for their society – their “place where we all belong because it suits us” – their “zion”.

    6. The question of multiculturalism is not Boolean but one of scope as well. The Progressive chooses both Identity (making the world a giant Babel) and Humanity (insisting that everyone conform to the choice of Babel-ing Identity). The Nationalist prefers (perhaps over-prefers) his own culture. But the Neoreactionary prefers more too. He likes his multiple cultures as well. He wants (especially when he is touring) the French to be French, the British to be British, the Germans to be German, the Japanese to be Japanese, and not just Babels 1,2,3, and 4 – all copying the great seminal Babel-Naught that won WWII. At Humanity-Scope, all he wants to be Universal is the Universal toleration, or at least non-interference, of the Community scope of Multiculturalism, that is, multizionism.

    And in those Zions, the law that works for the people within it will be their natural law.


    admin Reply:

    This makes a very valuable contribution to the discussion — I think your central point is irresistible.
    At the most abstract level, however, the description of natural law remains invulnerable: there are ways of doing things that work (perhaps differentiated among groups, or even individuals), and others that don’t. This criterion is rigorous, and objective. Dysfunction ultimately cancels itself, through the extinction of those that persist in it.
    The ‘right ways’ have to be originally discovered, and then either learned (through cultural transmission) or painfully re-discovered. Some of this work is anticipated biologically, with natural selection operating as a learning process (tuning ‘instincts’ and behavior). Animals with complex nervous systems therefore have rough intuitions of natural law, but these are by no means infallible (in part for the reasons you outline — ‘ways that work’ do not smoothly generalize, for instance across times and conditions). Natural law is a fact, for all animals complex enough to behave, and at a higher level, for social animals that must add sustainable functioning in groups to their life (and reproductive) challenges.


    Handle Reply:

    We’re in agreement here. I’ve heard it called “violent concurrence” 🙂 (which may be an apt description of the Neoreactosphere in general – the fervid narcissism of small differences).

    So, the old trick of bringing your friends together to face the common enemy: consider how it all sounds to the Progressive.

    The Progressive hates not the meaning, but the phrase, “natural law” because it is a tribal phrase only used with credit by those trying to wield it as an armament against the current manifestation of the Progressive Enlightened Agenda (PEA). The Progressive, therefore, laughs, mocks, derides, ridicules, and dismisses the notion altogether. He prefers his Austinian Positive Law (the phrase, not the philosophy), and his Oppression narratives and his Social Constructs.

    Men are the way they are because they are all, in truth, “new men”, created by their societies, contaminated as they are by the tenacious, stubborn, unyielding, lingering toxic residue of the obsolete, anachronistic, superstitious, ignorant and wicked past. Unless they are homosexuals, who are totally born that way. At any rate, to degree men are plastic, we shall literally re-form them into new “new men” – the better, enlightened kind.

    He thinks appeals to “natural law” is just a proxy for “God’s law” (and, with many religious folks, this is perfectly accurate) and so has about as much weight as “argument” with him as appeals to scripture.

    But the Progressive does indeed believe in a kind of “natural law”. A discoverable one at that. As a matter of History, I wonder at what point in the transition between the old religiosity and the new moralism was the inflection between dabbling in Nihilism and re-emerging as Puritans? 1900? An ironic spin on Nietzsche, “The eternal recurrence of Morality.”

    At any rate, the substance of the Progressive Natural Law is well known to us. Apply Radical Human Uniformity Egalitarian assumptions and Rawlsian social justice logic to any question and discover the right policy through logic and evidence. When reality doesn’t conform to the natural answer, it’s the fault of obtuse and wicked human beings (either current, or more poison of the past), and the only cure is more government intervention.

    And few groups are more cliqueish and exclusive than Progressives, creating miniature communities where only they and the like-minded are welcome, accepted, and feel comfortable. And where they get to write the rules, believing them to be natural. They own “microzions”. Certain universities come to mind.

    The point is answering the question of how one gets past the implanted blacklist mind-block against the unholy phrase “natural law”. My guess is to recognize and take care to always articulate the pluralistic nature of natural.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Honest Dear… I read Nick Land just for the comments…

    Brilliant stuff, Handle, but as a Catholic, of course I’d have to quibble.

    It’s I think a bit destructive, or at least a misinterpretation, of Natural Law to speak of multiple Natural Laws. Your trick, and it is a good one, is to stretch Natural Law mean more than it really does. Just as multi-culturalism isn’t boolean, neither are, for example, pedagogical best practices. What works best for any particular child, i.e., to inculturate them–to help them be well adapted to their social environment, at any particular time, will always lie somewhere on a continuum between the child-directed/adult advisement model and the strict do-as-I-say disciplinary model. Every child is at least a little bit unruly (unless you happen to be talking to a Montessori Cultist like I was last night… interesting story in its own right); you’d hate to kill all that unruliness. Every child is at least a little bit naturally curious; you’d hate to kill that too. These aren’t two distinct “Natural Laws”, therefore, but one–one in which (for this example) optimal pedagogical guidance at any point for any child is a prudential decision of person tasked (by nature or by payment for services) with caring for his needs. Again, one natural law, a range of options.

    There are universal aspects of human nature, and differences in the narratives about how they arose don’t really alter this fact. The error isn’t in believing universals per se, but in believing that that which is in fact particular to you or your group applies to all men. In the limit, that can raise the body count quite a lot.

    There is no necessary conflict, for example, between “all men are created by and in the image of God” and “some men are natural slaves”; indeed belief in God, properly interpreted, constrains one to believe in heirarchy all the way down (God->Jesus; Man->Wife; Master->Slave; King->Citizen; Parent->Child… it’s all, quite profoundly, quite beautifully in the Bible). That this (i.e., universal heirarchy) happens to agree with human experience in all places at all times makes it a part of One Natural Law… whether you happen believe in God or not. That heirarchy has been strongest in the most dominant cultures simply seals the deal.


    nydwracu Reply:

    Is there a substantive difference between there being many natural laws and there being one natural law of which the apparent many are just contextual cases?


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    No, but its sloppy language. And everyone knows that sloppy language can lead to sloppy thinking… and there’s no telling where that will lead (disco? thong underwear for men?).

    There are universal principles and then particular applications of those principles. The two are quite distinct, tho’ they both may seem equally natural. So it seems at best confusing to call them by the same name.

    admin Reply:

    “Honest Dear… I read Nick Land just for the comments…”
    — It’s like having Plato’s Academy hanging out in the basement.


    Posted on April 20th, 2013 at 1:32 am Reply | Quote
  • Handle Says:

    Perhaps it would be fair to say that my position is that there is a Natural Law on the proper scope and scale of Natural Law. Basically, “Strong Subsidiarity” (and not the laughably, cynically weak pastiche form in the EU today). Replace “at the lowest level” with “at the optimal scale”, perhaps. I say “multizionism” (protected by some form of minimalist Empire, probably inevitably), Moldbug would say “hyperfederalism” (under a neocameral patchwork framework), Patri Friedman and Gibson would say, “Let a thousand nations bloom” (maybe on futurist barges).

    What is Law? Let me be precise and consider something as specific, minor, man-made, and minimally ideological/theological as a “bylaw” of a small company of a small number of similar partial owners, or even a homeowners association, with similar aligned interests in the prosperity of the enterprise or the livability of the neighborhood.

    Abstractly, it is a rule concerning social interaction and coordination.

    X is desired, Y, as a rule, as a system and mechanism by which we will interact and coordinate, is thought to be the optimal way to achieve X, given Z – the nature of the population, community, market, etc. the social-environmental conditions under which we are working.

    For any X, Y, and Z, there are synergies and frictions. X usually is the synergy, the thing sought that requires the rule. Mutually beneficial management, instead of tragedy, of the commons. The frictions come from Z, who would not naturally do X (which is why we need the Y). My point is mathematical. Too few Z’s, and synergies are insubstantial. Too many (or too diverse, that is, sum of the individual standard-deviation distances from the community norm) and frictions overwhelm the benefit. Disaggregation into low-variance communities ensures that individuals get to live in places where they experience high synergy and low friction. Aggregate two such optimal distinct communities and the combination, by definition, has lower social welfare.

    “Let us drive on this side of the street.” is perhaps the lowest form of this kind of law, a mere “protocol”, the benefit of which is merely existential, not substantive. It is self-evidently without possible rationale as to preference except that “well, the needs of interaction and coordination mean that we have to pick one.” The world gets by with both, but, it seems to me, at the right scale. Less than country, too difficult to switch back and forth. But global road traffic rules are also evidently unnecessary given the geographic domains to which most drivers restrict themselves.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    I would agree with that understanding. The Natural Law is silent on which side of the road we drive on; it only tells us that those of a certain region must agree. An attempt to impose a global standard because, ya know, some people might travel and might accidentally forget which side of the road to drive on, and yada, yada, and think of the children?!! Well that’s just poppycock. If you claim that the Global Standard Traffic Side must be imposed somehow because natural law, i.e., that it is self-evident given reality as it is, then you have stretched the concept of Natural Law beyond its utility, and given people a great excuse to come up with a theorem of Multiple Natural Laws.

    Actually, I would place your whole X, Y, Z framework under natural law. Not as a formula for natural law, but that people can come up with a formula. It’s kinda meta that way.


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Subsidiarity, Catholics would argue, is part of the Natural Law as well. The very fact that we can and ought balance particulars with universals is itself prescribed to us.


    Posted on April 20th, 2013 at 4:21 pm Reply | Quote
  • nydwracu Says:

    @Nick B. Steves
    Natural law vs. natural laws, maybe? Or rather, a mass vs. count distinction: “natural law says…” for the general vs. “a/the natural law of ___ says…”


    Nick B. Steves Reply:

    Meh… What is the opposite of “distinction without a difference”? Smushing things together of different essences? (Too polysyllabic…)

    “Natural Law says…” vs. “the accepted customs of ______ say…” is perfectly understandable and would be well understood by Carlyle, Burke, and Thomas Aquinas… and probably even Chiang Kai-Shek. Nobody thinks that a groups’ particular custom dropped out of the sky (from an angel or alien species)… well, almost nobody… Of course those customs arose naturally, based on both universals (Natural Law proper) and the local conditions on the ground.


    Posted on April 20th, 2013 at 8:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Nick B. Steves Says:

    “coincidence without common essence” (best I got…)


    Posted on April 20th, 2013 at 9:38 pm Reply | Quote

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