The Basics

The fundamental insight of the West is tragedy. It cannot be cognitively mastered, assimilated, or overcome. At the end it will be as unsurpassed as it was at the beginning. The essential insight is already fully achieved within the fragment of Anaximander, at the origin of Occidental philosophy.

There are English translations of the fragment here, and here. A definitive version still awaits us. This is the Wikipedia rendering:

Whence things have their origin,
Thence also their destruction happens,
According to necessity;
For they give to each other justice and recompense
For their injustice
In conformity with the ordinance of Time.

Payback and compensation are baked into the nature of things. The tragedians will understand this as the dynamics of hubris and nemesis. In mature modernity, we call it cybernetics. Compensatory mechanisms demonstrate it, in toy form, assisting comprehension. It is the machinery of fate.

The signature of tragedy in history is a rhythm — at a large scale, the rise and fall of civilizations. The West, as a whole, is a pulse. It has a beginning, and an end. All of this is already written, in the Anaximander fragment.

We might think it is possible to master this fate. Progressivism is such a thought. That is hubris distilled, in programmatic form. Anaximander, Homer, and the tragedians anticipate its outcome, which evokes pity from us.

In our hubris, we are incapable of pitilessness, or acceptance, so nemesis comes. This is the entire destiny of the West. It is a necessity that can only be denied, and in this denial — implicit and inexorable — is the completion of its fatality.

You will writhe on the hook, and then die. So it will be.

ADDED: A Short Moral-Religious Dialogue
“Are you saying that it is our pity, for which we are punished, in the end?”
“Yes, that is exactly what I am saying — or, in fact, merely passing on. It is the entire message of the right, insofar as this communicates the truth.”
“So Malthus then?”
“That name will do.”

ADDED: If you name your civilization after the Land of the Dead there’s no point complaining later.

January 12, 2016admin 52 Comments »
FILED UNDER :Philosophy

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52 Responses to this entry

  • Different T Says:

    Don’t get it.

    Do you think Capital is getting its ass kicked by the Cathedral or something? That it isn’t steadily progressing towards the slave fields?

    What is with the romantization of the West as something other than serving Capital?

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    If anyone else thinks I’m ‘romanticizing the West’ please let me know.

    [Reply]

    Different T Reply:

    Not “romanticizing” as in loving, but as in unrealistic.

    The “West” didn’t die w/ Rome. And you probably would’ve written similar had you lived then.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    I’m not attaching a schedule. Some number of further dark ages entirely consistent with the Arche-Occidental model.

    Different T Reply:

    Gotcha.

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    @admin and Different T,

    The concept of ‘Mandate of Heaven’ does everything ‘The West’ does and more and, what’s more, implies realism and absolutely rules out romanticism. Whenever you talk about ‘muh Western civilization’ you’re just talking about a contingent period when Greeks, Romans, and then Anglos had the MoH and some sense of what to do with it.

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 5:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rec0nciler Says:

    This is that old-time XS gospel! I am born-again – finally an accelerationist.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 5:08 pm Reply | Quote
  • William Newman Says:

    I’m not convinced the diagnosis in the M-R dialogue is correct. The end comes for those who do not pity as well as for those who do. (Though perhaps, as below, we are in for more-than-usually interesting times for those who get away with murder by pretending to pity.)

    Also I am not convinced that Malthus has much to do with the situation. We are pretty far from simple Malthus-style limits in most ways. Plenty of food, plenty of other resources. Maybe the most constrained resource is fertility and even there the fundamental constraints are something like a factor of three away from what we bother with. I am not claiming Malthus has gone away; with high probability there are several things growing exponentially at the moment which will have a recognizably Malthusian showdown at some time in the future. But unless those growing things are pretty exotic, like freshly-spun-up AIs quietly doubling their capabilities every few weeks, such a Malthusian showdown is a rather long time away. In that long time before Malthus revisits us in force, we’re likely to enjoy various other kinds of forceful lessons.

    My guess is that if the AIs and any other comparably radical changes hang fire long enough to let more mundane conflicts play out to their natural conclusion, then long before we enjoy hard lessons in Malthus we will enjoy some hard lessons in the brinksmanship of entryism and more generally the dark arts of taking power under some pretext and impatiently/lazily/incompetently/whatever blowing off solemn oaths or otherwise giving up on credibly pretending to honor the pretextual justification. I interpret much of the Reformation as a story of how the old techniques in those arts were a poor fit with printing technology (and its second-order effects, like literacy becoming more of a practically important skill, motivating more literacy, amplifying the power of the press). I think the current techniques are a poor fit for modern information technology, and I suspect various powerful current practitioners will be seen in hindsight as arrogantly clueless in very much the same way that the old indulgence-selling system is seen today.

    (Possibly my view connects to the OP view if some of the pity in the OP is meant to be pity in its role as a transparently insincere pretextual justification for corrupt power?)

    Also speaking of hanging fire and brinksmanship, I think we are still on track to learn some hard lessons about applied brinksmanship with thermonuclear weapons, even though I have no very clear guesses about exactly what they might be.

    [Reply]

    NRx_N00B Reply:

    “Also I am not convinced that Malthus has much to do with the situation. We are pretty far from simple Malthus-style limits in most ways. Plenty of food, plenty of other resources. Maybe the most constrained resource is fertility and even there the fundamental constraints are something like a factor of three away from what we bother with.”

    I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Think of it as a rubber ceiling stretched out over a dome of rusting, creaking steelwork …with the constant sound of popping rivets, in need of endless ongoing maintenance.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 6:33 pm Reply | Quote
  • Rec0nciler Says:

    Worth reading/viewing No Country for Old Men through this prism. When the white-hat cowboy Llewelyn Moss returns to the scene of the shoot-out, to give the dying Mexican water, he is engaged in hubris, expressed as pity. The resulting tragedy is authentically Western. Cormac McCarthy’s simultaneous engagement with the Santa Fe Institute complexity theorists and the Greek tragedians ties the ends back to their origins.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 6:38 pm Reply | Quote
  • Hurlock Says:

    This post should have a horrorism tag, no?

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 7:16 pm Reply | Quote
  • Thales Says:

    I gazed into the abyss, and the abyss gazed back at me.

    Then I waved to the abyss, and it waved back at me.

    Then I realized it was just waving to someone behind me.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 7:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • The Basics | Reaction Times Says:

    […] Source: Outside In […]

    Posted on January 12th, 2016 at 9:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Anaximander's Mom Says:

    Nonsense and non-sequiturs. Try reading that first link with some care:

    “It is certainly important that we possess one text from Anaximander’s book. On the other hand, we must recognize that we know hardly anything of its original context, as the rest of the book has been lost. We do not know from which part of his book it is, nor whether it is a text the author himself thought crucial or just a line that caught one reader’s attention as an example of Anaximander’s poetic writing style. The danger exists that we are tempted to use this stray text – beautiful and mysterious as it is – in order to produce all kinds of profound interpretations that are hard to verify.”

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Hellenists are OK at reading Ancient Greek, and stuff, but do they consume enough mescaline?

    [Reply]

    stnnr_rhythms Reply:

    @Anaximander’s Mom

    why so cruel? (but yeah, scholarliness is often documenta without the loins)

    If–to bring up a piñata monster around these environs–Mr. Zizek’s metaphor aping as concept is correct, and All the President’s Men, insofar as it enacts the post-Carter ideology of ‘no matter how deep the corruption, the system works’ progressive hypothesis,” then we can describe a movie like “The Big Short” as the denial of a denial, and so forth.

    It’s palimpsests all the way down.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 12:31 am Reply | Quote
  • Grotesque Body Says:

    “We might think it is possible to master this fate. Progressivism is such a thought. That is hubris distilled, in programmatic form. Anaximander, Homer, and the tragedians anticipate its outcome, which evokes pity from us.”

    i.e., realism, as opposed to progressivism, is founded upon the core insight of economics – ‘there’s no such thing as a free lunch,’ and somebody has to pay sooner or later. In the absence of a utopian world where nobody pays and there’s an abundance of free goodies, progressivism is a mask for the intent to make somebody else pay for one’s lunch. Of course, this is news to absolutely nobody in NRx or on the right in general, but it’s astonishing how reliabliy this pattern recurs.

    cf. Nietzsche’s tirade against Plato as one who couldn’t deal with the extant world and therefore sought solace in an alternative ideal world (utopianism) while praising Thucydides, who contended with the world as it is in all its tragedy. There’s a distinct but related attack on Plato as autist in Nassim Taleb’s Black Swan era stuff.

    Sloterdijk’s ‘The Art of Wisdom’ is interesting in that it portrays academician philosophers (the Platos, Husserls etc) as incapable of coping with the polis (btw how do I into italics?) and therefore founding Academies at the heart of poleis which segregate a space for the philosopher’s cognitive totalitarianism.

    They too ask for a free lunch – at his trial Socrates demands a pension, and this appears outrageous or provocative on the surface but in fact is not surprising at all once the dynamics between progressives and the world in which they exist is taken into account.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 12:50 am Reply | Quote
  • Mark Citadel Says:

    I honesty do fear (and I hope no proWest guys take this the wrong way) that the very concept of ‘the West’ is doomed. ‘Western Civilization’ as much as it is a discernible thing will not survive. If the Occident lives, it will look something similar to what Dugin has envisioned, a kind of Eurasia full of petty racially homogeneous kingdoms engaging in internal commerce, bulwarking against the global south and hopefully a friendly far east. As for the USA, the whites may have to retreat into Canada as Aztlan expands… at least that is if the left Oswald’s the Trumpenfuhrer, which I fully expect if he gets anywhere near the actual white house. Cathedral cannot allow that.

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    Mandate of Heaven.

    [Reply]

    Mark Citadel Reply:

    The Mandate of Heaven is a brilliant device for legitimizing the rule of the elite and of course the sovereign monarch. I am optimistic the concept can be re-installed for Occidental peoples, we’re just waiting for this spiritual dead zone to pass in the consciousness of our people, and once again they can accept that some are born to rule, some are born to serve. It is divine.

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I think there’s more than rhetoric to it. There is a real difference between the quality of governance exerted by a Chandragupta Maurya and that of Angela Merkel (or rather, the glove hand under her pantsuit).

    Incompetent regimes (think of Commodus) can be expected to legitimise themselves, as you say, via the rhetorical vestments of the MoH but that doesn’t mean they actually possess it.

    Mark Citadel Reply:

    Oh, most definitely. Good and bad leaders emerge. I thought one of our praises of monarchy however was that these bad leaders (i.e Commodus) were usually easier to replace than bad democratic regimes because the problem within a democratic framework isn’t primarily the leaders themselves as men, but the process, structures, and underlying metaphysics of the society (the men are awful too, dont get me wrong). It seems inevitable that there will always be incompetent and immoral people who happen to get into power, but democracy dramatically increases their abundance because its nature encourages the worst to the top.

    Different T Reply:

    Did you just read about the MoH and think it suddenly changes things? Why don’t you give it a couple days and see if it still “does everything.”

    Incompetent regimes (think of Commodus) can be expected to legitimise themselves, as you say, via the rhetorical vestments of the MoH but that doesn’t mean they actually possess it.

    Nor does it mean the ruled can tell the difference between those who possess it and those who don’t, else the usurper couldn’t legitimize himself their rhetorice, OBV.

    Why did the Great Khan possess the MoH? Because he killed his usurper brother in battle. Again, OBV

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    @Different T

    If you think brutes who just went about smashing things (Khan, Tamurlane, Hitler for that brief period in the early 40s) possessed the MoH, you’re not at all talking about the Mandate of Heaven that I’m talking about, and we’re disagreeing about terminology, not substance. Which great cities did the Mongols found? 1/8 of Asians have Genghis Khan’s DNA now but that’s the product of massive-scale muh-dicking, not mandate to govern.

    @MarkCitadel

    Yep.

    Different T Reply:

    you’re not at all talking about the Mandate of Heaven that I’m talking about, and we’re disagreeing about terminology, not substance.

    No, I understand perfectly.

    Rulers you admire = MoH
    Rulers you don’t = no MoH

    In other words MoH = MoGrotesqueBody

    There is no point to this interaction.

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I don’t admire any rulers, actually. What I admire are orderly and prosperous social outcomes. You’re saying that I draw a distinction between Genghis Khan and Hitler on the one hand and Chandragupta Maurya and Alexander on the other purely due to capriciously ‘admiring’ the latter. I think it’s actually that the latter were constructive rulers who did possess the Mandate of Heaven while the former were not.

    Not sure what accounts for the petulant tone of your replies though.

    Different T Reply:

    I don’t admire any rulers, actually.

    That would explain a lot.

    I think it’s actually that the latter were constructive rulers who did possess the Mandate of Heaven while the former were not.

    Its possible you don’t know a lot about the Mongols, I guess. Dan Carlin has an excellent series of podcasts about them on his show, Hardcore History.

    Its possible you completely devalue the destructive as against Heaven, I guess.

    But you’re right, “You’re saying that I draw a distinction between Genghis Khan and Hitler on the one hand and Chandragupta Maurya and Alexander on the other purely due to capriciously ‘admiring’ the latter.”

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I guess you think Syrian refugees will have the right to rule Germany then, and such an outcome will be a good one.

    Different T Reply:

    Still no idea why my responses have a “petulant tone.”

    But hey, there were two strawman-free responses this time. Can you make it to three the next time another person disagrees?

    The world waits with anticipation.

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    I think there’s a difference between good governance and bad governance. Yes or no? Otherwise there’s no basis for discussion.

    ‘Still no idea why my responses have a “petulant tone.”

    But hey, there were two strawman-free responses this time. Can you make it to three the next time another person disagrees?’

    All this salt and I don’t even have any chips to go with it.

    Different T Reply:

    So was the comment about Syrian refugees a strawman?

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    That depends on whether you can bring yourself to answer the question, which I’ve posed once directly and at least three times obliquely, as to whether there’s such a thing as good governance.

    If you don’t think there is a difference between Mongolian looting and raping and sound governance, Syrians are as good a group as any to dominate Europe and Cologne was nothing to worry about.

    Different T Reply:

    “That depends on whether you can bring yourself to answer the question”

    No, it doesn’t.

    You are not truthful. That is why there is no basis for discussion.

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 1:20 am Reply | Quote
  • Lesser Bull Says:

    Spengler thought that the essence of the West was to test the limits. What happens when things are taken to infinity? What happens when every verity is questioned and every truth is tested to destruction? Why, they all get destroyed, and the tester with it.

    One of your better recent posts, @admin

    [Reply]

    Different T Reply:

    It appears to be quite disrespectful of Capital.

    Malthus? Really?

    [Reply]

    Grotesque Body Reply:

    As far as I can tell, Malthus is a pretty great PR rep for Gnon (not that Gnon needs one) even preceding Darwin (although not Machiavelli or Chanakya).

    Not so sure about his economics per se though.

    [Reply]

    admin Reply:

    Not the strawman Malthus of facile progressivism — the real Malthus. The Malthus of Gregory Clark, and still more, of Volkmar Weiss.

    [Reply]

    Different T Reply:

    explain?

    Different T Reply:

    Thanks, suggest you link that to the “Malthus” comment in the OP.

    Different T Reply:

    @admin

    If you care to answer, do you think these “dysgenic” trends are favored by Capital? Why or why not?

    admin Reply:

    To make sense of that question, I’d have to re-phrase it: Does a self-propelling techno-economic dynamic tend to promote the dysgenic destruction of its host population?

    It’s complicated …

    Different T Reply:

    ….and not worth going into or what?

    admin Reply:

    Worth going into seriously. It’s a huge theme of this blog, if you hadn’t noticed.
    (a) Malthusian relaxation is dysgenic
    (b) Genomic tech is potentially very much the opposite
    (c) Many other factors and tendencies in play
    So, no neat, knee-jerk response available at this moment.

    Different T Reply:

    The only post I remember somewhat on topic was UFII.

    (a) Malthusian relaxation is dysgenic

    Don’t think I can completely agree. Think dogs.

    (b) Genomic tech is potentially very much the opposite

    and also potentially very much the same.

    So, no neat, knee-jerk response available at this moment.

    Do you remember any other posts where you speculate critically on Capital?

    admin Reply:

    That’s something XS very much tries to avoid (perhaps this counts). As you note, you probably need to head over here (where something a little closer to a dialog with communists takes place).

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 2:08 am Reply | Quote
  • TJEL Says:

    Indeed.

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 5:19 am Reply | Quote
  • TheDividualist Says:

    You know, this is a very Buddhist way to look at things. I mean, this essentially tragic view. I always thought Buddhism expressed precisely this with far more clarity than Western philosophy or religion. The problem is that Buddhism largely became hipster posturing in the US: https://meaningness.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/buddhist-ethics-is-advertising/

    So most English-speaking people right from the center tend to be very suspicious about Buddhism because of all this ridiculous Richard Gere – Dalai Lama shit.

    But actually the original version of it is far better, and generally it was transmitted better to Europe than to the US.

    If you have the time or curiosity, take a look at Lama Ole Nydahl. E.g. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuUY-ucfm9A&index=26&list=PLb0QXRvWJTAGmh32gdzS5r-ObEqdezt-c

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 4:13 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alex Says:

    http://www.bartleby.com/265/307.html

    [Reply]

    Posted on January 13th, 2016 at 5:40 pm Reply | Quote
  • Uriel Alexis Says:

    what is named after the Land of the Dead?

    [Reply]

    Posted on March 7th, 2016 at 6:26 pm Reply | Quote
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    Posted on March 17th, 2016 at 1:01 pm Reply | Quote
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