Triple Nihilism

(1) Jeffrey Herf is apparently shocked and appalled by the emergence of a “pro-Hamas Left” in the American academy. He writes:

The emergence of this objectively pro-Hamas and pro-war Left is an historically significant event. It breaks with both the self-understanding and public image of a Left that carried a banner of anti-fascism. It rests on a double standard of critique, a critical one applied to the extreme Right in the West and another, apologetic standard applied to similarly based rightist Islamist movements.

So the left intelligentsia is prone to extreme hypocrisy, anti-semitism, crypto-fascism, opportunism, and the unrestrained politics of ressentiment? Is this supposed to be news of some kind? Political controversy is to be measured against some yardstick of fundamental decency, that is now, peculiarly, being betrayed? Who or what is supporting that yardstick, exactly? If we subtract any such ‘yardstick’ entirely from our considerations, haven’t we thereby, for the first time, begun to approach the topic realistically?

(2) As noted before, I’m a terrible reader of Scott Alexander. There’s always a point, early on, in any of his posts, where my concentration is wrecked by the buzzing question: how is this any kind of problem? So I’m reliant on better followers of his lithe reasoning to explain to me how this post can make any sort of sense except through the expectation that life should be fair. The attractiveness of that dream (or delusion?) is easy to grasp. What is difficult (for me) to understand is how an acute intelligence can fail to realize, intuitively, that thinking begins at exactly the point such indulgent fantasy terminates.

It’s quite clear that Scott knows obnoxious PUA sociobiology is basically correct. How else to read this?

If you’re smart, don’t drink much, stay out of fights, display a friendly personality, and have no criminal history – then you are the population most at risk of being miserable and alone. “At risk” doesn’t mean “for sure”, any more than every single smoker gets lung cancer and every single nonsmoker lives to a ripe old age – but your odds get worse. In other words, everything that “nice guys” complain of is pretty darned accurate. But that shouldn’t be too hard to guess …

How could the aspiration to any kind of ‘social justice’ in this context (or in fact any other) conceivably be anything but a fantastic falsification of the world as it deeply (or pre-conventionally) exists? To acknowledge this reality is to admit that our ideas of ‘justice’ mean nothing. One might as well “complain” about gravity or the second law of thermodynamics.

(3) Perhaps Nothing isn’t in any way real, suggests Leon Horsten. Zero, unlike any other small Natural, would have no irreducible designation. It would function only as shorthand, abbreviating a concatenation of plenary operations. Linguistic applications of “nothingness” would be dissolved by analogy.

According to the scientific picture of the world, absences do not seem to be fundamental building blocks of either the concrete (physical) world or of the abstract (mathematical) realm.

So Nothing can be ‘scientifically’ annihilated — that will surely dispel its irritation. (Or not.)


Of the world’s various contests, there have to be some which do not draw Outside in unreservedly to the nihilistic side of the battlefield. If I turn to this possibility with sufficient dedication, perhaps I will think of some.

ADDED: Nice guys finish last. (Linked in Jim’s comments, this classic.)

September 1, 2014admin 37 Comments »
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37 Responses to this entry

  • piwtd Says:

    “One might as well “complain” about gravity or the second law of thermodynamics.”

    One might build a just society the way one might build a plane or a factory – acknowledging the existence of opposing forces and working around them.


    Hanfeizi Reply:

    Isn’t this the central goal of Neoreaction- based upon our knowledge (“dark enlightenment”), how do we build the best society possible?

    This is the same realism at the base of both western political theory (Aristotle, Machiavelli, Hobbes) and eastern (Xunzi and Hanfeizi; Confucius is deeply overrated). Nothing new about it- except that we seem to have lost sight of it. The American founding fathers understood it. Bismarck and von Metternich understood it. Liang Qichao understood it.

    Do we?


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 2:10 pm Reply | Quote
  • scientism Says:

    Horsten’s article looks pretty confused to me. Spatial concepts are relational, so absences are by necessity defined in relation to space-occupying substances and a pure absence (total nothingness) is nonsensical. But that doesn’t mean you can’t perceive absences. We can perceive all kinds of abstract relationships, such as that the picture on the wall is crooked. I can see that it’s crooked, even though an object is only crooked relative to something else. So yes, I can see that my phone isn’t on the table or that there’s enough space between two kitchen cabinets for a washing machine. These absences are real and exist in the sense that I haven’t imagined them and can make use of them, but that doesn’t imply that they’re substance-like.


    admin Reply:

    Yes. “Confused” — but more unforgivably, conceptually trite.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 3:13 pm Reply | Quote
  • Alrenous Says:

    Proggies say they want the poor to have dignity. Thus we can be certain they’ve robbed the poor of dignity.

    With welfare, mainly. Dignity begins with the man of the house. But the poor man, as Jim is wont to say, must compete with Uncle Sam the Pimp. It’s perfectly possible to support a family on one minimum wage job. It’s far more wealth than anyone in the dark ages had, and it would appear my ancestors didn’t all die out. However, they can’t support a family on that because why would a woman choose dignity when she can choose the Pimp? (Well, assuming the dwelling size necessary doesn’t contradict some back-asswards building code.)

    But as a palliative, perhaps warn poor men that being upstanding and being fecund are now mutually exclusive. Warn them that if they need two jobs to pull a wife, they should forgo the wife. Take pride in deserving a wife rather than having one. Keep the yard clean and the paint or siding in order instead of going to the second job. They’ll get my respect, at least. And – trust me on this – getting your own respect is worth it, and your honest self-respect is likely to be tightly correlated with my respect. Barring that, at least slide into depravity on purpose, for fecundity. Know ahead of time what you sacrifice.

    I can foresee quibbles stemming from my use of ‘deserve.’ Civilization should reward those that enrich and further her, and punish those who degrade and erode her. Do the reverse, and civilization won’t be able to do it for long. This is the simplest way to see that ‘deserve’ has a place at the table, though this view sacrifices robustness. When Sam inevitably stops pimping, his whores and their spawn will all painfully starve to death. It’s Elua’s mirage, which only delays Gnon’s placid yet implacable smiting.


    Antisthenes Reply:

    I wonder what it means for Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs when every member of society is forced to choose between a core part of the base of the pyramid (sex, fecundity) and the apex (self respect, self actualization), the former being a precondition of the latter on M’s account, and the latter being the telos of building a fucking (pun not intended) pyramid in the first place.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 3:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • Steve Johnson Says:

    “It’s quite clear that Scott knows obnoxious PUA sociobiology is basically correct. How else to read this?”

    But he doesn’t.

    From later on in that essay:

    “The idea of deep genetic and personality differences between men and women is far too complicated to get into here, but I will say that if differences exist, I do not believe they are so great as to change fundamental human nature”

    That’s crack cocaine grade delusion there.

    Scott simultaneously believes that Roosh and Roissy have so thoroughly understood female psychology that they can use this knowledge to sleep with thousands of women and at the same time that they what they say about female psychology is wrong because it disagrees with his progressive world-view of sex simply being a matter of a slightly different urinary tract.

    Thede-ish ingroup signaling, insanity or severe ego-protecting denial are the only real explanations.


    piwtd Reply:

    There are vast areas of middle ground between only having slightly different urinary tract and not sharing fundamental human nature.


    ||||| Reply:

    “The idea of deep genetic and personality differences between men and women is far too complicated to get into here, but I will say that if differences exist, I do not believe they are so great as to change fundamental human nature”

    Did the prog just admit that genuine, non-ornamental difference is actually at odds with his idealized humanity or did I miss something (yes I understand the context of the quote, but still)? Does the difference between the worker and queen bee stand in opposition to fundamental bee nature? I think precisely the opposite, this difference is part and parcel of any specification of the species, and the same goes for human sexual dimorphism. Naive set theory vs category theory, it’s the arrows that count!

    Progressivism is starting to sound like it induces error on the diagnosis of treason (exterior profit at interior expense, defection is incidental but erroneously assumed vital, the expense being the chief concern).

    “Feminism is not treason (does not cause unjustifiable internal expense) in situation X.” A charitable null hypothesis, I would say.

    Barry takes this hypothesis way too seriously, Henry probably not enough. The crux? The cost of error is dependent on scarcity. Forced to relax standards in the presence of low resources, and lazily (or becoming incapable due to a lack of counterexamples in the training set) doing so in the presence of cornucopia. A bit like information theoretic entropy. – Extending this to wetware is a sin, but a nutritious one.

    “We can cause the network to misclassify an image by applying a certain imperceptible perturbation, which is found by maximizing the network’s prediction error. In addition, the specific nature of these perturbations is not a random artifact of learning: the same perturbation can cause a different network, that was trained on a different subset of the dataset, to misclassify the same input.”

    Maybe something to that effect, with the mutability of the test set eventually producing adversarial negatives with catastrophic frequency. The first property also might have something to say about the common impermeability of ideological foundations.

    Also, admin, is your interest in this guy that of the alienist? Seriously. As for Barry, what a bundle of sticks. He deserves to die in misery, solitude and ignominy. Or maybe not. Scott might just have painted an exceptionally shitty view of him.

    “What is difficult (for me) to understand is how an acute intelligence can fail to realize, intuitively, that thinking begins at exactly the point such indulgent fantasy terminates.”

    Acute intellects do not start that way. A least acute intellect puts some work in enjoying some indulgent fantasies that are particularly palatable to it instead of exterminating them, then it becomes a less acute intellect which constructs systems where indulgent fantasies can roam freely then becomes an acute intellect which busies itself with justifying the system its predecessor built. It’s trivial if you separate intellect from intelligence, and expected if you pay attention to statistical learning theory.

    God laughs at those who deplore the effects of which causes they cherish.

    Gnon spits.


    Leonard Reply:

    Did the prog just admit that…

    Well, the thing is that Alexander is not really a progressive. He was raised progressive, and he exists in a frightfully progressive society. So, he is progressive in about the same sense many men used to be Anglican. The true progressive is a woman of burning faith. Alexander is a man of science. He wants to be a progressive, doubtless, but unfortunately for him he is too smart for it. So he writes screeds to his progressive readers to tell them why he is off the reservation and that maybe, just maybe, they might reconsider a few things.

    I wish him well. Unfortunately for him, if he is ever successful outside of the ghetto of freaky, smart people who read him, the progs will read him out and anathemize him. I expect he knows this, but evidently he is one of those sad men found in every generation who value the truth above socially obligatory nonsense.


    spandrell Reply:

    You very much owned that thread.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 5:09 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Funnily enough, Nick, as I intuitively knew this was where we were heading, I was going to recommend you read Pascal Bruckner’s ‘The Tyranny of Guilt’. In chapter one, ‘Guilt Peddlers’, Bruckner with a small section with the sub-heading ‘Islamo-Leftism or Mutual Deception’. It’s only a couple of page (25-26), but very illuminating. He brings up our old friend Entryism as a potential strategy the two ‘sides’ use on one another.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 5:30 pm Reply | Quote
  • Mark Warburton Says:

    Bruckner wrote not ‘with.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 5:45 pm Reply | Quote
  • VXXC Says:

    I actually like Yerf’s concept of reactionary modernism, tech progress with romantic past.

    The romantic past being “sanity” which seems strange now unless you walk into a happy, well behaved normal house.

    I must say my Dear Admin you’re pushing your outre envelopes calling out Mr. Yerf however obliquely. Your absolutely correct of course.


    defused Reply:

    Speaking of Herf, is there any genuine difference between his concept of reactionary modernism and neoreaction other than the latter being stripped of all pejorative connotations? Moldbug was surely aware of the application of the reactionary modernism label to Wired magazine, so I am curious as to whether or not he has explicitly drawn the intellectual connection (I haven’t made my way through his extensive corpus).


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 7:52 pm Reply | Quote
  • kgaard Says:

    Aargh!! I read that entire Scott Alexander piece … well 65% of it … in earnest with the expectation that there was going to be a POINT to it. Some sort of payoff for my investment of time and attention. But there was nothing. It was just a bunch of bloviation with no purpose. As I was coming to the realization I was going to get nothing new out of the Alexander piece, I immediately began thinking of Henry Kissinger’s recent thinkpiece about the current drift of world affairs. It, too, promised to be useful — but ended up being a big pile of nothing.

    The moral, I think, is that the reactosphere is just blowing past everyone else in terms of content-to-word ratio. Stuff gets SAID in the reactosphere. Points get MADE. QUICKLY. Since there is no ulterior agenda — i.e. having to mollify points to make them acceptable for the masses — writing can be far more efficient.

    As for Alexander’s actual points … I don’t know. Who really cares? The ground has been covered ad nauseum by Roosh and Heartiste. If you’re a nice guy and getting stomped on by women, well, you know HAVE the resources to change your situation. If you are “not conventionally attractive” like Barry, move to the FUCKING PHILIPPINES. There will be women crawling all over you. Betas have the advantage of not having been cannon fodder in somebody’s war (and thus being alive). So now they have to deal with the repercussions: Way too many dudes chasing a diminishing pool of young nubile white women in the west.

    This really isn’t that hard … If a dude doesn’t change his circumstances in this day and age, 80% of the time it’s his own damn fault.


    piwtd Reply:

    The structure of his piece is that on one hand X, but on the other hand Y, therefore in order not to wrong any side of the issue one should conclude Z. If you think that X is trivial and Y is trivially wrong, or vice versa, then there is indeed no point in trying to reconcile them.


    scientism Reply:

    I think Scott’s problem is that he’s catching glimpses of systemic problems but, because of his progressive value commitments, he can’t propose systemic solutions and hence can’t properly frame the problems either. He’s seeing social decline but can’t call it out as social decline. He sees the mechanisms – the contradictions, the feedback loops – but to acknowledge what they are would be to commit himself to the type of solution he finds repugnant. You can see this in the way he keeps claiming he’s not saying men have some sort of entitlement to sex. Why frame it that way at all? Why not frame it as: society used to be pretty good at making happy families and now everything is fucked and, hey look, these feminists seem to spend their time gloating about it, almost as if this was going to be the outcome of their mad schemes from the beginning and this chaos is their reward; it’s almost as if social ‘progress’ is actually really social decline and progressivism is actually just the set of mechanisms by which it happens and – oh shit – now I’m a neoreactionary.

    I don’t think he’ll ever escape this limbo. He’s colonising limbo with his tepidness instead.


    ||||| Reply:

    I think several of his remarks show that maybe he’s noticed before he’s noticed that he is in fact escaping this limbo but doesn’t want to. The framing is to not sound elthedish (to others and to himself).

    “This topic is personally enraging to me and I don’t promise I can treat it fairly.”

    “Such a response would be so antisocial and unjust that it could only possibly come from the social justice movement.”

    “We will now perform an ancient and traditional Slate Star Codex ritual, where I point out something I don’t like about feminism, then (…) any time I try to make a point about feminism using examples from anyone other than her I am a dirty rotten motivated-arguer trying to weak-man the movement for my personal gain.”

    “As a result I spent large portions of my teenage life traumatized and terrified and self-loathing and alone.”

    “If I hadn’t been so sure about that “two wrongs” issue I probably would have ended up a lot more radicalized.”

    “He is complaining about being single by saying that you can’t complain about being single – and, as a bonus, placating feminists by blaming the whole thing on the manosphere as a signal that he’s part of their tribe and so should not be hurt.” – Notice a congruence between this and the “we will now…” bit?

    “So I think the better parts of feminism and the better parts of the manosphere could unite around something like this, against the evil fringes of both movements. ” – Proposed compromise to avoid abandoning a position? Bargaining to be defeated by his audience so he can get back deeper into the fold. He wavers between supplication, rant and essay.

    Looks to me like he’s using Barry like how Barry was using the manosphere. Or maybe I’m overfitting because I find his views quite boring, his behavior slightly less so.


    scientism Reply:

    “Bargaining to be defeated by his audience so he can get back deeper into the fold.”

    This sounds plausible. We’re witnessing a break-up.

    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 10:32 pm Reply | Quote
  • SanguineEmpiricist Says:

    I don’t know what to think of Yvain’s recent postings, or maybe overall. The difference between “Yvain” from Less Wrong and “Scott Alexander” in quality of postings is somewhat large, I’m baffled to say why he would have spent so much time on a topic that we all kind of understand. The ugliness of reality? Some vague wishes towards a ‘balance’ on a micro level?

    After reading the comments sections of his posts I’m actually glad of the quality found in NRx comment sections. What’s with all the feminists in the comments sections? Why even bother responding to some of the lesser stuff? Why keep reading Jezebel? Do people really think they are worth responding to? Let some vague section of the ‘manosphere’ or PUA people take care of them and let it be over with already.

    I think as long as I stay here, on westhunt, and a few blogs that require some level of cognitive ambition or minimum skill level the idiots will filter themselves.

    The entirety of Yvain’s recent post + comments section is incomprehensible.


    Posted on September 1st, 2014 at 11:07 pm Reply | Quote
  • spandrell Says:

    Scott Alexander is the story of a functioning pattern-recognition module trapped in a progressive brain. It would make a great story of its truth-seeking brain blob could eventually break free and rewire his brain to be a born-again reactionary.

    Not gonna happen though. The prog morality police has a hard, thick grasp on his brain, and all his friends and pseudosexual partners are the leftiest hacks this side of Lenin; so it’s an endless futile battle to square the circle. No wonder he went into psychiatry.


    ||||| Reply:

    So he’s like a prototypical, extremely diluted FAI?

    “The most convinced reactionary is the repentant revolutionary, that is to say: the man who has known the reality of the problems and has discovered the falseness of the solutions.”

    I guess we’ll see. That old bastard has a quote for everything, doesn’t he?


    Aeroguy Reply:

    I retain great hopes for Scott, he’ll come around. When he does he’ll bring a high level of rigor with him. He is a caterpillar and will become a beautiful reactionary butterfly someday.


    James A. Donald Reply:

    If Scott comes around, his research will be great. It is pretty good already, even though he recoils from the implications and rationalizes them away.


    SanguineEmpiricist Reply:

    Yvain is a very high quality individual. The distance between us and him is hardly much. Mencius used to comment on OB. We are all vaguely in the same space. The commitment to good structural epistemology pervades most of this sphere, him inclusive.


    spandrell Reply:

    No freaking way. He´d have to lose his dear feminist friends and autoandrophylic girlfriend to turn around. He is emotionally needy so he will never do that. The only reason he’s not 100% leftist is that social justice warriors won’t be his friends.


    Posted on September 2nd, 2014 at 12:42 am Reply | Quote
  • Blogospheroid Says:

    I don’t know why my reading of that piece is different, but it seems like Scott has made a fundamentally rightist point.
    Be true to your values. If you have a pyramid of values and some people fail on some of them, and others fail on more of them, be cognizant of who you are talking to and don’t mix them up.
    Don’t hector the innocent, be polite to them. If you hector the innocent, they don’t have an incentive for remaining so.

    The more fundamental question here seems to be that for true theocrats, is “enemy of my enemy is my friend”, ever a valid strategy if the “friend” is actually further away from your value structure? Should you ever prop up Hamas against the PLO? Should you ever support islamists against your own working class?

    It may be a useful heuristic in pure thede warfare, but if the true war, as per the theocrat, is who gets to code what values in the seed AI, then that is stupidity. The cathedral is currently playing at meme warfare using heuristics learnt in thede warfare. Scott is teaching them to be consistent at meme warfare.


    James A. Donald Reply:

    After assembling a pile of evidence that proves that women are incapable of making sensible sexual choices and should be married off to someone selected by their father and socially and legally required submit to that man, Scott Alexander tells us:

    “I do not think women are idiots who don’t know what’s good for them”

    Self induced stupidity.


    Blogospheroid Reply:

    Anyone in the ex-libertarian space generally continue to maintain a very high bar to denying any subset of people basic liberty. It’s understandable. But the point he makes in favour of politeness and civilization is generally not objectionable.


    James A. Donald Reply:

    Feminists have to demonize nice guys, to rationalize the fact that their sexual choices are not very feminist.

    Men’s rights activists have to demonize women, to rationalize the fact that treating women as equals gets you horribly burned.

    That is just the way it is. Civilized behavior will not be restored until women are subordinated.

    Posted on September 2nd, 2014 at 5:59 am Reply | Quote
  • Antisthenes Says:

    T-shirt slogan: You Better Start Believing in Ethnosuicides – You’re in One


    Antisthenes Reply:

    The Outside In Triple Nihilism: Bad For Your Arteries, Great For Your Brain


    Posted on September 2nd, 2014 at 8:13 am Reply | Quote
  • Aeroguy Says:

    He’s been digesting a steady diet of hatefacts, and his posts are a slow motion burning of bridges with his feminist friends (which is why they’re devoid of new content, that’s not their purpose, it is an airing of grievances). His opposition to the SJWs put him on the outside and he isn’t ratcheting left. As for lovers, politics is orthogonal to woman’s desire so it’s not like he has to give anything up. Also, don’t underestimate jealousy, I’m sure he’ll find her sleeping with men he doesn’t respect and he’ll tire of the situation. Alternatively he may experience a bout of accidental alpha (and seriously it wouldn’t exactly be hard for him to do better), it’s what caused me to stop dismissing Roissy. He’s a rigorous thinker and desires truth, I think his rigor is more powerful than his rationalizations (which is what he’s churning through, his friend’s rationalizations are comparatively weak and of little consequence), it’s just a matter of time.


    Posted on September 2nd, 2014 at 8:42 am Reply | Quote
  • Hanfeizi Says:

    “If you’re smart, don’t drink much, stay out of fights, display a friendly personality, and have no criminal history – then you are the population most at risk of being miserable and alone. “At risk” doesn’t mean “for sure”, any more than every single smoker gets lung cancer and every single nonsmoker lives to a ripe old age – but your odds get worse. In other words, everything that “nice guys” complain of is pretty darned accurate. But that shouldn’t be too hard to guess ”

    This litany is clearly wrong, because it’s missing a qualifier. It should say- if you’re smart, don’t drink much, stay out of fights, display a friendly personality, have no criminal history, and ARE A BLACK AMERICAN – then you are the population most at risk of being miserable and alone. After all, those first five traits in, say, an Asian man, are pretty much the ticket to a day job at Samsung or Huawei, a house and a wife.


    Posted on September 2nd, 2014 at 3:24 pm Reply | Quote
  • James A. Donald Says:

    he is one of those sad men found in every generation who value the truth above socially obligatory nonsense

    Well, that is the thing. He does not value truth above socially obligatory nonsense, but the truth troubles him anyway.


    Posted on September 3rd, 2014 at 9:50 pm Reply | Quote
  • Big Bill Says:

    Regrettably Herf did not mention American Jewish preaching about the evils of genocide and segregation. Having taught two generations of goyim of their guilt for genociding the American indian, American Jews like Herf are now handwringingly anxious about the same standards being applied to them vis-a-vis the West Bank Reservation.

    As an honest Israeli (not American) Jew said to me, “you killed your Indians, why can’t we kill ours?”

    I do like the Israeli people. They should be a living example to all of us in America.


    Posted on September 6th, 2014 at 2:10 pm Reply | Quote

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