How to Look at the World Like a Neoreactionary, Part 2
Neoreaction is not a political philosophy. Rather, it is more like a philosophy of political philosophy. How we can check the course of our ideas remains a habit of neoreactionary dialectic, for we are, or at least I am, intensely concerned with a worldview that is basically persuasive. The process of changing out of your modernist paradigm to try on another must be thought of as bootstrapping for it proceeds by an almost inevitable process of perpetual motion.
A snarky opponent will jump on my claim that I want to put together a system that is “basically persuasive,” pointing out how thoroughly unconvinced he is, as though 1) I haven’t thought of this already and 2) it were relevant. The better question is, what do I mean by “basically persuasive?”
We are on a journey, an adventure as it were, and I regret to inform you that while at the end of our journey lies a lot of excitement, sometimes you must make your way through a bog. This is one of those bogs, but I promise to make it as painless as possible.
I am an essentially disagreeable person. On the Big 5 personality test, I score in the 1st percentile in Agreeableness, which is another way of saying that I am less agreeable than 99% of people. Why does this matter? Because it leads to the perpetuation of mental models of how one might disagree with my position, the pruning of those theoretical counter-responses counting as my development of the concept. In other words, I think through things by arguing out both sides using all background philosophy as a resource for ways of rounding up arguments. I’ve also noticed a pattern, a philosophy of analysis as it were, in the way I argue out a position to myself. The first and most critical factor is identifying the hypothesis and determining the conditions which serve to confirm, disconfirm, and corroborate a hypothesis. That is to say, describing a position through the principles by which it ought to prove persuasive.
My defense and explanation of a corpus of thought such as neoreaction then proceeds less as a straightforward defense of certain theses, but the construction of “reason generators.” This has to do with my theory of conversion. As I am, in a potentially oblique fashion attempting the conversion of souls who appreciate a good argument, and neoreaction is intrinsically self-referential, it is only fitting that my explanation of the neoreactionary worldview would provide a philosophy for how and why an individual would/should be lead to adopt it was an interpretation of the world. This is the bootstrapping element in play, for I am trying to throw a ladder down the pit of modernism which has so far throughout your life convinced you to disregard certain essential biases that evolved for a reason.
An argument cannot of itself persuade an individual, save for the area of pure logic or metaphysics, which is by nature detached from experience. Where claims relevant to interpreting the phenomena of civilization come into play, however, we can put them through a proto-scientific schema of testing. Modernism is predicated on a number of fundamental claims concerning human nature and the potential ways in which society may work. These claims are essentially egalitarian, and, from the neoreactionary perspective, the denial of HBD science that demonstrates the reality of race-like populations of humans can only be interpreted as the Leftist version of Creationism. Where there is a conflict with the empirical claims of a religion and what science indicates, the science must be thrown out, only naturally. The inability to separate disinterested and genuine scientific analysis of a significantly arguable reality does not seem to indicate a consensus of scientific evidence.
If an argument will not persuade, what will? Reference to experience. My purpose is not to persuade here and now, but to budge you on the way you would tend to interpret the world around you; to demonstrate that the kinds of theses and explanations that are generated from this corpus of thought also tend to be corroborated. The predictions it generates gives it the ability to explain ongoing history in a way unavailable to the modernist paradigm.
You can see the kind of irony in the argument I’m developing. Supposedly you are here in the first place because you’re willing to be persuaded in theory, even if you are generally hostile to my overall worldview. You want to be able to give a reason why you reject me other than that fitting in as polite society might require. I’m backing this up in order to ask how someone could ever be persuaded. I want to leave my reader with the impression that certain questions remain live. Modernism never killed off its philosophical rivals, it just convinced everyone that it had. If you can’t be persuaded, this is a waste of both our times. Only if, in theory, you could be persuaded, could a counter-argument count as something more than a post hoc rationalization. After all, if you can’t be persuaded just in principle, then you would use any reasonable enough sounding argument. We don’t want that.
Generally, “persuasiveness” is taken as an unalloyed good in an argument. This is because it is assumed that the more logically excellent an argument is, the logic should be perceived as its own superiority. However, if I may propose another interpretation of argument, one which is more realistic given our nature as animals evolved to do more things than develop and be persuaded by logically excellent arguments. Persuasiveness may be a defect in that it covers up its assumptions better than less persuasive but subtler and more accurate accounts of a phenomena. The mind is attracted to easy and definite choices; it lightens the load of existential anxiety concerning whether or not your beliefs are correct or even sane. Why do you think fallacies are so common? Furthermore, why have we been led to believe fallacies are intrinsically wrong?
Logical fallacies are not, contrary to popular wisdom, intrinsically incorrect, nor are they even markers of stupidity and ignorance. As it is said, a little education may handicap the mind by allowing the pretense of access to information adequate to make a judgment. This correlates to the insight among a number of us that human prejudices are not intrinsically flawed so much as they may tend to be expressed in incomplete or less than optimal ways. Being opposed to racial stereotyping is a trend of midwits, and is a brilliant example of how a little knowledge can handicap.
Racial stereotyping may be considered in two ways. The first is that of psychological bias. It seems to be more or less proven that we evolved to have implicit racially based biases and prejudices which disposes us to differences in the tendency of in-group/out-group evaluation. Why would these evolve at all? This shouldn’t be difficult to understand. In the more ancestral environment in which humanity evolved for over 100,000 years, the survival of the individual depended essentially on his integration with a tribe. The tribe’s survival in turn depended on the individuals within having a tendency to like each other and to prefer the company of each other rather than those of other tribes. Were a tribe to have overwhelmingly out-group focused breeding tendencies, such a tribe would quickly breed itself out of existence. As such, it is inevitable that the tribes which do survive, through a process of evolutionary selection if we think of tribes as organisms, shall have members which have distinct in-group/out-group prejudices (of varying kinds and expressions) that reflects a tribal equilibrium with the environment.
Those who are too stupid to appreciate that their biases have shortcomings remain in the thrall of those biases. As such, it is worth pointing out, by the neoreactionary and likely supposed “racist,” that racism being stereotyped as an indicator of stupid is highly accurate. This is, however, not because racism is intrinsically stupid, so much as what we tend to identify as racism is the less-than-optimal expression of these innate in-group/out-group biases. The midwit, who appreciates that our innate biases have shortcomings, comes to distrust his own biases, and comes to believe that the rejection of the utility of these biases is itself a mark of intelligence.
This response to learning that our biases are incomplete, i.e. the absolute rejection of their utility in all potential circumstances, is itself an immature response. Those biases developed in us for a very good reason. The reason should be obvious; were they disadvantageous in terms of increasing the likelihood of reproduction, they would have been selected out. But these biases did evolve in us, implying that they serve adaptive, i.e. reproductive, value.
To put it rather tongue in cheek, semi-seriously, to be a little bit racist is to be closer to nature.
Not that I’m advocating racism per se. Racism is, I think, best understood as the sub-optimal expression of racial biases. This definition, however, also implies that there is such a thing as the optimal expression of racial biases. This is why, as it were, anti-racism is the prejudice of the midwitted, while racism is the prejudice of those outside the IQ range of 100-125. This may sound like a concession to the modernist, to point out that racial discrimination is difficult to defend. This not because it is wrong, but that because what one wants to defend is practices which lead to optimal solutions, and understanding how to exercise racial discrimination in an optimal fashion is the difficult part.
This is the second way in which racism may be considered. It is expressed through a specific form of behavior. What sort of behavior? Ideally, it appears that the problem with any “-ism” vice is that it does not give a person his due. What is a person’s due? What right does a person have to an optimal evaluation?
We want to say that a person should always and everywhere exercise as thorough and complete an evaluation of the character of another as possible. That is all well and good, but the reality of the world is that such an optimal evaluation is not always afforded by the world. An optimal evaluation may prove either impossible or too costly to justify other things which must be given up in order to perform such an evaluation. Our judgment is required in situations where the evaluation we’d like to make is precluded. It is useless to insist that “a person should, always and everywhere, perform an optimal evaluation.” That doesn’t answer what an individual is to do in those cases where he has less than perfect information and obtaining it proves far more costly than any expected benefit.
The mandate to perform an optimal evaluation of another person’s character cannot require an individual putting himself at grave risk. Yes, the guy with tattoos on his face bragging about his recent stint in the slammer could be a really interesting, complex individual who has a lot of good in him. But getting to know such an individual could prove very costly, in the form of harm suffered by oneself for failing to exercise due prudence in one’s association with the criminal elements.
Racial discrimination is not an end-all be-all of an individual. Like I’ve mentioned, I’m not interested in a defense of racial discrimination, full stop (and in fact, I’m not even interested in here defending racial discrimination, so much as I’m interested in providing an example of how the neoreactionary proceeds in his examination). I’m interested in a defense of due racial discrimination. Racial discrimination is justified in particular instances and not in others. The optimal exercise of discrimination is difficult, and must be guided by a philosophy of discrimination.
This is all to show that a ground level difference between the neoreactionary and the modernist is this. The modernist rails against all bias, insisting that it never has a place in our reasoning. The neoreactionary suggests that we have bias for a reason, and we should seek to improve upon the function it evolved to provide. Where the modernist asks us to root out all our tendencies in thought, to constantly undermine the way we tend to reason, the neoreactionary seeks to examine and refine it. Iron ore may have little use of itself, but in the hands of one with the right tools, much may be wrought.
What all does this have to do with persuasiveness? This asks a question. Do you really want to be able to persuade the most? Psychologically, we are jerry-rigged with a number of biases which predispose us to fallacious and sub-optimal expressions of prejudice. But we cannot eliminate prejudice; anti-prejudice is just a prejudice against prejudicial reasoning, and prejudicial reasoning is optimal in the case that judicial reasoning is precluded, i.e. when access to adequate information for optimal evaluation is more costly than expected benefits. This is the real world, and in the real world you aren’t always allowed to dissociate yourself by behavior from what a racist would do, because sometimes what the racist would do is the safest and best thing to do.
The biases are good enough to allow stupid racists to spread their genes; in fact, in a population where everyone is stupid, racism would be better than a stupid refusal to not utilize prejudice when it is called for. To act with prejudice is to admit one is ignorant, which is not always a bad thing. The refusal to admit one’s ignorance is a vice in the case when the presumption of knowledge proves a more dangerous habit. Admitting and acting by one’s ignorance, i.e. to reserve oneself to methods and practices which are known to work rather than the definitely unknown, is wiser than to refuse to act with respect to knowledge that one knows one does not possess. To be ignorant is only to not know, and we know that we do not always know, which is just to say that we know that sometimes we are ignorant. This cannot be overcome by “Don’t be ignorant.” It cannot be overcome by good thoughts or the insistence that “One should try to get access to the best information possible.” That is a matter of course and we are already agreed, but we aren’t talking about how one should act in the case one has perfect information.
Neoreaction is how to act when you know you don’t have perfect information. It is a call to humility. If your vision is fundamentally utopian and forms a perfect contrast to the vagaries of human history, and can only be accomplished through a fundamental change in the way people tend to act, it is incomplete. You can do better, and you can do better by being harder to persuade.
Don’t wonder how you would persuade me to modernism. It is better first to know, how do you persuade yourself? I don’t pose a threat to your well-being as much as you do. I likely couldn’t persuade you with a silver tongue, but we know individuals can persuade themselves with the thinnest of feel good lies. Isn’t that what we think of religion, after all?
Originally published Tuesday, Nov 26, 2013