Saturday, October 31, 2020

Metapolitics, Schrödinger's Cosmos, & 15 Years of Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene

"Random Thoughts on the Passing Scene" is the title Thomas Sowell used for columns consisting of unconnected observations about this and that. Same.  Except in our case we are explicitly coming at it from a vertical perspective.  Therefore, the observations aren't from within the scene but from above it.  If we may say so oursoph. 

It's the difference between being involved in a trainwreck vs. sitting atop a hill and seeing that two trains below are about to collide.  You might think that a passenger on one of the trains has more personal information about the wreck.  He does, in a way, right up to the moment he perishes in the crash. 

As we've suggested before, an eyewitness to the Crucifixion would have more personal information about it than do we.  Then again, not.  At all, really.  Except one of the criminals adjacent to Christ. He gets it.

Just so, politics looks very different from within than it does from above.  Metapolitics.  I've never used that word before, nor do I recall hearing it used.  Is it a thing?  Surely it must be, since it has been one of the main preoccupations of the blog lo these fifteen years.

Fifteen years! My son is fifteen. I started blogging when he was six months old.  That is a crazy thing to think about.  So I won't.  

By the way, consider this an open thread with a long addendum.  Feel free to ignore the addendum.  I'm just typing what comes into my head, which is disrespectful to the reader.  

It's just that we're in a kind of Schrödinger's Cosmos moment, aren't we?  One way or another, the future is bearing in on us like... like two freight trains on the same track.  One of them will crush the other.  I just can't make out which one at the moment.   My ears tell me one thing, my eyes another.  

Back to metapolitcs.  An amazon search produces 39 results.  Let's have a looksee if no one else is in our tree.

This first book sounds promising:  it is "a searing" -- searing, I tell you! -- "critique of liberalism" that "discusses the limits of political philosophy."  Uh oh. Postmodern gibberish ahead:

Metapolitics argues that one of the main tasks of contemporary thought is to abolish the idea that politics is merely an object for philosophical reflection. Badiou indicts this approach, which reduces politics to a matter of opinion, thus eliminating any of its truly radical and emancipatory possibilities.

Against this intellectual tradition, Badiou proposes instead the consideration of politics in terms of the production of truth and the affirmation of equality. He demands that the question of a possible “political truth” be separated from any notion of consensus or public opinion, and that political action be rethought in terms of the complex process that binds discussion to decision.

Starting from this analysis, Badiou critically examines the thought of anthropologist and political theorist Sylvain Lazarus, Jacques Rancière’s writings on workers’ history and democratic dissensus, the role of the subject in Althusser, as well as the concept of democracy and the link between truth and justice.

Indict. Emancipatory. Production of truth. Dissensus.  These are postmodern dogwhistles one can assemble in any order and get published in a major academic journal.  Another reviewer finds

very intriguing the idea that politics needs to work at the level of thinkability and not at the level of material practice. To align politics with thought, he turns to a language of naming, a language that refers not to what things are, but what things could possibly be. Names must be localized within multiplicities. In abstract terms, this makes sense.

Well, if that's case, then stop making sense.  This next reviewer makes just as much:

Badiou's work is often both refreshing in its Platonic instance of the reality of abstractions and the importance of ontology of events and truth-procedures, and infuriating in that he often makes bold claims without explicit argumentation using a methodology of suture to lay philosophy out as meta-truth procedure. 

We all have our pet peeves. One of mine is people who use a methodology of suture to lay philosophy out as a meta-truth procedure. 

Suffice it to say, none of this is in our attractor. Let's move on. The next book is one called Metapolitics: The Roots of the Nazi Mind. It has only one review, but the reviewer is pretty worked up about it. He claims the author is "a polemicist with an extremely conservative cultural, religious and political agenda, smearing with a proto-Nazi tag those aesthetic and cultural movements that he happens to dislike."

Sounds like one of those typical left wingers who doesn't understand that fascism is obviously of the left. 

If I were a clinical psychologist, I might suggest to this fellow that polemicism, religiosity, and smearing are indeed going on.  They are "present," so to speak, in the space between you and the book. But we need to be patient about their source and vector.  So let's just explore them together, and not just assume they're emanating from outside your own mind.  (In short, you can't just come out and tell a leftist he's projecting; rather, you have to lead him slowly to this ego- and ideology-shattering insight.)

Now I'm reminded of an old gag. Can't recall who made it -- sounds like Whitehead, or maybe Chesterton -- but it goes something like this:  every historian has a bee in his bonnet. When you read his work, listen for the buzzing.  The buzzing is his vision, his conception of the whole.  His metahistory, you might say.  

Why else would he get so worked up about it? We're essentially talking about a religious category, or rather, a naive secular category unreflectively imbued with religious energy.  

Here's one called There is No Life without Metapolitics.  Couldn't agree more.  Life is far too interesting to merely live it.  Rather, it must be "meta-lived," as it were.  To paraphrase one of our founding Raccoons, Socrates, the anti-meta-life is scarcely worth living.

Anyway, this one is described as a "lined notebook for writing & note taking," and a "funny journal for metapolitics lovers." In other words, it is a potential space for incoming vertical murmurandoms.   Like this blog.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

The Truth is Priceless. For Everything Else There's Blustercard

Yesterday at Instapundit I was uncharacteristically drawn into a moronic debate, this one about music. I almost never get into online arguments, because they are utterly pointless.  At least a decade ago I realized I had never once lost such an argument; but that never once had my opponent realized he had been vanquished. So why waste one's time and energy?   

Instead, I try to hone my neurons and keep the synapses in shape by coming up with a pointed gag or zinger or quasi-infallible aphorism a la Dávila.  These are not for the edification of their recipient. Rather, just a regimen to keep my mind, you know, uh, limber.  

This mirrors a much larger cultural phenomenon having to do with... with everything, right?  I don't want to take this post in that direction.  Too big a subject.  Suffice it to say that

Engaging in dialogue with those who do not share our assumptions is nothing more than a stupid way to kill time (Dávila).

This being the case, the only truly fruitful argument would be one regarding first principles.  I literally cannot conceive of any argument that could alter mine. I'll still hear them out, of course, but these are nearly always just ancient sophistries dressed in modern garb.  I suppose I'm pleased that there are conservatives who enjoy doing intellectual combat with our modern and postmodern sophists. I'm just not one of them. For  

Agreement is eventually possible between intelligent men because intelligence is a conviction they share.

BUT

Intelligence is a train from which few do not deboard, one after the other, in successive stations.

That is such an important wisecrack.  Take two people, each with an IQ of 145 or so, which is to say, three standard deviations above the mean.  Math is hard, but if I remember correctly, only around one in a thousand people fall into this range.  But ask these two about the nature of reality, and you are liable to be given answers that utterly contradict one another.

Conclusion: no amount of intelligence discloses the nature of reality.  But because I know this and they don't, I'm smarter than people who are smarter than I am!  Woo hoo!

What's really going on here?  What is really going on is that intelligence isn't just anything, at least in my cosmos.  Here we believe that intelligence is not intelligent unless it is an adequation.    If it is not an adequation, then it really is just about power, or status, or chicks.  Getting them, that is.  The rest is just for show -- to deceive the public and to fool each other.  

By the way, one reason President Trump drives journalists crazy is that he is a bull in their china shop of unearned status.  He is revealing these mediocrities to be what they are merely by his existence:  mediacretins.

Here is our first principle, more or less: that the object of intelligence is being; and that the subject of being is intelligence.  Conformity of the two is what we call "truth." And truth is certain, or it is not worthy of the name.  (Of course, there are relative truths, but they are nonetheless true because they are relative to Truth as such.)

Now, in the words of the Aphorist, 

Nearly every idea is an overdrawn check that circulates until it is presented for payment.

What does he mean by this?  Let's say I'm a naive metaphysical Darwinian.  I have written a check to the First Bank of Natural Selection that claims "humanness" is entirely reducible to selfish genes.   The check bounces.  It comes back to me with a note, "insufficient funds."

What happened?  I'm sure I had sufficient funds to cover the check: my portfolio is quite diversified and includes status, tenure, conventional wisdom, conformity to my peers, the climate of opinion, even some junk metaphysics in a hedge fund.

You forgot one thing: the nature of what is, and how we may know it.  How is this possible if Darwinism is true?   Not only have you been living on credit, you are actually as bankrupt as California would be if it were honest about its literally unpayable debts. 

But here is what I don't understand: this post was supposed to be about music.