Don't call it a spade
Monthly Archives: December 2016
So the year is near its end. It’s been an eventful year. A good year, perhaps. A year of hope. Trump won. The UK voted to leave the European Union and the government is willing to enforce that. Millions of hostile Muslims are roaming Northern Europe, stealing and raping at will. Fortunately I’m not in Germany. But I might come back to Europe during next year. Asia haters can rejoice. I’ll have some skin in the game shortly.
2016 hasn’t been the most prolific year for this blog, nor the most insightful, but my readership has exploded. What had a slowly rising readership from 2013 to 2015 more than doubled in 2016. And I’ve been getting a lot of praise around. So thank you everyone. Or I guess I should thank Donald Trump. 2016 for has been the year of the alt-right, and I’m glad of having been part of it, if only marginally. But I like marginal. I like being in the right edge of the Bell Curve of nuanced thought and careful look at the facts.
Incidentally my most popular posts for this year have been the following:
–Nationalism (i.e. the alt-right core) is back because post-nationalism, i.e. global liberalism is a bad deal for men. Nationalism is tribalism, a war ethos, and men can find status there. There is no status for men in managerial globalism.
And of course my series elaborating on Houellebecq’s Submission. Europe might turn Islamic, and that may not be a bad thing, considering feminism and present demographic trends. There is a reason that second-generation Muslims in Europe are more devout than their immigrant parents; and that’s a reaction to feminism. Which is also what drives many terrorist attacks. At any rate, we need a new religion, and Islam is already here and pretty healthy, so odds are they might win out. You don’t like it, I don’t like it, but neither did Romans liked that weird cult from Judaea, and yet they ended up embracing Christianity and exterminating Pagan culture in a few decades.
I didn’t make many friends by saying this, and unlike Houellebecq I didn’t make any money either. But it needed to be said. Now that I might be back in Europe I’m likely to stop saying it as I confront the reality of having dumb Muslims around, so my disgust prevents me from entertaining historical abstractions. But the trends are there for everyone to see.
What did make me friends were my posts on Chinese history. Here’s a post on why Tibet belongs to China. The Great Ming Emperor on why women shouldn’t leave the home. An anecdote on how the golden age of Chinese philosophy was in part pretty much a holiness signaling by Confucius and his pals. The great story of how the Ming dynasty fell and the Manchus took over with the enthusiastic help of Chinese generals. And of course my series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)on the Northern Song Dynasty, and the story of how it spectacularly fell to the Jurchens who took the entire imperial family 2,000 miles to the north, and put all the imperial princesses in a smelly wooden brothel, where they also made to wash their smelly leather clothes.
People asked me if I could write a book, and I considered it for a while; but I just didn’t find the time this year. I apologize for that. But I did prepare for a while, and jointly with some friends we have a project ongoing to start a new site to write Chinese history in a more dedicated way. Heaven willing that might get started early next year. Please stay tuned. And if somebody wants to help out, either with writing or website design skills, by all means send me an email.
Not that this blog is going anywhere. But the theme of this blog has never been history, as much as I like to illustrate my points by coming up with stories from the old days. The theme of this blog is the analysis of human politics, especially the most bizarre parts of it, such as religion, ideology, self-destructive leftist politics, democracies where people happily go to vote to parties who cheat on them every 4 years, and that kind of stuff. I could never understand any of it; until last year when I finally had my epiphany, thanks to Scott Atran and the basket of mangoes that Pakistan sent to Mao Zedong. Now I understand what leftists are all about. They’re about screwing the social order so that they can come up higher up after the revolution. And they don’t care about facts because nobody cares about facts. Certainly not as much as their personal status.
That said, I haven’t run out of things to say. There’s still a lot to explain. Trump won! And he did so in a democratic election. The foundational theory of neoreaction, Moldbug’s argument that leftism was unhinged because the Cathedral rules the world and democracy makes it worse can’t quite account for what we are seeing. We have a pretty decent theory of leftist victories, but we don’t have one of leftist defeats. Next year we should have time to discuss that. I also hope to refine my methodology by introducing some very needed Chinese philosophy of language over here. People throw words around like it’s nobody’s business. Well this blog is about calling a spade a bloody shovel. Language is a very technical skill; but it’s not about quantity. Trump is pretty inarticulate, but look at him. So expect more linguistics (traditional, not the modern academic trash) for next year.
And of course the other main theme of this blog was that We Need a New Religion. I’ve been fleshing out the reason for why we need one, and what kind of religion we should get. This was an approximation, expect more of this to come.
Happy New Year.
I propose a short ritual for when reactionaries meet each other. You go to a church, or some nice old building. Emphasis on old, more than nice. You get there, and the master says the following string, which the apprentice is to repeat.
There is no God but Gnon. Kek is his avatar. And Jordan Peterson is a pretty good prophet.
Once that is done, the master shows a red pill to the apprentice, hands it to him. And the apprentice swallows it. No. He bites it. Munchs it. He chews it. It’s hard. It’s bitter. It’s really hard to chew really. But at the very end it leaves an awesome aftertaste. Then Dark Enlightenment occurs.
Listen to this short clip (starts at 1:04:50), up to the end.
The Dark Enlightenment is based in evolution. This admits no discussion. Criticism of modernity on non-evolutionary grounds is just plain old reaction. Religious traditionalism. That’s a thing. It’s not my thing, but it’s out there, even here on my comments, most often by a kinda annoying Jew. All in all it’s a good thing that it’s out there, annoying as it is. But there’s a reason why reaction is a thing and neoreaction is another thing. Arnold Kling called Moldbug “neoreactionary” because he saw he wasn’t just some plain old Crown Church and Country guy. Moldbug mentioned (not very heavily) HBD and that’s about evolution. But there’s more about evolutionary critiques of modernity than mentioning the biological heritage of humanity.
There’s many ways that evolutionary theory shows the errors of progressivism. Let me mention 4 of them.
The basic one is that evolution shaped our brains as much as any other part of our bodies; our brains determine much of our behavior, and so much of observable behavior is inherited. See the above. Serotonin modulates animal behavior in lobsters, as much as in humans. You can’t change that.
A corollary of these is that different populations evolved in geographically separate areas, adapting over tens of thousands of years to their different environments, producing basically different types of brains. And bodies, of course, but brains too. Evolution does not stop at the neck. So different human populations, and that includes what in popular speech is called races, have different types of brains. Different types of behavior. Different sorts of talents and dispositions. Steve Sailer called that HBD.
And of course a very important characteristic of life in earth, certainly of animal life, is that reproduction is sexual. There are two sexes who must copulate in order to reproduce. We call those male and female. The definition of male and female relies on the different size of the gametes. Males have small gametes: in animals we call it sperm. Sperm cells are tiny. Females have big gametes. In animals we call them eggs. Eggs are pretty big. That alone, the difference between the small reproductive cells of males and the big reproductive cells of females, already creates huge incentives for different behavior between males and females. Sperm is small, cheap to produce, easy to spread. Egg production is metabolically costly. It’s basic economics. Sperm is cheap, eggs are expensive. Reproduction being extremely important; basically the whole point of DNA as a molecule, the very point of life; well having your reproduction mediated by cheap or expensive stuff is probably going to drive your evolution in different ways. To the extent that is possible (after all male and female DNA is mixed in every embryo), males and females are going to reproduce better if they evolve behavioral strategies that optimize how they use their gametes. And so males and females of all species behave differently. They must. Else evolution makes no sense.
This enough is very powerful. It goes against every single dogma of progressivism. Behavior has a strong genetic input. That implies races behave differently. Also that sexes behave differently. Which already by itself demolishes the very basis of progressivism. Of the Enlightenment really. Human brains aren’t an blank slate. They are shaped by evolution, in different ways. Ways that matter. And ways that you cannot change.
But brains aren’t the only thing that evolution shapes. And this is the fourth and most profound implication of evolutionary theory. Evolution is not only about life. Evolution is about existence. Well at it’s core evolution is about conflict; evolution proves what happens when different things are in conflict and what strategies they take to win. And existence implies a conflict. Existence is in conflict with non-existence. Things that exist are here for a reason. Basically because they out-competed other things, which hence don’t exist. Things exist because they work. Things that don’t work cease, sooner or later, to exist. If you track how things came to exist, how they out-competed other things which used to exist, or things that might have existed; well you are doing evolutionary theory. This is of course more abstract than the very physical evolution of DNA molecules in living beings. But it is the same process all the same.
It is so abstract that can even be mapped to transcendental religion, which is why the term Gnon was coined. Gnon standing for Nature or Nature’s God. Nature being that which exists. And so that which evolved. Once you understand this point you must think that everything exists for a reason. Everything exists because it works, certainly it worked until the present day. Now you may not like it that some things exist. You might want to destroy them. But before you do so you should stop and think about the evolutionary process that made them exist in the first place. Because remember, that things is there because it worked. And if the evolutionary process that put it there on there first place remains in place, then that thing will come back. Gnon will bring it back, no matter how much you hate it. No matter how utterly you destroy it, Gnon will bring it back. And you can’t do anything about it.
That doesn’t mean you must like everything. Or that everything always stays the same. Nature changes. I mean, Gnon changes. Evolution is a process; that implies change. Life changes. Animals change all the time. Humans also change things, and sometimes the change sticks. Human sacrifice used to be a thing. The Carthaginians sacrificed their own children. Their first bon sons. That was a thing. It happened for a reason. It evolved. It worked for them. Then the Romans conquered them and destroyed that thing; and it didn’t come back. It stopped working. That’s evolution too. That is Gnon’s will.
The Romans destroyed other things too. They destroyed the patriarchal family. They’d rather have fun and be merry. They stopped having children. Roman hedonism was a thing. Then the Germans conquered them. Roman hedonism stopped being a thing. Rome itself stopped being a thing. Gnon brought back the patriarchal family. That one works. You can mess with it. You can destroy it for a while. Even a long while. But it will come back. Gnon will always bring it back.
So the point here is to tell what will come back and what will not. What works always and what doesn’t necessarily do so. In theological terms, we must find out Gnon’s will. I guess I’d translate it into Chinese as the Dao. Figuring out Gnon’s will is not easy. Surely some Carthaginians might have protested about having to throw their first bon baby sons to die on the feet of Moloch. But the Carthaginian elite strongly believed doing so was Gnon’s will. Turns out it wasn’t. And they paid dearly for it.
And of course many Romans protested about the changes to paternal authority and general sexual morality in late Republican and Imperial Rome. But people thought that wasn’t important, that Gnon’s will was changing. Turns out it wasn’t. And they paid dearly for it.
So you gotta be careful about every thing. And society is a thing. Culture is a thing. Every social ritual is a thing. You must understand Gnon’s will if you want to survive. If you want to continue to be a thing yourself in the future. This means you need to understand why every thing exists. How it got there. How it evolved. You must understand it’s history, in other words.
So in the above examples: the Carthaginians sacrificed their baby boys because many centuries back home people back in the old country in the Levant were doing their sacrifices. They had some problem, perhaps some weather problem, or some war with a neighboring tribe. Sacrificing bulls and goats as usual wasn’t quite doing it; so some crazy guy. Most likely a woman actually, she threw a baby boy to the idol’s altar. Then something good happened. It worked. Maybe the tribesmen saw the woman killing her baby to the tribal god, felt her strong commitment towards the tribe, which gave them courage, took them to battle, and made them win. Or maybe it was just some coincidence and it rained the next day. At any rate, the thing stuck, and ever since it became a mainstream signal of commitment to the tribe. An extremely costly, and hence strong, signal. Now signaling is also a thing. It exists for a reason. A very good reason. Signaling is important. You can’t run a large human group without commitment. And you need costly signals to confirm commitment. But signals also tend to spiral for spurious reasons. Greedy people trying to gain status for themselves. Gnon doesn’t like that. He doesn’t care too much about it, hence peacocks. But every now and then he comes down to stop the spiral and restore order.
So child sacrifice died because it stopped working; it wasn’t necessary to produce its evolutionary function of giving costly signals of commitment. Gnon came up with an alternative. The Roman error was more egregious. The Romans didn’t get signaling wrong. They got something very fundamental wrong. They got family wrong. And there is no alternative for family. You can get everything exactly right and still perish because you got family wrong. The Roman Empire was a very great, long-lasting empire. It did everything right. They had the best military machine the world had ever seen. They had a very well managed urban culture that tribes all over the West eagerly adopted. They had a great bureaucratic and logistic machine. But they got family wrong. And Gnon made them pay dearly. Family exists for a reason. A permanently valid reason. Well perhaps not permanent, nobody knows the future. But certainly valid today, and likely to be valid for the foreseeable future.
The patriarchal family works. It evolved for a reason. It probably evolved separately a lot of times. There’s this book called “The Inevitability of Patriarchy” which makes the point at length. Basically for a country to prosper you need men to defend it. And why would men defend the country? What’s there in it for them? Well they get paid. Pretty well actually, soldiery was good job in Rome. But what do they want the money for? To raise a family. To have a wife and children. Emphasis on have. Have implies possession. Possession implies some degree of freedom of use. You have a wife so you can use her. So that she’s nice to you and does things that you want. And of course the same goes for children. Children are the whole point. Children are everything. Gnon manifest his will through children. That’s what evolution is.
But for some odd reason Gnon did not make men desire a wife and children in the abstract. The behavioral urges of men are somewhat indirect. Men need sex, the way they need food. A man without food for a sufficient lenght of time will stop whatever he’s doing and go crazy until he finds something to eat. A man without sex will stop whatever he’s doin and go crazy until he finds a suitable woman. If the woman is nice to him he’ll stick around. That is the way Gnon made it. In the old days that fairly reliably resulted in surviving children. Gnon saw it and saw it was good; and so that is what men do. A man with an obedient wife and well behaved children is a happy man. A man that will fight to defend it.
Well take that from a man and he will not defend his country. Why would he? Not to say that often it isn’t man that takes it from himself. Many a man would rather not stick by his wife nor care about his children; seeking random women instead. That man, if successful, might be quite happy. Happier than a married man indeed. But he won’t fight for his country. He has no reason to. Which is why that man, the sneaky fucker man, is considered evil in most societies. This is a man who has no skin in the game. An unloyal man. Gnon had it so that healthy societies did not allow that kind of behavior. That’s why we got fornication laws. Regulation of sexual behavior. Monogamy was one way to solve it, but not the only one. But as Gnon had it having sex with a woman who was not your legal wife or a prostitute was a punishable crime.
The Romans messed with all of that. They allowed women to not be obedient to their husbands. This destroyed the incentive for many men to stick to their wives. This destroyed their incentive to defend their country. Soon enough no Roman was willing to do so. What happens when the men of a country are not willing to defend it? Somebody attacks you; and they win. The inevitability of patriarchy. That is evolution. Gnon’s will.
Let me recap. I have been writing about Epistemology of late. An important theme of this blog from the beginning was why leftists believe what they do. All that obvious crap. Are they stupid? Well they obviously aren’t stupid. Look at Harvard. Those guys aren’t stupid. But leftist they are. They believe obviously false things. Well why?
There’s two parts to the answer to that. First is that you don’t know what people believe. You know what they say they believe. That’s different. You can’t possibly know what’s going on inside somebody’s head.
Second is that most likely there’s nothing going on inside that head. You can’t possibly have definite knowledge on anything. And there’s no reason why human brains will have evolve to capture objective truth. Brains are designed by Gnon so that you could be here. That means have you survive and reproduce. That’s all they have to do. It’s no easy task, of course, which is why are brains are so big and complex. But caring about objective truth makes no sense, either in philosophical or evolutionary terms. What’s important is to be evolutionary fit. In human terms that means to have social status. So people who want social status will say whatever it is necessary, no matter how false. And they will believe whatever is expedient. That’s all that believe really means anyway; you may define it is “to have whatever mental content necessary in order to produce some particular behavior”. So most people today believe that homosexuals are born that way while transexualism is a free choice. It’s logically nonsensical, of course. But the point is to say that when asked, and to be able to interact with the designated victim-privilege groups as necessary.
Rationalism equates language with thought; Chomsky famously said that language’s primary function is as a vehicle of thought, not communication. That’s completely wrong, of course, most of the computation your brain does to keep you alive doesn’t use language at all. To the extent that a minority of people tend to have extensive internal monologues, that’s just conversation practice. Talking to yourself; generally in order to be ready to talk with others.
Now of course language is a huge part of how we interact socially; and much of our knowledge is social. We learn from others how to behave, how to speak. To the extent that knowledge is mediated through language; well language is a social medium. There is no meaning to language but the correlation between the use of certain words and the behavior of the people who use them. You can learn that the sun comes from the same direction every day just by looking yourself. But you will only learn the meaning of the word “democracy” by hearing somebody talk about it. I made that point also here.
Now of course humans are social creatures, we learn most of our behavior from others, which includes the entirety of our language. But what determines what society does? One way of thinking about this is that Power does. Politics does. Societies have power hierarchies. People on top can change the behavior of others, either through violence or persuasion. This seems pretty obvious. Indeed it was at the core of Chinese classical political thought. Confucius talked about how a courteous and well behaved lord could “teach” their people to behave morally. Lord Shang talked how the state could make laws that killed or tortured those who didn’t behave morally. Both work, to a point. Eventually they were integrated into Imperial Confucianism, the ruling ideology for 2,000 years.
Europe was under the spell of rationalism mediated by Christianity so we didn’t really get this until the Communists came by. Or I guess Hegel stumbled upon this. Experts on German idealism can contribute in the comments. But Communists soon enough realized that people do and say what they’re told; and they loved the idea. They’d grab all the levels of power and change people to do what they wanted. They’d change everything, even language. George Orwell made that point very vividly when O’Brien forces Winston Smith to say that 2+2 equals 5. There is no module in your brain which contains numbers when you’re born. Some forager tribes hardly have any numbers at all. The way we count, our number system is a social construct. If the state applies enough force, they could possibly change that.
But of course the problem with Communism, as well as Chinese legalism is that they forgot about Gnon. Knowledge is socially constructed alright. Power can alter society alright. But power is inside society. The powerful are also people. The state is not an uncaused agent with freedom of action. Nobody has freedom. Everything is evolved. Everything is subject to the will of Gnon. Knowledge is socially constructed alright. But the precise way in that humans acquire their knowledge from society is an evolved mechanism. And it’s fixed. You can’t change that mechanism. That is Gnon’s mechanism. If you want to play with it you have to understand it first. You can’t just tell people that 2+2=5. Partly because that sort of stuff is taught to small children and once taught it’s extremely hard to alter.
You can’t tell people to look at a guy with a beard and call him “ze”, because the basic constructions of language are learned as a small child and they’re as much a hard habit as the way you walk or jump. You can force people to drop on their knees and say what you want them to say; but you can’t change habits enforced by decades of repetition. And repetition is the point; the point of pronouns is that they’re very frequent, and gendered pronouns have almost equal frequency, which is why they still exist. Evolution can be seen in the natural world but it is most obvious and easy to see in language. The grammatical patterns which do not work over time disappear. You won’t get people to remember a pronoun they only use while in university and when meeting 1% of the student body.
So yes, everything is socially constructed. But social constructions are evolved. And evolution follows the rails that Gnon set up. It follows our innate brain structures. Which are themselves the product of evolution, if biological, on another timescale. The social constructions which work remain in place; those that do not work disappear. And often they take the people with them. You can play with language; but it will not stick. You can play with signaling; but you may end up killing your own babies. You can play with family; but you can kill a whole people if you get that wrong.
The only way to see which social constructions follow the Will of Gnon is to look at history. To look at what existed, where it existed, and for how long. What Moldbug called “slow history”. Only there you can find the Old Truths (H/T AlfaNL). Which is why Gnon’s church has no priests. Only historians and biologists. And motivational speakers on tour.
So I wrote this whole last post; and soon later I found that Jordan Peterson was saying pretty much the exact same thing but in more accessible language. So if you didn’t quite get my last post, you can listen to him say it.
Start at 1h23m.
Some people, religious people usually, get angry when I make this pragmatic argument. Like I’m a toxic personality which is arguing for nihilism. Look, I’m no nihilist. But you don’t need to be a nihilist to be depressed. Look outside. Read the news. See how Western Civilization is dying in front of our own eyes while the best and brightest are not only failing to stop it but actively aiding the demise. That’s what depresses people. And for centuries, neither traditional religion nor “conservatives” have had a decent explanation for why the hell this is happening. Moldbug was the perhaps the first to make some sense. I think I’ve come up with a very good explanation.
Now I agree that relativism of this sort isn’t exactly constructive. I know very well. Hell, I’m the guy who’s been arguing for a new religion for 5 years already. I know very damn well, so stop telling me that. I know you can’t run a cohesive army by telling your soldiers that their consciousness is a social front. I get it. But I’m not running an army here. I’m trying to make sense of reality. And I’m making a damn lot of sense.
But look again at Peterson. This guy is no nihilist. He’s almost the least nihilistic guy ever. He’s the boss of self-help preachers. He’s a “deeply religious” guy who makes his living by telling people that life has meaning, convincing people to live socially conservative lives. And yet he understands and recognize the basic reality of human knowledge. He’s making my exact same argument; and I swear I got there by myself before watching him. So it’s pretty obvious that accepting pragmatic philosophy doesn’t necessarily lead into nihilism. I’m not sure I buy this guy’s framework, but at least he shows it can be done.
But at any rate; I’m not trying to make anyone feel inadequate. If you want to run a Christian army; by all means preach them the old Thomist trope. If you want to run a Jewish army you can preach them whatever the hell it is you guys preach. If you want to run a White-nationalist army you can preach them about Thor and Odin and Sumerians being Aryans and whatever. Do your thing, and I’ll praise your courage and valor and donate money and hold a party for every victory of yours against the forces of progressivism. I’m your friend.
But if you’re not running an army, and you just want to know what the hell is going on, well you better read my blog, because what those armies are telling you makes no sense. And now I’m going to make a point about the lack of a need for ideological coherence and will give an offering to Kek. Merry Christmas to everyone.
People call me cynical because I say ideology is crap. It’s just stuff people say to look good to their peers. Signaling, that is. And I support this claim by pointing out that people just don’t know shit. David Hume proved that. We don’t even “know” the laws of nature with any certainty. Yes, we’re used to some things happening after certain things. There’s chains of events that strongly hint at causality. But you can never know for sure.
Of course that kind of fuzzy knowledge is good enough for human purposes; people do get by in their lives, do things expecting consequences to occur, and they almost invariably do. But the strength of that knowledge depends on the frequency of their repetition. So people only really know what they’re very familiar with. Their job, generally. This maps to Conquest’s Second Law: everybody is conservative about what they know best. People are not conservative (i.e. they are leftist) on the things they don’t know. Why would they be? They don’t know much about it. And yet they have an opinion about it. They talk about it. Why would you talk about something you don’t know about? Signaling, of course.
Signaling doesn’t exactly equate leftism, but it kinda does. Signaling is about gaining status. That’s why you signal, that’s what living in society is about. If you were a tiger you’d be in the jungle eating animals and looking for females to rape; as it happens humans are social primates, and we need to get along with other humans. We want other humans to help us for the lower cost possible; getting what you want in society is the definition of having status. Of course everybody wants to get their way; everybody wants status, but it’s physically impossible for everyone to get what they want. Basically food and pretty women. You need people to help you out, to work for you, and there’s only so much work available. Status is scarce. So people compete for it. Compete all the time. Animals do all the time too; see all those deers and goats and bulls jousting for access to females. Humans do that all the time too, but human bands need common labor so they evolved ways to try to avoid ingroup violence. You can’t just beat and kill your status-rivals; you need them to grow crops with you. And humans can make weapons so there’s no obvious hierarchy of strength where the biggest dude gets to rule forever, as in lions.
So you gotta status-jock without violence. So you signal. I guess women started that; they can’t just beat up other women by sheer physical strength, and odds are the woman you wanna beat up is some dude’s bitch, and as a woman you don’t wanna cross him. Or maybe it’s sexual selection of men just not being into murderous women. At any rate, civilized society is about signaling. And it’s much better than constant jousting. Civilization is nice. Not having to kill or maim all your rivals for access to food and women is nice. But signaling has its own problems. For one you gotta make up stuff. You gotta get used to lying, having an opinion on no grounds, repeating high-status opinions like they were your own. Civilization requires constant bullshit on a massive scale.
Of course this implies that humans, or animals in general are wired up to accurately perceive reality. But that’s a pretty baseless assumption. Living beings evolve so that they can survive and reproduce. They are wired up to find food, avoid danger and mate as much as possible. That’s all there is to it. Their reality-perception abilities will only develop to the extent that they improve survival and reproduction, i.e. fitness. For solitary animals one would assume that they gotta be pretty accurate at analyzing their environment. They’re busy enough finding food and females to entertain bullshit. At most nature may favor some amount of baseless optimism so they don’t get discouraged. But social animals are different. You need to get along. You need to interact with others to get your way. A good way of getting your way is lying your way. Cheating your peers so that they give you stuff. Of course this creates incentives to avoid being cheated yourself. So you wanna be able to notice if someone’s lying to you. You need to find signals that your friends are lying. Tone of voice, twitching of the eye, posture. There’s always ways to tell. But this detection-race of course creates the ultimate incentive. Bullshit without lying. Believe your own bullshit so that you don’t produce any sign of cheating. That way you can’t be detected.
Some people may have noticed this is the argument of the great evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers in a series of papers on Self-Deception. Let me paste some quotes from his 2000 paper, The Elements of a Scientific Theory of Self-Deception.
(…) the argument for self-deception is not so obvious. For a solitary organism, the prospects seem difficult, if not hopeless. In trying to deal effectively with a complex, changing world, where is the benefit in misrepresenting reality to oneself? Only in interactions with other organisms, especially con-specifics, would several benefits seem to arise. Because deception is easily selected between individuals, it may also generate self-deception, the better to hide ongoing deception from detection by others. In this view, the conscious mind is, in part, a social front, maintained to deceive others—who more readily attend to its manifestations than to those of the actor’s unconscious mind.
My bolding. This maps pretty well with Randall Collins’ theory of people’s behavior being formed by interactional rituals, where you learn what to say and do while watching your peers do it together. Note that speech is also a form of behavior. In the rationalist West we assume that speech this special power that reflects the content of the mind, but there’s no evidence for that, nor can there be. Speech is like gestures or grunts; things you do to communicate with others. There’s nothing magical about it.
there are also situations in which your dominant activity (say, lecturing) is honest, but a minor activity is deceitful (stealing the chalk). These can be thought of as directed by unconscious modules favored by selection so as to allow us to pursue surreptitiously strategies we would wish to deny to others. Naturally these will often remain unconscious to us.
I will shortly describe in detail a deceitful little module in my own life which I have discovered primarily because my pockets fill up with contraband: hard, concrete objects that others may soon miss. What is the chance that I perform numerous unconscious selfish modules whose social benefits do not pile up in one place, where I can notice them (and others confirm them), e.g., ploys of unconscious manipulation of others (including, of course, as an academic, expropriating their ideas)?
I have discovered over the years that I am an unconscious petty thief. I steal small, useful objects: pencils, pens, matches, lighters and other useful objects easy to pocket. I am completely unconscious of this activity while it is happening. I am, of course, now richly aware of it in retrospect, but after at least 40 years of performing the behavior I am still unconscious ahead of time, during the action, and immediately afterwards. Perhaps because the trait is so unconscious, it appears now to have a life of its own and often seems to act directly against even my narrow interests. For example, I steal chalk from myself while lecturing and am left with no chalk with which to lecture (nor do I have a blackboard at home). I steal pencils and pens from my office and, in turn, from my home, so if I download my pockets at either destination, as I commonly do, I risk being without writing implements at the other end. Recently I stole the complete set of keys of a Jamaican school principal off of his desk between us. And so on.
In summary, noteworthy features of this module are that: (1) it is little changed over the course of my life; (2) increasing consciousness of the behavior after the behavior has done little or nothing to increase consciousness during or in advance of the behavior; and (3) the behavior seems increasingly to misfire, that is, to fail to steal useful objects.
What is the benefit of keeping this petty thievery unconscious? On the one hand, if challenged, I can act surprised and be confident in my assertion that nothing like this was ever my conscious intention (see below). On the other hand, unconsciousness ensures that my thievery will not interfere with ongoing behavior, while the piece of brain devoted to stealing can concentrate on the problem at hand, i.e., snatching the desired item undetected. Part of its consciousness has to be devoted to studying my own behavior since integrating its thievery into my other behavior will presumably make this harder to detect by others, including myself.
Lol. This guy’s a piece of work. But hey, insight comes from the unconventional. Anyway, I digress.
3. Self-deception as self-promotion. Another major source of self-deception has to do with self-promotion, self-exaggeration on the positive side, denial on the negative, all in the name of producing an image that we are “beneffective,” to use Anthony Greenwald’s apt term, toward others. That is, we benefit others and are effective when we do it. If you ask high school seniors in the United States to rank themselves on leadership ability, fully 80% say they have better than average abilities, but for true feats of self-deception you can hardly beat the academic profession. When you ask professors to rate themselves, an almost unanimous 94% say they are in the top half of the profession!
This is a good example. Somebody asks you where are you in a ranking in your profession. But how the hell would you know? Have you met all of your fellows? Do you even know yourself that well? Of course not. When asked a question like that people aren’t processing information stored in their brains. What they do is look very well at the interviewer, figure out that they have a chance to gain some status by signaling their awesomeness, and they do so. Of course they do. Incidentally in Japan, where humility is traditionally seen as high-status, people would answer the other way around. Oh, I’m a very bad leader. I’m just some guy. Of course that’s changing thanks to MBA culture exported by the US.
4. The construction of biased social theory. We all have social theories. We have a theory of our marriages. Husband and wife, for example, may agree that one party is a long-suffering altruist, while the other is hopelessly selfish, but they may disagree over which is which. We each tend to have a theory regarding our employment. Are we an exploited worker, underpaid and underappreciated for value given (and fully justified in minimizing output and stealing company property)? We usually have a theory regarding our larger society as well. Are the wealthy unfairly increasing their own re- sources at the expense of the rest of us? Does democracy permit us to reassert our power at regular intervals? Is the judicial system systematically b ased against our kind of people (African-Americans for example)? The capacity for these kinds of theories presumably evolved in part to detect cheating in our relationships and in the larger system of reciprocal altruism.
Social theory is easily expected to be biased in favor of the speaker. Social theory inevitably embraces a complex array of facts and these may be very partially remembered and very poorly organized, the better to construct a consistent self-serving body of social theory.
Social theory being a nice sounding name for ideology. You gotta give it to Trivers that he was an honest and insightful guy. He personally was best friends with the Black Panthers and spent decades as an activist for black power in America. And yet look at him: here he is confessing it’s all bullshit he made up, biased in favor of him and his friends.
Alexander was, I think, the first person to point out that group selection thinking—the mistaken belief that natural selection favors things that are good for the group or the species—is just the kind of social theory you would expect to be promulgated in a group-living species whose members are concerned to increase each other’s group orientation.
Touché, group selectionists. What else is there to say? Just look at E.O. Wilson and tell me he doesn’t look like a Puritan pastor.
5. Fictitious narratives of intention. Just as we can misremember the past in a self-serving way, so we can be unconscious of ongoing motivation, instead experiencing a conscious stream of thoughts which may act, in part, as rationalizations for what we are doing, all of which is immediately available verbally should we be challenged by others: “But I wasn’t thinking that at all, I was thinking such-and-such.” A common form in myself is that I wish to go to point C, but can not justify the expense and time. I leap, however, at a chance to go to point B, which brings me close enough to point C so that, when there, I can easily justify the extra distance to C, but I do not think of C until I reach B. We may have much deeper patterns of motivation which may remain unconscious, or nearly so, for much longer periods of time, unconscious patterns of motivation in relationships, for example.
This is a similar argument to Scott Alexander’s “Schelling fences on slippery slopes” post. If Less Wrongers wanted to really understand cognitive biases they could just read Trivers work, which is shorter and to the point. But of course what they really wanted is to follow Shlomo and make money scamming the government through their institute while enjoying in easy sex. But I digress.
In summary, the hallmark of self-deception in the service of deceit is the denial of deception, the unconscious running of selfish and deceitful ploys, the creation of a public persona as an altruist and a person beneffective in the lives of others, the creation of self-serving social theories and biased internal narratives of ongoing behavior which hide true intention. The symptom is a biased system of information flow, with the conscious mind devoted, in part, to constructing a false image and at the same time being unaware of contravening behavior and evidence. The general cost of self- deception, then, is misapprehension of reality, especially social, and an in- efficient, fragmented mental system. For a deeper view of these processes we must remember that the mind is not divided into conscious and unconscious, but into differing degrees of consciousness. We can deny reality and then deny the denial, and so on, ad infinitum. Consciousness comes in many, many degrees and forms. We can feel anxious and not know why. We can be aware that someone in a group means us no good, but not know who. We can know who, but not why, and so on.
We can also know things and not know quite how to put them into language. You get hunches. That happens because language is a tool to make up excuses with your friends. Practice breeds mastery; if something happens which you understand but it doesn’t serve as an excuse for anything you most likely won’t even know how to talk about it. Because you never have.
Prayer and meditation are two widespread examples of people wrestling with their phenotypes, some of which may have been favored by selection to suppress negative phenotypic traits, including the negative phenotypic trait of self-deception! Many famous passages from the world’s great religions, as well as rituals of prayer and meditation, are directed against self- deception, as in this loose translation of Matthew 7:1–5 in the New Testament of the Bible: “Judge not that ye be not judged, for you are projecting your faults onto others; get rid of your own self-deception first, then you will have a chance of seeing others objectively.”
Might be why I’ve never been into meditation.
4. Positive illusions? Another important possibility is that self-deception has intrinsic benefit for the organism performing it, quite independent of any improved ability to fool others. In the past twenty years an important literature has grown up which appears to demonstrate that there are intrinsic benefits to having a higher perceived ability to affect an outcome, a higher self-perception, and a more optimistic view of the future than facts would seem to justify. It has been known for some time that depressed individuals tend not to go in for the routine kinds of self-inflation that we have described above. This is sometimes interpreted to mean that we would all be depressed if we viewed reality accurately, while it seems more likely that the depressed state may be a time of personal re-evaluation, where self- inflation would serve no useful purpose. While considering alternative actions, people evaluate them more rationally than when they have settled on one option, at which time they practice a mild form of self-deception in which they rationalize their choice as the best possible, imagine themselves to have more control over future events than they do, and see more positive outcomes than seem justified. What seems clear is that they gain direct benefits of functioning from these actions. Life is intrinsically future-oriented and mental operations that keep a positive future orientation at the forefront result in better future outcomes (though perhaps not as good as those projected). The existence of the placebo effect is another example of this principle (though it requires the cooperation of another person os- tensibly dispensing medicine). It would be very valuable to integrate our understanding of this kind of positive self-deception into the larger frame- work of self-deception we have been describing.
Irrational confidence works. Ask Roissy about it. Fake it till you make it. You never know, right? So if all knowledge is uncertain, might as well make it look like you are capable of anything. You’re awesome, you can get anything done. I mean you could potentially get it done. The possibility might be small but it’s still possible. You might always get lucky. So why be negative? And of course people are attracted to conmen of this sort. What if it’s true? Might as well be his friend. Might as well sleep with this guy.
I also like this theory of depression. If you can’t shit-talk your way into anything, if you’re certain of that; well might as well take a break.
Self-deception appears to be a universal human trait which touches our lives at all levels—from our innermost thoughts to the chance that we will be annihilated together in warfare. It affects the relative development of intellectual disciplines (the more social the content, the less developed the discipline: contrast physics and sociology) as well as the relative degree of consciousness of individuals (generally, more self-deceived, less conscious). An evolutionary analysis suggests that the root cause is social, including selection to deceive others, selection on others to manipulate and deceive oneself, and selection on competing sections of one’s own genotype.
So to summarize: consciousness is just a social front, a social-facing program you make up so you can manipulate your peers to do your bidding. I’ll add that language is just the main (though not only) tool of this social front, and its purpose is of course to manipulate others to do your bidding. It’s nothing else; it’s not what your thoughts are made of. Is something you use to interact with others.
As such the output of this program we call consciousness is not necessarily the truth. That’s just not part of the program. The program is designed to get you status. If a careful and accurate analysis of reality gets you status; well we’ll use that. If parroting slogans about Global Warming or Black Lives Matter or Transexual Pronouns gets you status; well just parrot that shit.
Again don’t get me wrong: I’m not saying everybody is a filthy liar. The definition of a lie is a misrepresentation of facts done with the conscious intend of deceiving someone. But that’s not the argument here. The argument is that brains aren’t built to represent facts accurately anyway. Animals gotta survive. They gotta reproduce. Slowly, generation by generation, they found ways to do that. In social species getting along with your friends and having them help you find food and mates is most important. So of course being able to manipulate your friends is more important than being able to accurately perceive reality. And self-deception is a pretty good strategy to achieve that.
Of course self-deception isn’t a very accurate naming. Deception implies intend to deceive. And this stuff is unconscious. It’s more like a status-filter. Your brain only processes the information that is good for you. That is useful for social life. For fitness. And again, that goes down to a basic epistemological problem. You can never be certain of things. Natural laws appear to exist, and high frequency makes you fairly comfortable of them. The way that brains work is that high frequency creates habits so that the behavior in reaction to that becomes increasingly fast and automatic. So there’s that. But that’s not certainty; that’s habit. Who’s to say that God isn’t going to come down and cut the Red Sea in half? You never know. Remember that Al Ghazali basically killed Islamic science by saying that fire doesn’t burn cotton; it’s Allah who comes down and makes the cotton turn hot and black. Which implies some day he may not do so.
You could be pretty damn certain of things if you lived by yourself with nobody to challenge your memory; but living in society people are talking all kinds of bullshit all the time, which also distorts your perception. What if they’re right? At any rate you gotta get along with them, else they might get pissed and sacrifice you to the Frog totem. So the evolutionary sound strategy for a social species isn’t caring for the truth. Not even close.
To finish up, and for no good reason, here’s a video of Chechens dancing.
I made the point in the last post that having smart people on top as a principle doesn’t necessarily help things because they might very well be evil. Here Jordan Peterson makes the same point in a more forceful way.
If you can, take a look at the whole thing. I think it’s not hyperbole that this is the best interview ever. This guy is good. I think he’s got a new religion in his head and he did it all by himself. What a man.
If any of you are reading this: Please, somebody set up a chat between Moldbug and Peterson. It would be epic.
Ever since it became obvious that Trump had a chance of winning, the junior minions of the Cathedral, those mediocre status-seekers waiting for breaks on the status hierarchy so they could scavenge some point for themselves, started to come up with some long-winded arguments against democracy. Which was a lot of fun to watch.
Less fun to watch was the particular argument that they came up with. We need “epistocracy”. The rule of those who know. That’s mean to exclude those Trump voters. Those are ignorant. Shouldn’t vote. Only those who know, those who are not ignorant, should vote. Hence epistocracy.
This is a fairly old idea, obviously, and it reflects a very old and basic misunderstanding that the Western philosophical tradition has about knowledge. We tend to think that knowing more stuff makes you a good person. Socrates used to say that evil people were just ignorant of the good. If we only could teach them, have them understand, they will quickly and resolutely change their evil ways.
But that’s bogus. Knowing a lot doesn’t mean shit. If you can even measure that properly. The question is what you do with your knowledge. Of course ceteris paribus it’s better to know stuff than to be ignorant. But we’re talking politics here. The wise guy isn’t necessarily the good one. Evil is not about ignorance, evil is about evil. Lack of empathy, selfishness, impulse control, whatever. Evil is a personality trait, most likely inborn or socialized in early infancy, and very hard to change. Only changeable through constant social pressure to make sure the guy can’t do evil even if he wants to.
The same goes for meritocracy. Yeah, we have the smartest guys on top. We have exams to guy to elite universities, to get to high places in the civil service and the top companies. So what? Are smart guys better people? Look at Wall Street. Look at China. They invented meritocracy. I’ve written about some examples of the top mandarins at the Imperial court. Were they good people? Surely some were. But many others weren’t. And an evil smart guy is a formidable man. Look at the crap Google or Starbucks is capable of coming up to justify anti-white discrimination or tranny rights. Smart guys all of them.
Which is precisely the problem. Dumb people have weaker imaginations. They only have cognitive capacity to see the real world around them and barely deal with it. Smart guys can signal their social desirability by coming up with long and convoluted chains of utter and complete madness, and still survive, leading normal lives. You don’t necessarily want those guys playing politics.
The real issue in running an organization isn’t smarts, or knowledge. It’s competence, loyalty, and commitment. Skin in the game. All those journalists have neither competence, nor loyalty, nor commitment. Their skin is in another game, the con-game they’ve been running since they invented the newspaper and started agitating against the traditional order in old Europe. No, we don’t need epistocracy. We need the rule of the good, the competent, the loyal.