Thursday, August 18, 2016

How to Fathom the Nature of Truth

What is really happening when a set of symbols, such as a statement or a thought, “gets at the truth,” as we like to think of it? What is it for symbols to be in touch with the facts? The use of symbols to uncover the truth about truth is bound to be fraught with paradoxes, and if a noncognitive experience of oneness with the mapped territory is the answer, this experience may not be as the Buddhist would have it. Instead of feeling at peace as a quieted mind at one with the sea of interconnected events, we might feel obligated to lament our absurdity with a round of horror or embarrassment on our impersonal creator Nature’s behalf.

Three Faulty Theories of Truth

from Lesswrong.com
There are three popular philosophical explanations of truth, none of which is adequate. First, there’s the contention that a true statement is one that corresponds to, or that agrees with, how things are. This view must be a holdover from the ancient theistic worldview which personified nature as God’s handiwork. The idea of agreement is folk-psychological in that agreement occurs between minds, not between a mind and a non-mind. When two people agree, they share the same attitude, experience, or belief. But the non-living majority of nature has no mental properties, so there can be no agreement between it and our statements about it. Early analytic philosophers like G.E. Moore and Bertrand Russell pioneered the correspondence theory of truth, writing, “Thus a belief is true when there is a corresponding fact, and is false when there is no corresponding fact.” These pompous philosophers dismissed theistic religion as gauche and not even worth discussing; they thus lacked the Nietzschean fortitude to appreciate that God’s death renders the secular humanistic notion of truth-as-correspondence—as well as all secular liberal vestiges of god-talk—just as obsolete as theism.

At best, this conception of truth appeals to a metaphor, comparing a mind-to-mind relation to a mind-to-non-mind one, but the comparison is weak not just because of the obvious and relevant dissimilarities, but because of the dubious origin of this way of conceiving of our role in the world. If a mind such as God is the ultimate reality, and God created us according to a plan which would have us use natural facts for our benefit or to demonstrate our worthiness to spend eternity with God, then a factual description of something might be one that indirectly puts us in harmony with God. God’s artifact, that is, the world we describe, would be aligned with our artifacts, namely with our utterances and mental representations, and so this conception of truth would be no mere metaphor. Just as mortal minds can agree with each other, so too they could literally agree with the divine mind. But if we assume atheism, as we must when practicing philosophy while being faithful to the spirit of our time, we’re faced with the awkwardness of any attempt to salvage this theistic projection of ourselves onto a horrifically-impersonal world. Assuming theistic religion was perpetrated to further sundry inauspicious agendas, such as early Neolithic warlords’ domestication of large populations, the tainted remnants of that sort of religion are unlikely to augment a pure-hearted pursuit of knowledge.

Next, there’s the coherence theory of truth, which says a statement is true if it coheres with other statements such that the system’s self-consistency rationally justifies us in believing any of the cohering statements. As you can see, this theory merely reduces truth to an epistemic criterion of reasonableness. One sign that a speaker may be onto something is if her statements hang together so that she’s not contradicting herself like a deranged person. For example, if someone’s narrative of what happened the night she witnessed a crime doesn’t change when the police press her for details, a jury would have reason to trust her report. We assume that the world doesn’t contradict itself, that we occupy a natural order bound by some metaphysical logic, not a chaotically-shifting pseudospace, and so we think our belief systems should mirror this rational wholeness of facts.

However, this second conception of truth is abortive for at least two reasons. First, there are plenty of cases in which a coherent worldview, the internal order of which gives us some reason to trust it, turns out nevertheless to be wrong. Monotheism, astrology, Nazism, and the like may all be more or less coherent systems of thought, but none has the merit of being true. At most, coherence is an indicator but not a sufficient condition of truth. Likewise, a statement must be meaningful to have a chance of being factually true, but many meaningful statements are mistaken or even preposterous. Second, coherence in general can’t be the same as truth, because natural systems throughout the universe are coherent with respect to how their components operate, but that doesn’t mean, say, a solar system is a veridical account of anything. Again, the reason epistemic coherence is regarded as meritorious is because natural events in general are assumed to be regular and orderly. This point, though, goes both ways: if a belief system should mirror natural regularities, by being self-consistent, those systems must already be coherent even though they obviously aren’t themselves true with respect to anything. So coherence can’t suffice for truth. And if we say it must be statements or beliefs that cohere for there to be truth, their key distinguishing feature is their semantic meaningfulness but meaning turns out to be just as mysterious, not to mention as originally magical or supernatural as truth. 

Finally, there’s the existentialist’s subjective conception of truth, such as Kierkegaard’s which identifies truth with truthfulness, with the virtue of personal integrity. This conception, though, is just a change of topic—which would have been fine for Kierkegaard since he was preoccupied with religious issues. Nevertheless, truth and truthfulness, the latter being part of personal authenticity, aren’t the same. Someone can have worked hard on being honest and can mean well and not intend to mislead anyone, while her statements turn out to be foolhardy poppycock for all that. Take a classic example from popular fiction: the Jedi knights have flawless integrity, yet they proceed from the disastrously-false assumption that all is well on their home turf; instead, an evil Sith lord infiltrates the Galactic Republic which the Jedi are sworn to protect. Double-dealing Palpatine becomes Chancellor of the Senate, manipulating the Jedi at every turn until finally he orchestrates a coup, exterminating the Jedi and becoming Emperor. The Jedi knights may be noble in ways an existentialist can admire, but they’re also naïve fools. And this story resonates because we’re all familiar with individuals who are both scrupulous and idealistic, but also naïve and gullible. Thus, we know the difference between semantic truth and a truthful character.

Imagining the Madness of Conventional Sanity

What, then, can be said to enlighten us about the nature of truth? Is truth an illusion? Why is the concept of truth so difficult to explicate—rather like the concepts of consciousness or of time? This last question can be swiftly answered: because these concepts are so fundamental to human experience that we must abstract even from our personhood to understand them, by seeing those phenomena as they really are. The problem with the notion of truth, then, is that it’s so anthropocentric, so integral to how we experience the world that our intuitions about truth can’t be objectively adequate. A subject can’t comprehend objectivity without losing her subjectivity, and should she somehow accomplish that feat, at that very point she naturally could no longer comprehend anything. This is the paradox of attempting to understand the key terms that stand under all the other terms we use as cognitive tools. There may be primitive, rock-bottom concepts that can’t be explicated, since if you don’t already intuitively grasp their meaning, you don’t yet speak a language or think at all.

However that may be, there’s an indirect way of shedding light on the nature of truth. To do this, we should temporarily entertain the fiction that the nonliving universe has a perspective, after all—albeit one that’s distinguished by its indifference towards us. If we personify nature’s neutrality, by interpreting it as a lack of concern about our fate, we can ask how nature would “think” of what we consider to be truth, the matching of symbol and fact. Then we can dispose of the provisional personification to catch a glimpse backstage under nature’s curtain, as it were. We can use this fiction to quarantine the needed dehumanization for us to objectively understand what we’re doing when we speak of true, adequate, or accurate statements or of corresponding facts, rather like how we can watch a horror movie to be titillated by fear in the safety of our home. The point is that how truth and meaning, consciousness and time, and most other elements of our experience seem to us isn’t how they would “seem” to the rest of the world, if that world were alive to be able to interpret anything. In particular, the idea that we guide our behaviour by thinking in symbols which carry meaning and can form statements that properly align with objective facts is biased in our favour. Any intuitively-satisfying account of truth will be anthropocentric and thus not objectively true, whatever that kind of truth might turn out to be. As a thought exercise, we should imagine ourselves taking on Nature’s perspective and thus being indifferent towards our struggle to survive. Were Nature to turn its lumbering head our way, as it were, how would our scramble to formulate the best symbols seem in her alien, cosmic gaze?

We should start by working backwards, by stripping away the anthropocentric aspects of our intuitive theories of truth. The correspondence theory is that our symbols can harmonize with the natural order, and thus that we can be elevated to the majesty of that order. We capture facts with our adequate propositions, as though we were stuffing each into the right-sized bag. And once we’ve collected them all like so many Pokémon, we’ll have finally conquered the wilderness, fulfilling the prehistoric dream of being able to survive by assigning everything a name that gives us magical power over the world. This magical, anti-natural control happens through technique and technology. We map the territory, study the map, adjust the map so it’s in line with our ideal, and set about making the territory work for us more like that map. This is the pragmatic subtext of the correspondence theory.

The coherence theory settles for relativism that’s consistent with postmodern multiculturalism and individualism. There’s no one, final Truth, but only a plurality of truths as long as each thought system achieves the individual’s or group’s highest priorities. Truth is then entirely subjective. Hitherto, the perspective of old, white European males has dominated, but now that the European colonial period has ended in ignominy, and there’s a global village in which national boundaries are fading or at least being replaced by internet-based cliques, female, foreign, and lower-class perspectives are tolerated as being just as valid as that of those males. In general, truth is regarded as being relative to some perspective. But the multiplicity of perspectives matters primarily to liberals who believe in human rights, who feel sorry for the oppressed and the marginalized, who feel each individual ought to have the chance to flower, to express his or her liberty. In so far as any semantic relation remains between mind and non-mind, this relation is once again part of the Enlightenment project of using enhanced know-how to elevate the individual. A perspective is valid only if the viewpoint itself serves as an Ur-tool, if a set of thoughts helps achieve our goals. Indeed, the coherence theory presupposes the existentialist’s ideal of authenticity, since an invalid belief system would be primarily an inauthentic one that’s brought about by coercion, as opposed to one that arises organically as an expression of freedom. An unjust metanarrative, such as one that’s imposed on a colonized people and that buries the latter’s more traditional, authentic perspective would be “untrue,” meaning that it would conflict with those traditions and so the larger, split perspective would be incoherent. The first step to achieving truth wouldn’t be to conduct scientific research; instead, we should seek therapy to ensure that our deepest convictions are given voice.

So much for the humanistic bias of these theories. We can now eliminate these projections and self-glorifications, one by one. There are no lasting pedestals, certainly none for nature as a whole, and we don’t really capture nature by naming or mapping it. We do displace the wilderness with our industries and cities, but the war between us and the natural environment is in our heads. We resent nature because we’re proud of ourselves, but nature hasn’t declared war on life; thus, our epic conflict with the world must be one-sided. Even if there were a clash between natural and artificial forces, the former would win because any advantage of the latter must be so laughably brief in the cosmic timeframe as to be negligible. As Nabokov wrote, “The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness.” Imagine trapping Pokémon but the creatures don’t resist: some go willingly into the trap while others wander in and out of it, because the creatures don’t even perceive the trapper. The creatures are part of a landscape that’s older than the trapper and that will evolve for eons after all trappers are rotting in the earth of that very landscape. What, then, becomes of “trapping,” objectively speaking? The pragmatic enterprise must be an illusion. Moreover, the hunt for Pokémon or the cognitive enterprise of mapping the wilderness must really be something else. We don’t know how exactly life emerges from nonlife, and so we don’t know what that something else might be. We know the flow of genes is crucial to life’s evolution, but we don’t know why the genes flow. Perhaps life arises because of the hidden geometry of randomness present in the drift of life-creating molecules, or perhaps the turning of some hyper-object in higher dimensions intersects with noumenal spacetime, causing the emergence of a host of gadflies, that is, all organisms. Assuming that instrumentalism—the nature-conquering presumption of the correspondence theory—derives from hubris, we must be humiliated before we can learn the truth about truth. Liberal values of tolerance, cosmopolitanism, and human rights must likewise go, for us to glimpse how our buffoonery would seem from Nature’s inhuman perspective.

Would, then, Nature laugh at our conceits the way well-adjusted civilized folks laugh at Donald Trump’s boasts and transparent sociopathy? Are we all collectively like an absurd Trump thrown into the mix of galactic evolution, some weird thing which doesn’t belong anywhere at all but which stands out, calling attention to itself with all manner of hijinks? Mercifully, this thorn in Nature’s side will inevitably be removed, and all of Trump’s colossal delusions of grandeur will be forgotten when it will be as if there had never been such a clown that soothed his fears of inadequacy with laughable fantasies. Does the spectacle of Donald Trump annoy for the profound reason that he’s a buffoon who’s gone mainstream and who thus carries the weight of all our existential absurdity, a scapegoat for our vanity? If Nature could think and feel, would she choose to use organisms as clownish scapegoats to atone for her cosmic aimlessness, the way Western beta herds may presently be using Trump?  

Let’s return to how specifically our talk of truth might seem to Nature. We believe we can use natural processes to benefit us, because we count ourselves as gods who belong to a supernatural realm. We thus break away from reality with a daydream that’s more tolerable to us than the eerily-indifferent wilderness. We communicate to cooperate, and our symbols are supposed to reach out invisibly to anything we imagine they’re about. Some configurations of symbols aren’t just meaningful, but they lock onto nature’s secrets: they contain information that allows us to predict and thus adapt to what will happen. “Our planet is round and it orbits the sun, which is why we have day and night and different seasons in different times and places”: this ordering of symbols represents part of the universe’s physical structure. But the representation is still a map which isn’t the territory. The notions of body, shape, structure, change, and activity are all human conceptions and fundamentally experiential, metaphorical and simplified. Creatures like us would think in these terms, but thinking itself is a habit that won’t last and thus that isn’t equal to the task we set for it, to encompass the territory. Only a deity could comprehend everything, and deities are fictions that make sense of other fictions, such as those of our human rights and of the cognitive mission to get at the truth. We form representations to cope with stimuli. But even this sort of reductive, meta-explanation of symbols is parochial, because it indicates our insatiable curiosity and desperation to get to the bottom of our predicament: we overuse our rationality, which had evolved for a limited, social purpose, but because we’re programmed to love our life, we’re proud of our accomplishments, telling ourselves we’re the hero of our life’s story, and so we trust that our thinking matters to the world at large. We explain our explanations, telling truths about truth, going round and round in our investigations because we love to talk about ourselves.

Whatever the unknowable specifics of how enchanted Nature would regard our presumptions, we can safely assume that Nature would think us mad. What we call sanity, including the convention that we can use tools to know the truth about things, must be as foolish to Nature as this attempt to put ourselves in her shoes and to imagine what Nature would think if she could think in the first place. The gulf between our mindset and a fictional one that doesn’t really exist is, of course, unbridgeable, just as our symbols go nowhere, far from reaching out to let us “grasp” the truth. We can approach the specifics of the objective truth about truth by turning to some biologically-reductive narrative, by viewing our use of language as a survival mechanism that benefits not us as individuals but the genes that differentiate between species. Some larger process is at work. We think we “understand the facts,” but thinking itself is just an adaptation. Plants don’t think, so not even all living things share that pastime, let alone our penchant for overgeneralizing about our importance. And atoms and stars and galaxies certainly don’t think. From their “perspective,” thinking is a futile epiphenomenon, a clown show that’s wildly unrelated to what’s really going on. In that respect, we might turn thought against itself and dismiss us all as fallen creatures, in the language of a monotheistic myth. We’ve fallen into a well of irrelevance, just by being thrown into the world, and there is no way out: we can’t merge with the territory because we’re essentially thinking creatures, and thinking is made up of maps that alienate the thinker from the territory.

Buddhists proclaim that thinking can cease, after all, that we can shut off the module of egoistic blather so that we can contemplate our oneness with the territory we foolishly seek to conquer with our maps. Maybe we can, but in that case we couldn’t know the truth with representations; at best, we could feel a tranquility that we later surmise is caused by the ego’s cessation and by an ultimate coalescence of mind and non-mind. But why should this transcendent truth be marked by a feeling of peace? If a noncognitive experience of oneness is possible, perhaps tranquility or joy is misleading and a genuine sense of oneness with Nature is typified by the horror of feeling that almost every human activity that has ever occurred has been flatly absurd. After all, Nature herself feels neither tranquility nor fear, so either transcendent experience must once again appeal to anthropocentric metaphors and projections. The Buddhist is humble but not humiliated, not ashamed of having been born into our deluded species. Of course, if the ego’s control over the world is an illusion and Nature doesn’t care one way or the other, we’re not really fallen because there’s no great sin; our true position in the universe is amoral.

But although there must then be no great foul, there certainly has been harm. Buddhists pity those trapped by misleading mental constructions. Indeed, the whole point of Buddhism is to end suffering by providing a way for us to experience the truth; for example, there’s the Zen feeling that semantic truth is just another misleading and futile mental construction. Buddhists are content to bask in Nature’s mindlessness as this is supposedly felt during meditation or once the Buddhist learns to unravel her ego. But if transcendent, nonrepresentational truth is possible, we might find it as well in the crushing sorrow for having been made into a living thing in the first place, or in the embarrassment on Nature’s behalf for her having evolved creatures that would cope with their absurdity mainly by spinning fantasies that make our lives doubly preposterous. We ought to feel horror, sorrow, and embarrassment as we contemplate our oneness with impersonal Nature, not because we’re so important that our doomed species deserves to be mourned, but to honour Nature’s monstrousness. The physical universe is hardly a stable, peaceful place; instead, it’s strange and random. Beings come from and depart into nothingness, due to quantum fluctuations and black holes. And those three melancholy, antihumanistic feelings may be the starting points for a transcendent, objective understanding of something like semantic truth. We can’t under-stand what we are and what we do as long as we remain confined to our subjective viewpoints. We must dispense with all comforts, even if only in a thought experiment, to appreciate that whatever the supposed factuality of some combinations of symbols really is, it must at a minimum be ludicrous.

36 comments:

  1. Our mental models must correlate in some limited way to what is really out there, otherwise prediction would be impossible.

    Also, I don't need to point out the self-refuting irony of trying to argue that there is no truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not quite arguing there's no such thing as truth. I'm saying we should try to be less anthropocentric in our thinking about it. We should imagine what thinking in general would seem like from Nature's perspective.

      Prediction does indeed depend on some correlation. But the more limited or imperfect that correlation is--which it is because our concepts idealize and overgeneralize--the more that mutual or reciprocal arrangement is really something else. From our limited, human-centered perspective, it looks like we're in touch with nature, because we can predict with enough success to survive at our level. But from a larger perspective, our alignment with natural facts is negligible, as is our success and our survival, because there's some other process at work that we're too small to see clearly.

      Delete
  2. Why ultimate Truth must be logically coherent and specified in some kind of mathematical formula?.Why not consider possibility that ultimate Truth is unspeakable and paradoxical like zen koan?.I believe that science is greatly overestimated,and that people today have a fetishistic attitude toward her. Zoran from Serbia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I agree that ultimate truth, or a transcendent experience of oneness with reality might be ineffable or unspeakable. That's why I say the thought experiment of imagining what Nature would think of our thinking and of our anthropocentric notion of truth only sheds some light on what truth must be. I'm not trying to tell the whole story. And I say that horror, sorrow and embarrassment are alternative forms of mystical experience. Buddhist tranquility might be one way of transcending anthropocentric instrumentalism, scientism, and so forth, but existentialism or cosmicist reflection would be another.

      I also agree that science is overrated. I argue against scientism in a number of articles on this blog (see the Scientism category through the link below). In this article, I'm rejecting the analytic philosophical theories of truth and presenting a thought experiment to inspire new theories.

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2013/02/map-of-rants.html

      Delete
  3. It must be remembered that there is no real reason to expect any­thing in particular from mankind; good and evil are local expedients—or their lack—and not in any sense cosmic truths or laws. We call a thing “good” because it promotes certain petty human conditions that we happen to like—whereas it is just as sensible to assume that all humanity is a noxious pest which should be eradicated like rats or gnats for the good of the planet or of the universe. There are no absolute values in the whole blind tragedy of mechanistic Nature—nothing is either good or bad except as judged from an absurdly limited point of view.



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Why so much misanthrophy?.That's is not good. Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
    2. I'm not sure so sure that all values are subjective. In the links below I argue for the objectivity of some aesthetic judgments, such as the judgment that nature is monstrous.

      http://rantswithintheundeadgod.blogspot.ca/2013/11/life-as-art-morality-and-natures.html

      https://rsbakker.wordpress.com/2014/05/26/science-nihilism-and-the-artistry-of-nature-by-ben-cain/

      As for misanthropy, I think we should pity someone before we hate that person. Everyone is pitiful, including me.

      Delete
    3. "I overcame myself,the sufferer;I carried my own ashes to the mountains;I inventend a brighter flame for myself." Friedrich Nietzsche Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
    4. All human life is weary, incomplete, unsatisfying, and sardonically purposeless. It always has been and always will be; so that he who looks for a paradise is merely a dupe of myths or of his own imagination. The will and emotion of man crave conditions that do not and never will exist, so that the wise man is he who kills will and emotion to a degree enabling him to despise life and sneer at its puerile illusions and insubstantial goals. The wise man is a laughing cynic; he takes nothing seriously, ridicules earnestness and zeal, and wants nothing because he knows that the cosmos holds nothing worth wanting. And yet, being wise, he is not a tenth as happy as the dog or peasant that knows no life or aspiration above the simplest animal plane.

      Delete
    5. Yeah, Nietzsche was against pity, self-pity, and any anti-life emotion that multiplies suffering instead of promoting strength and vitality. But this constructive, will-to-power side of Nietzsche's philosophy is just a colossal naturalistic fallacy. Nietzsche says we have to base our values on reality, and thus on natural instincts and forces, since all other ideologies are nihilistic (based on nothing), but this reductive view of humans as ordinary animals misses the supernatural, or rather anti-natural aspects of our societies which hide in plain sight.

      Nietzsche longed for the emergence of an overman, someone who transcends his animal nature. And this would indeed be paradoxically natural, since nature is something that's in the process of becoming something else (as opposed to being a static place where nothing changes). But we're all overcomers, to some degree, whenever our actions are anomalous compared to animal behaviour. The issue isn't whether we should seek power and thus be pro-life, in general; rather, it's whether we should seek a higher form of life. And personhood is already anti-animal life (which is why we systematically destroy animal species), and indeed it's also anti-natural in that our artificial habitats systematically replace the wilderness. So to rhapsodize about viral, animal virtues and the power of nature is to miss how our existential predicament is defined by our life-form's palpable opposition to impersonal nature.

      Delete
    6. That's a quote from Lovecraft there, which goes on to say "It is good to be a cynic--it is better to be a contented cat--and it is best not to exist at all." This attitude is similar to the Buddhist's in that the ideal would seem to be a heaven without suffering. The reason it's better not to exist, as the antinatalist would have it, is that suffering is impossible in death, and life is suffering.

      I rather like Captain Kirk's response in Star Trek V: "Dammit, Bones, you're a doctor. You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with the wave of a magic wand. They're things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are...If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain." I'd add that some kinds of suffering are ennobling, such as the pain incurred by a self-conscious struggle with our existential condition.

      Delete
    7. I was wondering if anyone would notice it was Lovecraft! I have Lovecraft's Collected Essay's Vol. 5, which has a lot of his philosophical and political ideas.

      Delete
    8. Do not forget that Lovecraft was racist and very conservative-radishmag.wordpress/cosmic horror. Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
    9. OMG, that's more terrifying than any of his fiction! Goodness, a "racist" AND a "conservative!?" Say it isn't so!

      Delete
    10. Here's a great quote from Lovecraft about his "conservatism."

      “As for the Republicans -- how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical 'American heritage'...) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead.”



      Delete
    11. Here are a few Lovecraft quotes.1-"We are proud to be definitely reactionary,since only by a bold repudiation of the 'liberal' pose and the 'progres' illusion can we get the sort of authoritative social and political control which alone produces things which make life worth living-not this modern worship of empty idealism like the 'false idol' of democracy".2-"The negro is fundamentally the biological inferior of all White and even Mongolian races,and the Northern people must occasionally be reminded of the danger which they incur in admitting him too freely to the privileges of society and government". Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
    12. Lovecraft certainly can rant with the best of them! I rather like his analysis of three forms of government in "Nietzscheism and Realism" (link below):

      "Aristocracy and monarchy are the most efficient in developing the best qualities of mankind as expressed in achievements of taste and intellect; but they lead to an unlimited arrogance. That arrogance in turn leads inevitably to their decline and overthrow. On the other hand, democracy and ochlocracy [mob rule] lead just as certainly to decline and collapse through their lack of any stimulus to individual achievement. They may perhaps last longer, but that is because they are closer to the primal animal or savage state from which civilised man is supposed to have partly evolved...

      "When there is an autocracy, we may be sure that the masses will some day overthrow it;and when there is a democracy or ochlocracy, we may be sure that some group of mentally and physically superior individuals will some day overthrow it by establishing a more or less enduring (but never wholly permanent) supremacy, either through judgment in playing men against each other, or through patience and ability in concentrating power by taking advantage of the indolence of the majority. In a word, the social organisation of humanity is in a state of perpetually and incurably unstable equilibrium."

      Lovecraft understates things, though, when he speaks of the "arrogance" of the aristocrats (or the alphas). Given what we see in Trump, for example, we must move right on into assuming that the top 1% are more or less sociopathic, and that's what leads to their corruption, since sociopathy is a form of self-destruction as a matter of psychological fact.

      Regarding that rant on Republicans, most of it holds up quite well (I don't get the line about the "non-materially-shrewd"). Democrats are cowards, Republicans are monsters; that about sums up American politics for me. But Lovecraft is right on when he mocks Republicans for their intolerable synthesis of smugness and ignorance. "Dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes"--that's the Fox News infotainment bubble!

      https://www.scribd.com/document/121195542/Nietzscheism-and-Realism

      Delete
    13. Zoran, Lovecraft's racism has no scientific basis. If anything, blacks are "biologically" superior to whites, as we see in the Olympics, but that has nothing to do with the genes themselves, since presumably Africans were artificially bred to be physically strong to increase their value as slaves. Likewise, women were bred to be docile and supportive by men who kept women from being highly educated. As is quite apparent, blacks and women who are brought up as whites can show the same intellectual excellence.

      The physical aspects of race to me are irrelevant, and Lovecraft slips up when he focuses on them. Culture is much more important than any physical difference between ethnic groups. There may be some interesting biological, hormonal differences between men and women, though.

      Is social progress an illusion? I think the figure of President Obama is symbolic in this context. On the surface you have a triumph of liberalism, since an African-American rises to the height of American power. But to acquire that power, Obama had to be fed neoliberal ideology so that he would no longer stand for progress, that is, for transformative revolution; instead, he governed as a centrist technocrat speaking of the need for incremental changes even though the US has enormous structural problems.

      Lovecraft's critique of democracy is actually pretty reasonable, I think. If American political power were more centralized, its problems could be solved almost in the blink of an eye. Instead, you have this interminable slog which neoliberals call "incremental progress," because Americans are polarized so the pendulum goes back and forth.

      Moreover, as Lovecraft writes, "when there is a democracy or ochlocracy, we may be sure that some group of mentally and physically superior individuals will some day overthrow it by establishing a more or less enduring (but never wholly permanent) supremacy, either through judgment in playing men against each other, or through patience and ability in concentrating power by taking advantage of the indolence of the majority." That has in fact happened in the US: the democracy has been hijacked by oligarchs.

      Recently I saw Michael Moor's latest documentary, and Americans should be infuriated by the fact that Europeans live much better lives than Americans, thanks to their implementation of what were once American ideas for social reform. The US has lost its way, and that's largely because liberal politicians don't stand up for liberal values; they have no vision, or rather they lack the courage to reveal to the public that their ideal of rational enlightenment leads to the horror of something like Lovecraft's cosmicism. It's the modernist's fear of postmodern relativism and (ultimately) nihilism.

      Delete
  4. But how to explain the emergence of neo-reactionaries like Nick Land(for whom Lovecraft is main inspiration-xenosystems.net) and HBD(lnz.com/jman/hbd-fundamentals,humanbiologicaldiversity.com)?. Zoran from Serbia

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is clear that cosmicist worldview has two strands.The first is that of right wing(Lovecraft,neo-reaction),and other is libertine(in style "Marques De Sade Superstar").I can not see how progressivism/liberal democracy/egalitarianism can be fitting in picture of Cosmic Horror except as an ordinary delusion. Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
    2. I suspect there are more than just those two political applications of cosmicism or dark existentialism. The ascetic lifestyle of Buddhism or Schopenhauer's pessimism would be another practical application.

      My blog talks about social progress in terms of the devouring of the wilderness by the artificial subworlds we create. It's a doomed kind of heroism, but it's heroic nonetheless. And if democracy can serve as an instrument in bringing about that end, I don't see that the two are necessarily incompatible. The question is how pessimistic a cosmicist should be; the more pessimistic, the less sense it makes to speak of any kind of progress.

      Delete
    3. Buddhism in its original sense is the aristocratic/elitist philosophy of life,it is not for the weak in mind and body.According to buddhist teaching you must to reborn several times as a monk in order to reach Nirvana through intensive meditation.On other side American Buddhism is complete bu....t. P.S.-I forgot that there is esotheric strand in lovecraftian cosmicism described in the works of English magician Kenneth Grant. Zoran from Serbia

      Delete
  5. "blacks and women who are brought up as whites can show the same intellectual excellence. How would a black person be brought up as white? If this is the case, why don't all black people raise their children as white? Where do Asians fit into this? Asian women are not raised as whites, and they seem to do quite well academically.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not so much blacks being brought up as whites, contrary to what I clumsily said, but poor folks being brought up according to upper class standards--especially standards of education. The point is that for centuries in some parts of the world blacks and women were being artificially kept as second-class citizens, because they weren't deemed fit for higher education. Again, I don't think physical characteristics of race are important. What matters are the cultural assumptions that maintain a dominance hierarchy--such as one based on class divisions.

      Delete
  6. Here's study on black children adopted by whites.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minnesota_Transracial_Adoption_Study

    ""The test performance of the Black/Black adoptees [in the study] was not different from that of ordinary Black children reared by their own families in the same area of the country. My colleagues and I reported the data accurately and as fully as possible, and then tried to make the results palatable to environmentally committed colleagues. In retrospect, this was a mistake. The results of the transracial adoption study can be used to support either a genetic difference hypothesis or an environmental difference one"



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. There were apparently confounding factors in that study which complicate the conclusion that can be drawn from it. For every black person who doesn't benefit from higher education, we can likely point to one who does benefit from it, such as the African-American pundits you see on TV or such as Barack Obama himself.

      Delete
  7. "The point is that for centuries in some parts of the world blacks and women were being artificially kept as second-class citizens, because they weren't deemed fit for higher education" How would you explain the technological difference between Native Americans and Europeans? How about Australian Aborigines? I don't think that all technological differences can be attributed to people being "artificially" kept down.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Clearly, cultural differences (values, religious faith, taboos, etc) impact how a population develops. Western economic supremacy derives, though, not so much from our ancestors' braininess but from their brutality and conquests. The outcome of wars and oppression, such as Americans' use of slave labour or China's present use of its millions of wage slaves determines the domestic and international power rankings.

      In the West, women and blacks weren't deemed persons, because of the prevailing cultural ideas. Man was created first in Eden, not woman, and Christians are saved by God and ordered by God to convert the heathens, etc. The East has its own patriarchal myths. These ideologies might just be rationalizations or excuses for one group to dominate another, but the culture won't drive an emotionally normal person to support an oppressive system unless the ideas resonate on a religious level.

      Delete
    2. You did not answer the question about the difference between Native American's and Europeans, around the time Europeans discovered the country. So Europeans were able to design ships that sailed across the Atlantic, based on brutality and conquests? Doesn't that require the ability to design and build the ships? As Gerald B. Lorentz put it in his fantastic book, Homo, 99 and 44/100% Nonsapiens. "African slaves were brought here in European ships, not the other way around."

      Delete
    3. To be clear, I'm not saying it's impossible there are genetic factors that could account for differences in intelligence between races. There are clearly external physical differences (skin and hair colour, complexion, eye shape, height, etc), so it's conceivable there could be internal ones as well. There are cognitive differences between men and women. But there are clearly cultural differences that form the environments that in turn can trigger different genes as children grow up in one part of the world or another.

      As for your question, Lewis Mumford talks about the cultural drive that went into European exploration. It had a lot to do with their acquisitiveness and brutality--directed not just at each other but at the planet. Europeans were and are more instrumental and individualistic in their dealings with people and with nature, whereas hunter-gatherer groups are more animistic: they worship natural forces so they want to live in equilibrium with their environment. They may not be pacifists, but they're more spiritual about how they treat other creatures, and they're content with their way of life if they've achieved balance that allows other species to flourish. They don't think like cancer cells that want to grow to infinity even if it means the death of their host and themselves or their descendants. So there were powerful cultural differences that could have explained why one race explored more than the other. It was indeed that one race thought in terms of conquering and dominating as much territory as possible, because its leaders were infected by a decadent pseudo-Christian mind virus, whereas the other race thought in more mystical and environment-friendly terms.

      It's rather like asking why the Japanese now don't build nuclear weapons. Maybe they lack the intelligence or the expertise? Obviously not! The reasons are entirely cultural: they were victims of nuclear attacks, so they abhor the very idea and don't want to devote their energy to such an endeavour.

      Indeed, if long-term survival is a mark of intelligence, and the Western way of life ends up spoiling the earth’s capacity to support our species, it looks like you’re begging the question: the Native Americans may have been more intelligent, after all, even if they would have done poorly on an instrumental, antisocial, and materialistic IQ test.

      Delete
    4. "It was indeed that one race thought in terms of conquering and dominating as much territory as possible, because its leaders were infected by a decadent pseudo-Christian mind virus, whereas the other race thought in more mystical and environment-friendly terms." I talk to a lot of Europeans online. They seem to remember Middle Eastern people invading, burning, and bringing their foreign religions with them. Remember Judeo-Christianity/Islam is/was foreign to Europe. Once Rome got ahold of it, they of course used to to their advantage. The Old Testament is filled with violence, conquering, enslaving, etc. Did Europeans write the Old Testament? As far as Native Americans being more intelligent in some ways, I don't disagree. Of course this goes against your "artificial worlds" idea and a future "Singularity." Your entire philosophy is grounded in struggling against nature, not working with it. Here are a couple of videos about "European" Christianity.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C6FjGSM0qQo

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LWiXECm0M5g


      Delete
    5. It seems you're interpreting me as saying that Europeans or the ancestors of Americans are uniquely despicable. That's not my view. Each race is despicable in its way, since each channels our genetic compulsions, most of which are beastly. It's just that some cultures sublimate those territorial and narrow-minded impulses better than others.

      So sure, Islam spread aggressive territoriality as well as some high arts and rationality. And Rome corrupted the spark from the Axial Age that had ignited the earliest Christians (i.e. some rebellious Gnostic Jews). The conflict was initially between the deflated Roman religion, which is much like present-day Canadian multiculturalism--good for peace and security, but deadly to the spirit--and the subversive Eastern religions which awakened some Roman power elites. Christianity was an outgrowth of that syncretism between Rome's cynical interests in maintaining the empire by oppressing the masses, and Eastern (largely Jewish) antisocial mysticism.

      I am indeed opposed to both the materialistic IQ concept of intelligence and to the Native American notion of oneness with nature. My critique of the latter worldview would be similar to what I say about Taoism. In an important sense, we're not natural beings. Consciousness severs us from the world. And scientists discover that the world is unenchanted and monstrously empowered to flow with no life force or inspired guidance. Our largely satanic task is to bring light (ideals, values, intelligence) to the wilderness, not to blend into our pre-established habitat like the animal species.

      Delete
    6. By the way, are you the fellow in those YouTube videos? Interesting analyses there.

      Delete
    7. I am not, and I don't agree with a lot of what he says. He is just very knowledgeable about pre-Christian European history. He gets into things like "white genocide," which I still don't really comprehend. The Holomodor was a genocide that did mostly affect whites, because most Ukrainian's were. There seems to be people suggesting than immigration will lead to whites dying out. I suppose that could happen over time, but there is no law preventing them from having as many white babies as they desire. The Mormons certainly are, they don't seem to be experiencing any issues.

      Delete
  8. https://www.iqtestforfree.net/average-IQ-by-country.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, these IQ rankings show either that there are biological or cultural differences or both. There are those who argue the IQ test is culturally biased in that it evaluates only a certain kind of intelligence. It focuses on so-called left-brained skills, since those can be more easily measured. It's thus like the American GRE, which some graduate schools no longer use or weigh highly, because it feeds them incomplete kinds of students. Emotional and social intelligence, which some cultures might prize more than others, falls by the wayside in these tests.

      If those rankings are correct, it certainly looks like Asian cultures and wealth correlate with higher left-brained intelligence, so poor populations that don't have Asian (i.e. Chinese, Japanese, Korean) genes don't do so well on the test. If there are genetic components, those with lower intelligence would naturally stay poor, while those with high left-brained intelligence would excel at making money. Consumers don't care so much about high right-brained, artistic intelligence, because they're decadent (they require delusions to mask their late modern nihilism, as Nietzsche said, whereas great art subverts delusions). Thus, you'd end up with these international correlations.

      Delete