Monday, 19 December 2011

"Differences in how we make sense of things" - A Jim Kalb comment

[This comment from Jim Kalb's blog seems worth preserving.]

Liberals justify by reference to what they see as reason—fairness and avoidance of harm. But their vision of those things is religious. It relates to some ideal world rather than the practicalities of this one.

You can see that in the attitude toward HBD. Natural differences that matter among groups of human beings are metaphysically impossible for them. Belief in them is dirty and somewhat uncanny. The EU is another example. It’s not a policy, it’s a metaphysical necessity. 

That being so, I don’t think their ideals are really fairness and avoidance of harm. If you take something limited and relative and dependent on facts and circumstances and turn it into a divinized absolute it’s not going to be the same thing any more. Ares and Aphrodite, taken literally as active divine presences, are not the same as war and sexual attraction simply as such.

You’re right that Republicans are a team. Their nationalism, for example, is a matter of rooting for Team America. But liberals are a religion. If you’re not a Republican you’re not on their team, but if you’re not a liberal, you’re not a legitimate human being. Is being on a team more of an in-group concern than being a legitimate human being? It’s less a purity concern for sure.

It seems to me that left-wing morality has to do with compliance with an infinitely demanding system of abstract concepts. That’s a purity concern. Among true believers, PC is purity purified. That’s one reason why—as you note—liberals often work very hard to prove their worthiness.

Why do you say liberalism needs the support of overwhelming numbers to triumph? Certainly not prior support. The overwhelming numbers of people can find something to like in almost any political view from Nazism to traditional monarchy to PC liberalism. The point is that they’re not the active factor. That’s why there have been so many different political regimes, each of which has seemed inevitable and overwhelmingly real while it has lasted.

I’d tend to explain why we get one regime rather than another less by differences in psychology, in the sense of desire and motivation, than differences in how we make sense of things—that is, in basic explanatory concepts. Such things are not just for intellectuals any more than grammar is just for grammarians. 

So on that view indoctrination would tend to work if it plausibly applies how people generally make sense of things in a particular setting. That’s an obvious reason why PC indoctrination works better than say Calvinist indoctrination among North American middle class whites in the year 2011. If you want Christian indoctrination that works you have to go to the most basic issues and deal with them seriously.



  1. I think actually it goes beyond "how we make sense of things." It's something both you and Kalb have alluded to, and Eric Voegelin before either of you.

    Modernity is an entire experiential paradigm -- a whole different mode of being. The modern actually experiences reality in a radically, qualitatively different (and defective) way.

    This is why, for instance, to be nonliberal is to be a "dinosaur," a "caveman," a relic, fossil, etc. The modern's sense of self is bound up with his situation in time. He cannot understand anyone who experiences life differently. This is evidence of modernity's falseness; we can understand them, they cannot understand us. To them, we are aliens.

    This is why, I think, it's more important to speak of "modernity" than "liberalism." Liberalism is simply the active version of modernity, the outward manifestation of it. Modernity is the pathological mode of being which underlies it.

  2. @Proph - what you say is true - as I know from experience. To live in modernity is qualitatively different -

  3. I agree, the most remarkable feature of liberalism/modernism is its emphasis on time -- and in particular, on the notion of progress, which apparently requires a diminution and repudiation of the past.

    For them, novelty is more valuable than heritage.

    We anti-moderns, on the other hand, are concerned with the Permanent Things, with the Eternal Verities, or with Truth/Beauty/Good understood in the Platonic sense.

    We are essentialists where they are nominalists. They see only the flux of particulars, we see the timeless universals.

    This makes a huge difference in "how we make sense of things."