Christmas Gift: The Ten Pillars of Mencius Moldbug.

As promised.

The following is from a major piece of work we put together a year ago, but we suspended the project to write the STEEL-cameralist manifesto. 

Moldbug is the greatest philosopher of our era. He combines both the vision and imagination of a Plato with the mastery of fact and clarity of purpose of an Aristotle.

With the exception of this exemplary piece of work, there has been few – if any – systematic and comprehensive studies carried out on Moldbug and his epic work: Unqualifed Reservations. (Helpfully put together in good order here.) 

There are two men whose work does grapple with Moldbug – in often deep, interesting and important ways. Paradoxically or not, these two men come to diametrically opposite conclusions. The first is Nick Land and the second is Reactionary Future.

The Ten Pillars aims, however, at comprehensiveness, though not completeness. The Pillars systematic exposition of Moldbug’s system intends to not only set out the main claims and arguments of UR in a textbook like way but also aims to address issues of interpretation or misinterpretation.

Nrx is not dead or, at least, Moldbug’s potential has not yet been exhausted.

The Grand Master awaits his St Thomas Aquisse.

The following Summa Philosophia is still a rough draft of a work that comes to over 300 pages, so there is likely to be mistakes and imperfections. Comments and criticisms are most welcome.

So without further ado, we give you Pillar 1: The Purpose and Procedure.

 

Pillar 1: The Purpose and Procedure.



The Purpose.

Fundamentally, Moldbug’s purpose is to design – conceptually design – a political system which minimises or eliminates violence; in particular, politically organised, mass violence:

The basic idea of formalism is just that the main problem in human affairs is violence. The goal is to design a way for humans to interact, on a planet of remarkably limited size, without violence.

Especially organized violence. Next to organized human-on-human violence, a good formalist believes, all other problems – Poverty, Global Warming, Moral Decay, etc, etc, etc – are basically insignificant. Perhaps once we get rid of violence we can worry a little about Moral Decay, but given that organized violence killed a couple of hundred million people in the last century, whereas Moral Decay gave us “American Idol,” I think the priorities are pretty clear. 

It is important to emphasis the contrast that Moldbug makes between what he claims to be politically fundamental – minimising or preventing violence – and what, in general, the goal of progressives and conservatives are – at least, with respect to the time in which he wrote.

For, perhaps, 80% percent of progressives and conservatives, they are concerned about morality or immorality; justice and righteousness; selflessness and selfishness. The moral concern may be about “freedom” or it may involve “equality”; it could be about “culture” or “religion.” In addition, it could be some specific “issue” such as the “climate” or endangered animals.

Moldbug, while not disdaining these things, believes them to be not only of secondary importance but downstream of politics and government. Moldbug, in contrast to conservatives, like Andrew Breitbart or Lawrence Auster (both of whom are deceased), believes that culture is downstream of politics and not, as conservatives think, that politics is downstream of culture.

Moldbug, however, goes further and argues that while there is the appearance of genuine moral arguments over such things like “abortion”, “gay marriage” or whatever the controversy of the day is, the reality is that these “arguments” are part of an ongoing civil war that predates not only the 60’s but even the founding of America itself. In fact, this civil war goes all the way back to the English Civil War.

(Ultimately, the roots lie in the Reformation, but the soil is Constantine’s transformation of Christianity into a state religion.)

With this historical frame, he claims that the American War of Independence, the Civil War, the Progressive Era and the Civil Rights are all part of what is known as the “arc of history” by today’s Progressives or the conquest of America by Yankeedom by right-wing southerners.

The possible political violence that Moldbug is worried about is not an empty abstraction, but one that is historically long-standing and culturally embedded.

In the passage below, Moldbug explains the link between democracy and violence or “democide” as he calls it. The alleged link is not a mere “correlation” or “association” and it is not even just a causal link but a conceptually necessary relation. That is, democracy and war – given their meanings – amount to the same thing. Qualifying that claim, however, we could say that democracy is, necessarily, a form of organised warfare.

Moldbug:

One of the main reasons I started this blog is that I don’t see how the BDH-OV (See Pillar Six: The Cleansing.) conflict can end until a lot more people are willing to speak frankly about what’s actually going on. Wringing our hands in a vain expression of “unity” will not do the job – especially because some of the most interesting tropes of the conflict are issues on which, in my opinion, both sides are profoundly detached from reality.

In my opinion this euphemistic approach to what pretends to be a conflict of ideas and ideals, but is in fact an ordinary and rather tawdry case of communal violence, is inseparable from the disaster of democracy. As Clausewitz observed, war and politics are a continuum. Representative democracy is a limited civil war in which the armies show up, get counted, but don’t actually fight. The BDH and OV factions refrain – mostly – from inciting or participating in outright warfare, for one reason: it is not in either’s interest. If this ever changes, they’ll be at each others’ throats like Hutus and Tutsis.

Unpacking the claim that democracy is necessarily a form of warfare – which is a stronger claim, or a clarification of Moldbug’s – one only need to consider how Clausewitz defines war. Clausewitz defines war as a “duel” or a “contest” in which one side or both attempt to compel the other side to their will.

Democracy, if it means anything, means the majority compelling the minority to their will.

The difference between democracy and war is the formal use of violence to achieve the aim of breaking the opponent’s will and compelling submission. Thus, only the means are different, the end is the same.

There is, however, one further distinction to discuss here. Moldbug argues, as we will see later, that the reality of democracy in America is that – in addition to persuasion, propaganda, blackmail, bribery and bullying – informal violence is also used to achieve the end of submission.

American democracy involves, as we shall see, two different castes attempting to gain control of not only the machinery of government (such as courts and bureaucracies) but control of every aspect of society (public or private).

While some may view this conceptual argument (democracy is a form of warfare) as a clever trick or piece of sophistry, Moldbug also constructs historical arguments about the causal link between democracy, warfare and mass violence against civilians.

Moldbug:

From the reservationist perspective, democracy is obviously the cause of democide – because the Age of Democracy is also the Age of Democide. The last major outbreak of indiscriminate mass murder in Europe was the massacre of Beziers in the Albigensian Crusade, which is easy to explain as a breakdown in military discipline, and whose memory also has suspicious links to the anticlerical Black Legend.

This was in 1209. (Possibly some nasty things also happened in the Thirty Years War. But defenestration is not democide. Nor is famine or the pest. And even if we admit that the Sack of Magdeburg was no picnic, it was again a failure of discipline – the opposite of Eichmann.)

Then, 780 years later, the association between popular government and democide opens with the French Revolution (if not with Cromwell’s plantation of Ireland), and continues to pop up everywhere. Every sovcorp which has ever committed democide has claimed to be the one true representative of the People.  Black Legend notwithstanding, significant cases of monarchist mass murder are hard to find.

Moldbug is both making a general or inductive claim about democracy and “democide” and a claim that there is a causal link as well. We explore these issues in greater detail in Pillar 5: The Democide.

Years later, Moldbug claims that the “global decline of security” – which includes the decline of security in America – is the most “salient phenomenon of our era.”

Thus, once again, we see a great consistency of purpose and clarity of focus from Moldbug. The problem of conflict and the possibility of mass violence is for him the central problem.

Moldbug:

Actually, my daughter’s preschool is literally in a ruin – that is, a (nicely renovated) space which used to be part of a Catholic church.  (The preschool is the former convent.  The rest of the church remains a ruin proper.)  Where are the people who used to pray in this church?  They fled.  Why?  Because they were afraid for their physical safety.

I know, I know.  It’s gauche to even bring this kind of stuff up.  It’s not part of our consensus reality.  It’s not part of our consensus history.  When it comes to actual history, however, the global decline of security in the second half of the 20th century is (I assert) the salient phenomenon of our era. 

….the fact that many parts of all, and all parts of some, American cities that were thriving in 1950, have now fallen into chaos and ruin. 

Am I too hard on Sam Altman?  After all, he admits there’s a problem.  He doesn’t admit this problem – but isn’t his point basically the same?  That something isn’t working? 


….government has reduced what was once America’s fourth-largest city to a demon-haunted slum – and while extreme, this outcome is anything but an exception.

Moldbug is, presumably, talking about not only the violence in Chicago, Detroit and Baltimore but, as the first paragraph claims, the original inhabitants who “fled” for their “physical safety”. In other words, he means ethnic cleansing – “white” ethnic cleansing or what is euphemised by the term “white flight”. We explore this claim in Pillar 7: The Cleansing.

There is an additional scholarly point to make before continuing. In the last, edited, quote, it would appear that Moldbug blames “government” and in the preceding sentences he explicitly blames “Harvard” and the “scientific” approach to government for the decline in security. This appears to stand in contradiction with the claim that democracy is to blame. This apparent, but false, contradiction will be explored and Moldbug’s position will be clarified when we come to Pillar 4: The Democrat; Pillar 7: The Brahmins and Pillar 8: The Cathedral.

Some readers of Moldbug have raised objections to the claim that Moldbug’s focus is on violence per se. They argue that Moldbug’s concern is actually with conflict and uncertainty.

Moldbug:

In other words, violence equals conflict plus uncertainty. While there are wallets in the world, conflict will exist. But if we can eliminate uncertainty – if there is an unambiguous, unbreakable rule that tells us, in advance, who gets the wallet – I have no reason to sneak my hand into your pocket, and you have no reason to run after me shooting wildly into the air. Neither of our actions, by definition, can affect the outcome of the conflict.

Violence of any size makes no sense without uncertainty. Consider a war. If one army knows it will lose the war, perhaps on the advice of some infallible oracle, it has no reason to fight. Why not surrender and get it over with?

The apparent contradiction disappears when we make a distinction between ultimate and proximate goals and causes.

Ultimately, Moldbug’s goal is to minimise or prevent violence. Moldbug’s argues that violence is the result of conflict and uncertainty (by conflict, he means conflict over scarce material and social resources). Thus, the proximate goal of Moldbug is to eliminate uncertainty about the ownership and control of said resources.

Simply put, democracy is an unstable and unpredictable form of government that produces uncertainty and causes conflict as a result of exacerbates whatever conflict already exists.

Nevertheless, while the bureaucratic, judicial and media defences in depth of “true” democracy have managed to prevent some of the worst excesses of popular government (see, for instance, this account of political and mob violence in the pre-Progressive Era), these defences are weakening. 

Moldbug is ultimately concerned with the possibility that if the political incentives change and the political institutions fail or falter – perhaps as a result of a crisis or some other paradigm disrupting event – a violent, civil war could break out.

As we write, the year is 2016-7, when Moldbug started writing, the year was 2007. The reader can make their own judgement about whether or not Moldbug was right to be worried.

Moldbug:

Democracy, like all conventions of limited war, is fragile. It’s hard to establish and easy to destroy. One of my main concerns is that I think the principal check that keeps the US from degenerating into actual violence is the 75-year-old informational dominance of “responsible” broadcast and newspaper journalism. This system is dying. It is being replaced by people like Amanda Marcotte and Michelle Malkin. And their followers, if not them personally, seem to have enough pure, 24-karat hate stored up for ten or fifteen really juicy civil wars.

So when people talk about abandoning democracy, they can mean one of two things. They can mean “screw it, let’s go to the mattresses,” or they can mean abolishing the conflict itself, and designing a system which is based on the rule of law rather than political triumph and defeat. Democratic politics is the middle ground between these options, and I follow Hazlitt (William, not Henry, though they both rock) in refusing to split the difference between right and wrong. This is why I oppose democracy, even though there are many worse alternatives.

We have thus come full circle. While Moldbug begins with what may seem to many readers (including conservatives and other right-wingers) to be a myopic and immoral or even (bizarrely) an amoral concern about violence, it is, in fact, deeply moral and responsible.

 

The Procedure.

The “procedure” is how Moldbug came to conceptually design a new political system:

Most everything I have to say is available, with better writing, more detail and much more erudition, in Jouvenel, Kuehnelt-Leddihn, Leoni, Burnham, Nock, etc, etc.

If you’ve never heard of any of these people, neither had I until I started the procedure. If that scares you, it should. Replacing your own ideology is a lot like do-it-yourself brain surgery. It requires patience, tolerance, a high pain threshold, and very steady hands.

General Overview of Mencius Moldbug.

Firstly, he is a self-proclaimed generalist, rather than any kind of specialist. His work consists of a systematic and visionary integration of philosophy, history, economics, social analysis and commentary on contemporary events (and quite a bit of poetry). His “procedure” involves reading numerous, old and obscure books. His procedure is to extract what is useful from them, synthesise any useful insights in order to produce a coherent and accurate perception of history, politics, economics and society.

Moldbug’s Key Influences.

1: Thomas Carlyle.
2: Ludwig Von Mises.
3: Murray Rothbard.
4: Hans Herman Hoppe.
5: Bertrand De Jouvenel.
6: James Burnham.
7: Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.
8: Gaetano Mosca.
9: Frederich List.
10: Robert Filmer.
11: Henry Maine
12: Anthony Froude.
13: Evelyn Cromer.
14: Walter Lippmann.
15: Albert Jay Nock.
16: Carl Von Clausewitz.

The Methods of Mencius Moldbug.

In the next several parts, we are going to introduce you to Moldbug’s method, epistemology and philosophy of judgement and historiography.

 

Moldbug’s Method in Microcosm.

The key question, in general, for Moldbug could be phrased as: does it work?

Moldbug:

The key is to look at this not as a moral problem, but as an engineering problem. Any solution that solves the problem is acceptable. Any solution that does not solve the problem is not acceptable.

Moldbug is ruthlessly utilitarian (as we shall see) and relentlessly consequentialist.

The following captures the core of both the problem and his method for attacking it which is to provide security against violence.

Moldbug:

The basic engineering problem is: while one can fantasize ad libitum about the way in which this system should be governed, how will it actually be governed?

This entire problem can be described as one of security.



Moldbug’s Epistemology and Philosophy of Judgement.

Moldbug’s epistemology (which he calls “reservationism”) places importance, first and foremost, on the need to think for oneself – to exercise judgement.

By judgement, Moldbug means something that is intuitive – that cannot be reduced, in the final analysis, to protocols, procedures, exhaustive rules or mathematical quantification.

Moldbug’s thinking here is similar to Aristotle’s view that morality cannot be reduced to precise rules but requires prudence (practical reasoning). This general epistemology is part and parcel with his philosophy of governance (or philosophy of ruling rather).

According to Moldbug, a ruler must make, at times, judgements and those judgements will again be based, in the final analysis, on the exercise of personal judgment as opposed to forming or “outputting” judgments based on abstract and automatic formulas, protocols or procedures.

Three examples suffice of the type of judgement formation that Moldbug rejects: 1: “scientific” public policy; 2: bureaucratic procedures; 3: the “rule of law”.

Here is how Moldbug describes his epistemology.

Reservationism:

A reservationist is anyone who reserves the right to think for himself. (Or herself.)

Of course, I’d like to think that anyone who thinks for herself (or himself) will arrive at the same conclusions as me, and thus be a formalist and a neocameralist. But since I have no way of guaranteeing this result, the monicker is not redundant.

(Notice that he draws a distinction between a formalist and a neocameralist. These two things are often conflated. We examine this in Pillar 2: The Vision.)

Moldbug:

The central dogma of reservationism is that reason is irreducible and untranscendable. Reason is no more and no less than common sense. It is not possible to construct a useful definition of common sense, nor is it possible to construct a system of thought that improves on common sense. Any system that purports to do so is either (a) bogus, or (b) justifiable via common sense, and thus a special case of it.

The first claim that reason is “irreducible” and “untranscendable” is strikingly similar to Thomas Nagel’s view of reason in the Last Word. This is not surprising, for both Moldbug and Nagel are philosophical rationalists in the tradition of Kant, Leibniz and Descartes.

(The term “rationalist” here should not be confused with “rationalist” in the Less Wrong sense who are, in fact, enemies of this kind of “rationalism”.)

In Moldbug’s case, however, he is a rationalist as a consequence of accepting the arguments of Mises, Rothbard and Hoppe. As Hoppe masterfully expounds here, Mises clarified and extended Kant’s preoccupation with the possibility of a priori synthetic judgements into a complete system of thought, the foundations of which are known as praxeology.

(A clarification must be made regarding Moldbug’s claim about “common sense” or that it is not possible to “construct a system that improves upon common sense.”

Strictly speaking, rationalist epistemology is not “common sense” thinking but conceptual thinking. Rationalist epistemology – of which praxeology is the best example -grounds some claims (a priori and a priori synthetic claims) in self-evident premises or axioms. Reasoning from these axioms then, one can derive, using deductive logic, conclusions that cannot be denied without self-contradiction. Nevertheless, nothing material rests on this clarification.)

Moldbug contrasts his epistemology with what he sees as his four enemies:

The great enemy of the reservationist is the automatist. An automatist is a small, grubby person who believes he can reduce or transcend reason. In the last two centuries, enormous armies of automatists have proposed all kinds of replacements for common sense. The fact that these replacements often travel under the name of “reason” itself is best explained adaptively.

Automatists tend to fall into four camps. The stupidest are literalists, who believe that instead of thinking, we should accept the literal text of some holy book or other. The most dangerous are officialists, who believe that truth is whatever the government says it is. The most annoying are popularists, who believe that the most fashionable thoughts, as of right now, are the most likely to be true. And the most pernicious are algorithmists, who believe they have some universal algorithm which is a drop-in replacement for any and all cogitation.

For Moldbug, the goal of his epistemology is to identify and understand the patterns of cause and effect in order to better predict and control natural and human phenomena in order to achieve goals:

Reservationists, in general, are fascinated by the interpretation of human affairs. In human history, politics, and economics, we observe patterns which appear to be patterns of cause and effect. If we can understand these patterns, we can predict the effects of our actions, and since most people are well-intentioned, we can wipe out war, poverty, bad television and tooth decay. If we misunderstand these patterns, our well-intentioned actions may indeed cause war, poverty…..



History and Historiography. 

Moldbug stresses the need to engage with primary material – especially primary historical sources:

The study of history reduces to two tasks. One: reading primary sources. Two: assessing their credibility. If we know whom in the past to trust, we know the story of the past. Until he makes this judgment, the historian is no more than a database administrator.

In a different post, he widens his criteria to include modern historians:

And how will we accomplish this? By the most orthodox of scholarly methods. The only tools in our little black bag are (a) primary sources, (b) forgotten works by reputable historians of the present, and (c) modern works by respected academics.


On Judgement in Politics and History.

Once again, we see Moldbug’s consequentialism shine through for his historiography ultimately serves a political purpose. In short, he wants to illuminate the present by comparing it to the past and vice versa.

Moldbug:

If we believe in one thing here at UR, it is judging past and present by the same standards. This includes standards of truth and evidence – a subject last week’s post may have raised.

Personally, I believe in judging past and present by the same standards because I believe that the dead are entitled to the same consideration as the living. Could they come to life and judge us, as any ancestor would, we would like to be able to answer them honestly and with a straight face. I don’t feel our society meets this test at present – do you?

One easy solution is to apply the standards of the present to the past. This is called presentism. In general, the results of presentism are so dire, comical, and infamous that we cannot avoid concluding that something is terribly wrong either with the method, or the present, or both. Surely this pattern holds true for evidentiary standards.

Moldbug: Political Engineer, Systems Thinker.

Moldbug often refers to himself, as we saw previously, as a political engineer:

First, as political engineers – a discipline of nontrivial antiquity, much neglected in our time – we’ll have to start by getting our terms straight.

In a different post, he expounds further on this discipline:

Political engineering is rocket science, too. It demands no less cogency and care. In particular, romantic illusions are as misplaced in the political engineer’s cubicle as a topless calendar in the gynecologist’s office. The reactionary takes the biped as she is. Reality alone – bleak, elegant, mindless reality – is the null device on her black flag. 

The essence of any 21st-century reaction is the unity of these two forces: the modern engineering mentality, the great historical legacy of antique, classical and Victorian pre-democratic thought.

The key question is: will the design of the system produce the desired results? (Is it useful, does it work?)

Not only is the problem of democracy not a moral problem – except in the fundamental sense of avoiding violence – the means used to address this problem are not moral (or “romantic”) as well.

The use of the term “moral” – which we think should be seen as the same as Moldbug’s “romantic illusion” – here should be understood, perhaps, as “moralising”.

That is, to reform what is assumed to be an “immoral society” by “preaching” from an assumed position of moral superiority is “romantic” –  especially if you are a (neo)reactionary.

The bread and butter of such a “romantic” or “moral” approach involves the deployment of concepts like “right” and “wrong” which are right or wrong in virtue of them being grounded in God, History or Nature; that is, some comprehensive metaphysical view of the world.

Logos is always insufficient and thus pathos is necessary; therefore, for the romantic to succeed in their goals they need to motivate people – usually by making them feel fear, hope, greed, envy, guilt and shame.

Nevertheless, in the above passage, Moldbug also claims that there is a second source: Victorian thought.

Yet again, it would appear that Moldbug has run into a contradiction before he has even tied his shoelaces. As with the previous, apparent contradiction, we will wait until later to address it.

 

Does Moldbug Make Use of Systems Theory?

Moldbug, perhaps as a result of being a computer programmer (presumably, one of considerable talent) uses or seems to use systems theory in his analysis and evaluation of institutions and political systems more generally. The evidence for this is both textual and also because his analysis of institutions can be illuminated and better understood by applying systems thinking concepts.

In addition, we believe that it will help shed light on Moldbug’s overall work; this will be especially clear when we come to Pillar 8: The Cathedral.

Systems Thinking.

Here is a brief outline of how a systems theorist thinks.

Most people focus on describing and analysing behaviours in the present or recent past while some focus on the development of behaviour over time. A systems thinker, however, is someone who studies events and behaviours from a systems perspective and who explains both current events and behaviours but also their historical development as a consequence of a system’s structure because structure is the source of the system’s behaviour.

A system can be described as a design or artefact that achieves a purpose.

It achieves this purpose because a system, and several sub-systems, have been designed (conceptualised, manufactured and coordinated) to achieve that purpose.

A system also consists of an input (inflow) and output (outflow) of material or information. Some of this material will accumulate within the system over time and thus form the system’s “stock”.

Let’s take an example.

A bathtub is a system for washing. The input or inflow mechanism is the tap which provides water; the output – or outflow – is via the plug-hole. The stock, meanwhile, is the amount of water in the tub.

Lastly, and most importantly, systems feature what is called feedback and exhibit the phenomena called feedback loops.

Here is how Donnela H. Meadows defines the concept of feedback:

The mechanism (rule or information flow or signal) that allows a change in a stock to affect a flow into or out of that same stock. A closed chain of causal connections from a stock, through a set of decisions and actions dependent on the level of the stock, and back again through a flow to change the stock.

For instance, consider a thermostat as an example of a system. The stock is the room’s temperature; the input is the heat entering the room and the output is the dissipation of heat via an open window. Within the thermoset, there is a rule that if the temperature drops below a certain level, the thermoset will then change the stock (temperature) by increasing the flow of heat into the room.

Now, let’s see how systems theory could apply to democracy.

A democracy is a political system whose purpose is, presumably, good government.

The stock is the people (and politicians -both potential and actual) and their beliefs and values.

The feedback loops are the consequences that result from the people (stock) voting for candidates who carry out actions in response to the signals they receive from the people (stock).

Voting in an election is the feedback mechanism.

The candidates who win, as a result of this vote (feedback), then implement the changes that the voters desire.

These changes, whether successful or not, will alter the beliefs, values and judgments of the people (stock) as a consequence.

If the people are satisfied, then one presumes that no more change will result. However, if discontent continues, then this will result in the feedback mechanism once again responding to this signal.

The feedback will increase the flow of new people, new politicians and new ideas into the stock. Then, these changes will alter the stock of people, politicians and their beliefs, values and judgements. This process will continue until equilibrium is reached.

That is the formal theory – that democracy is a system of government that responds to the will of the people.

The reality – at least according to Moldbug, is very different, however.

The reality, if one translates Moldbug’s claims into system’s theory terms, is that it is not the politicians who are changed (by altering the flow of new politicians) or the political ideas – by the people, according to the formal rules of the political system.

No, in reality, it is the politicians – specifically, the political elite – who change not only the beliefs and values of the people but the kinds of people who are part of the stock in the first place.

In essence, the reality is that, as Brecht’s poetry had it:

..the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

Let’s take one last example of how systems thinking can be applied to democracy.

In a modern democracy, another important – crucial really – feedback loop is the public information systems (such as the press and the universities). In theory, these information systems seek to provide accurate and useful information so that people can choose wisely.

As we shall see, Moldbug’s claim (Pillar 8: The Cathedral) is that the public information systems are corrupt; that is, they are not discharging their formal purpose. In place of accuracy, there is distortion; in place of usefulness, there is distraction. Whatever facts are disseminated to the public, they are packaged as part of a “narrative” (a ubiquitously used term today).

These “narratives” are not in service to truth, the proper functioning of the political system or the welfare of the people but the power, privilege and prestige of the political elite (which includes journalists and professors as a central part of the elite, for it is they, above all, who create, shape and spread the narrative).

(For a useful introduction to systems theory see Thinking in Systems: A Primer. Donella H. Meadows.)

Darwinian Analysis.

Moldbug draws upon Darwinian thinking in his analysis of beliefs, values and political systems. 

For example, he draws upon Richard Dawkins’ concept of meme for his analysis of Universalism (Pillar 7: The Brahmins). Secondly, he applies Darwinian thinking (in a similar way to the philosopher Dan Dennett) to explain the adaptive success (or failure) of democracy, information systems and Austrian economics.

We have now erected the first pillar of Moldbug’s system; it is now time to closely examine his political system – his “vision”.

 

 

 

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29 thoughts on “Christmas Gift: The Ten Pillars of Mencius Moldbug.

  1. Thank you and Merry Christmas.

    May I offer a suggestion? Try to find a way to ditch the in-line links, perhaps replacing them with a list of sources at the end. The numerous in-line links, like in Unqualified Reservations, makes it very difficult to read in a straightforward manner.

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  2. OK, here’s the first thing.

    >Constantine’s transformation of Christianity into a state religion

    You keep saying this, but it’s not true (except in Anabaptist mythology). It’s Theodosius the Great that made Christianity into the state religion of the Roman Empire. Constantine merely legalized Christianity.

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  3. >Mises clarified and extended Kant’s preoccupation with the possibility of a priori synthetic judgements into a complete system of thought, the foundations of which are known as praxeology.

    First generation “Austrians” were Aristotelians, and weren’t liberals. I would argue that Mises muddied the waters with introduction of Kant. Pernicious influence of Kant is seen especially in Mises’ non-economic writings, where his political views tend to oscillate between incredibly misguided and incredibly naïve. Sometimes his political writings are genuinely insightful though (and he even backed the fascists when zeitgeist called for it), which I would say is the consequence of him letting his genius defeat his Kantism from time to time.

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    1. Thank you for that paper, we will be sure to read it.

      After what we thought was an extensive study of epistemology, in which one of interests was in establishing the truth between rationalism and empiricism, we had concluded that an a priori synthetic judgement was not possible.

      Then, we read Hoppe. We quickly grasped the truth of his arguments (and of Mises). Not once did we come across Mises in all of the best textbooks, websites or essential reading……

      In any case, it is the epistemology and not the politics that is at issue here.

      Have you read this?
      https://imperialenergyblog.wordpress.com/2017/07/20/part-two-epistemological-foundations-of-praxeology-24/

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      1. >In any case, it is the epistemology and not the politics that is at issue here.

        Sure, and there I am as impressed as you are, but unfortunately, because of his politics some reject anything he has to say without consideration. I am afraid RF has done some malicious misrepresentations of Mises, which is a damn shame. Thinker of that caliber deserves some real criticism. If he be damned, he should be damned for what he is rather than for what he isn’t.

        >Have you read this?

        Yes, I did. I am not Imperial Energy completionist (yet!), but I remember reading that, and the preceding argument on Reddit.

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  4. Yes, we did allude to some of them in our series on praxeology.

    The Reddit argument you referrer to is RF’s?

    Why did you delete your blog BTW? There was a good list of sources there and there was an article we were going to read.

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    1. >The Reddit argument you refer to is RF’s?

      Yup.

      >Why did you delete your blog BTW? There was a good list of sources there and there was an article we were going to read.

      I’m withdrawing from the dialog. I’ll be following but I will not be commenting anymore in the future. On the one hand there’s the pull of SIWOTI syndrome, on the other I frequently turn into a shitposter myself. It’s easier to avoid both this way. Sorry for the inconvenience, if you need anything shoot me an e-mail and I’ll send it to you.

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      1. Believe us when we say that we have no problem with you pointing out that we are wrong somewhere. We need good critics and you have always had something to say that made us think. Indeed, in one of the next posts in the series, we rewrote the introduction and added some new parts after one of our recent exchanges.

        You have a strange mix: a Catholic historical and philosophical background yet consonant with libertarianism.

        While not being Catholic, we were trained by a Dominican philosopher and two American Catholic philosophers have had quite a bit of influence on our thinking. One small, but vital and one wide and deep.

        In general, Catholics thinkers have a breadth and depth of vision that we sometimes do not find elsewhere.
        KL was magnificent and MacIntyre masterful.

        Then there is the Jews!

        We urge you to hang out at TUJ’s place and join in. We go round and round every week (he is the first Jew we have ever communicated with).

        Have a good Christmas and if we don’t here from you again, we wish you good fortune.

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  5. >You have a strange mix: a Catholic historical and philosophical background yet consonant with libertarianism.

    Oh, you’ll find that Christian thought is plenty “libertarian” all on its own (if you are interested in that line of thought follow Kristor on Orthosphere and Habsburg Restorationist on The War for Christendom). Carlyle, Evola, Guénon… none of them were Christians. On the other hand Traditionalism was condemned by the Vatican as a fideist heresy (By their fruits you will know them and their was the rotten fruit of Communism). Property and technology aren’t inherently evil, and reason is never “autonomous”: anything that is good, true, or just comes from Logos Spermatikos — it needn’t be informed by revelation, or Tradition (and this is not some Modernist, or even Enlightenment invention, it’s the second century church father exalting Reason). As for actual libertarianism, it’s too “autistic” — like I wrote back on my blog, one cannot separate morality and law. And though people of every political opinion try to justify their politics by appeals to Christianity, I think Christianity is not too conducive to politics, any politics. From whichever political point of view that you look at it Christianity is frequently going to look like utter madness, for God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty… Consider the following examples:

    “If you hate some people and some you neither love nor hate, while others you love only moderately and still others you love very much, know from this inequality that you are far from perfect love, which lays down that you must love everyone equally.” — Saint Maximus the Confessor

    “It is better that nation be human[e] and cease to exist, than to survive biologically as the evildoers and the inhuman[e].” — Patriarch Paul

    It’s not even Libertarian, let alone Reactionary. At first glance it seems Progressive. But it’s not because it would mean that you have to love racists, sexists, homophobes, capitalists, etc. equally as their “victims.” It’s not because lust and sexual depravity are evil and inhuman no less, and perhaps even more so than conquest and enslavement of other nations and it would be better for nation to go cease to exist, than to fall into the pit of depravity (which incidentally, tends to actually make said ceasing a reality).

    >Have a good Christmas and if we don’t here from you again, we wish you good fortune.

    Christ is born! Merry Christmas!

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    1. “On the other hand Traditionalism was condemned by the Vatican as a fideist heresy.”

      Leave it to the Catholic Church to figure out how to destroy itself. They never miss an opportunity. As Carlyle wrote: “a Reforming Pope!”

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      1. >As Carlyle wrote

        Can you please explain to me why is Carlyle even considered a reactionary authority? He was the first Western apologist for Mahomet. He was admirer of Enlightenment reformist Frederick II and revolutionaries such as Oliver Cromwell (yeah, THAT Oliver Cromwell), and Simón Bolívar (the one who declared ” War to the Death ” on all royalists). His “French Revolution” made Mark Twain into ever greater a radical every time he read it and about half the Marx is actually Carlyle. Not to mention the fact that Carlyle was friends with J. S. Mill, one of the worst people to have ever walked the earth. Apart from predictions of doom and gloom there’s nothing quite reactionary about Carlyle. And even there he was far from unique. Predictions of doom and gloom were dime a dozen back then as they were now, and like now they were all over the spectrum. Even the arch-prophets of material progress such as Herbert Spencer became grumpy prophets of doom’n’gloom in their old age.

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      2. “Can you please explain to me why is Carlyle even considered a reactionary authority? ”

        Great question!

        “He was the first Western apologist for Mahomet.”

        Our introduction to Carlyle was on this issue, which we read well before we read Moldbug. This was his On Heroes. Frankly, we were not impressed either of his writing style or of his judgement. What he said about Cromwell and Napoleon was interesting, however. On later reflection, what he said about Napoleon was largely on the money.

        What we say here about Carlyle should answer the question:

        https://imperialenergyblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/17/the-steel-cameralist-manifesto-part-6a-steel-reaction/

        What makes Carlyle interesting is that A: He was English. B: He was “lapsed” Puritan. C: He was an Atheist.

        A good many reactionaries are Catholic, God-believing and European – Carlyle differed on all three.

        Also, the piece by Radish Carlyle V Whitman is worth reading to understand why Carlyle was a reactionary.

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      3. >Also, the piece by Radish Carlyle V Whitman is worth reading to understand why Carlyle was a reactionary.

        Well, of course he was technically a reactionary given his opposition to abolitionism and democracy. Obviously I am not saying that there are no good insights to be gained from Carlyle. Slavery is better than freedom for those who are natural slaves. Right strongman in the right place, at the right time, can restore order, etc. etc. But, his track record in the world-at-large has been very, very bad. Enlightenment philosophes amount of bad, if not worse. Socialism doesn’t create a world of virtue where everyone has his place. No, it creates a world of grovelling backstabbers, where the only way to advance in the world is to be stepping over the bodies.

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      4. Latter-Day Pamphlets is as good as any piece to read for Carlyle as a reactionary.

        In particular, the Present Time for the big, broad and bombastic broad-strokes.

        Secondly, Downing Street is a stand out.

        ” technically a reactionary ”

        Well, what is a reactionary?

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      5. >Well, what is a reactionary?

        What is a liberal? What is a fascist? In politics, unfortunately, no term really has any meaning! Carlyle and Carl Wilhelm von Lancizolle are both reactionaries, for example, but their politics couldn’t be more further apart. Similarly, both Gustave de Molinari and Ludwig Feuerbach are called liberals, but their views couldn’t be more opposed. It just happens to be the case that Carlyle had more influence upon revolutionaries than upon reactionaries (such as, for example, Salazar who as a faithful Catholic staunchly opposed the philosophy of “might makes right”).

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    2. In the link we set out a logical procedure that distinguishes the reactionary and the progressive on some proposal or policy.

      One way of clarifying the difference is the order/disorder and hierarchy/equality distinction.

      As we said, Carlyle was interesting, in much the same way Nietzsche was, in that they were visionary prophets who brought warnings (at least with Carlyle).

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    1. I don’t know if it was a ingenious plan (I wouldn’t put it past him) to make progressives not feel to icky reading him, or sincerely held belief, but Moldbug sounds way worse than a libertarian spurg. He sounds like a left-libertarian spurg, what with atheism, cultural liberalism and all.

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    1. In general, we only cited people he himself did.

      Moldbug stated that he has not read Rand. Hobbess is mentioned, but is then rejected in favor of Filmer; however, Moldbug’s and Hobbes’s concern with civil war and mass violence should be noted.

      He mentioned Nozick once (we believe), and there is some similarity, at least with respect to patchwork, but no clear evidence of influence.

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